Dubai: Ravi – Pakistani restaurant in Satwa

by Sanne
Ravi, Dubai

After my visits to the Pakistani restaurant Ravi opposite Bur Juman a couple of months ago, I was eager to visit what’s supposed to be the real Ravi down in Satwa. Yesterday, I therefore took the metro to Al Jafilya station, and walked along 2nd December Street to the Satwa roundabout, from where I could easily spot what looked like green “Ravi” letters.

Though, as I got closer, I could see not one, but three almost identical restaurants: Ravi Palace, Ravi and Rawi Palace. Which one to pick?? A guy from the Ravi in the middle noticed my confusion and asked, if he could help me. I told him I wanted to eat at the real Ravi, but I couldn’t figure out which one of the 3 places it was. “They’re the same” he said, this one and Ravi Palace. Do you want me to get you a table?” I nodded and followed him inside.

“So where are you from?” he asked, and I gave him the usual ramble about being born in Korea and then adopted by Danish parents, when I was still an infant. Adopting kids from foreign countries isn’t very common in Dubai, so I’m used to people giving me anything from a “poor you”-look, to asking me how I communicate with other Koreans, when I don’t know the language?

The Ravi guy’s response came immediately and was one of the funnier ones: “So you’re a Korean Viking then?” he stated. I laughed.

Then he showed me through the main room of the restaurant and to another, completely empty room to the right. I was just about to ask him, whether this was where they kept the Korean Vikings, at a safe distance from other diners, but within minutes, more and more people arrived.

The Ravi guy came to my table to help me navigate the menu. “Lamb, chicken or beef?” he asked. I chose chicken. “Spicy or non-spicy?” I chose non-spicy. Then he presented me with his suggestions, and I ended up ordering a chicken handi with rice and a roti.

It didn’t take long before the food arrived, and the smell was divine. The sauce was thick and creamy with delightful kicks of ginger and garlic, and the chicken chunks were juicy and full of absorbed flavor. It was a wonderful meal, and I could have spent the rest of the day, scooping up sauce with the roti flatbread, but I haven’t even finished half of the food, before I had to give up.

Next to me two girls from the Philippines and a guy from Pakistan had been watching me closely, and when I laid down my fork, they exchanged knowing looks. “Too much food, huh?” the Pakistani guy asked with a smile, and I nodded. He explained that one dish along with rice is usually enough for 2-3 persons to share. Then he asked me, where I was from, and I told him, what I had told the Ravi guy earlier. The girls from the Philippines giggled, before one of them uttered a curious “Ni hao?” Awkward.

Before I could tell her that “ni hao” is in fact Chinese, not Korean, the Ravi guy arrived again and, noticing all the food left, gave me a disappointed look. I assured him that it wasn’t because I didn’t like it, and he accepted my explanation and suggested that he packed the leftovers for me to take home.

Before I visited Ravi, I did some research online about the restaurant. While most people, who’ve been there, are praising the food, the opinions about the service diverge. Maybe I was just lucky, but the Ravi guy, who took care of me, was truly amazing.

Right from when he found me standing out on the street and till he handed over the doggie bag with my leftovers, I had the feeling that this guy’s only mission, was to make my visit to Ravi as pleasant as possible. And that’s a great, highly addictive feeling. It is so rare that you experience that kind of dedicated service in Dubai, and I’m still full of awe. The total cost for the meal including salad and a bottle of water was 29AED. What a bargain!

Ravi is an old school, hole-in-the-wall kind-of-place, so don’t expect anything fancy, neither décor- nor service-wise. For years, this popular spot has attracted hungry cabbies, curious tourists and locals with a taste for the flavorful, Pakistani dishes.

I had never had Pakistani food before I tried Ravi, so I may not be the most competent source on this topic, but I really like this place. The menu is several pages long and appears slightly overwhelming if you don’t have a clue about Pakistani food, but I asked the staff for assistance and managed to order myself a really nice meal.

The adventurous souls order brain nihari, but if brain is not your thing, lamb handi or maybe butter chicken and plenty of naan and paratha flatbread is always a safe bet.

Most mains are around 20AED and your meal comes with a plate of vegetables and some yogurt dipping sauce, which I think you are charged a few dirhams extra for. Ravi doesn’t serve alcohol but a large bottle of mineral water or a can of soda is only a couple of AED. There are also some odd, Chinese dishes on the menu, but the ones I’ve tried have been rather weird and very spicy. Better stick to the Pakistani and Indian dishes.

The restaurant is clean but very basic (some might even say shabby), but to me, the modest appearance only makes me love Ravi even more. Ravi is cool, Ravi is real and Ravi serves good food.

• There are 3 Ravi restaurants at the location, but according to people in the know, it’s the Ravi in the middle, which is the original one.

• Some of the dishes are really spicy, so if in doubt, consult the staff before placing your order.

My blog about food and restaurants in Dubai

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