Never judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, a restaurant by your first visit. Although Dubai restaurants do lack consistency my second visit to SLAB is one that I’ll remember most and will also make me want to return.
Don’t get me wrong, I know sometimes people have off days, or ingredients don’t arrive, or whatever the case may be so when the owner of the restaurant invited me back I willingly accepted, ready to give such a highly regarded restaurant amongst my local foodie friends, a second chance.
SLAB is located right near SALT at La Mer and has a cute patio with geometric patterned chairs, with an open kitchen inside. Albeit small, this place did start out as a sandwich shop.
The menu although it’s straightforward, changes seasonally and inspiration comes from the head chef Omar Rodriguez’s roots so you’ll see a hint of Peruvian and New York on the menu but SLAB doesn’t classify itself under just one cuisine. This contemporary restaurant likes to keep things fresh with weekend specials too.
Their mocktails are outta this world and even though we wish they contained alcohol, are so impressive without too. If you’re a fan of sour opt for the yuzu grapefruit sour and for something unusually surprising try the hibiscus chicha cooler.
The ceviche wong arrives and disappears as if some kind of magic. Which was impressive considering my friend doesn’t like raw fish. It’s thinly sliced seabass cured in a sour orange juice with aji limo koshu and topped with chopped pecans. It’s a dish that definitely gets the tastebuds dancing.
The burrata isn’t served with your standard tomato medley and instead comes surrounded by preserved lemon juice and chopped green olives with a generous basket of warm sourdough.
The KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) is the second time I’m trying this dish and it’s still not my favorite wings. The twice fried crunchy pieces are coated in a honey soy & garlic coating but too sweet for my liking.
The beef tataki comes served as medium rare with chichurri sauce dotted around with swirls of crema asada & crispy chili oil. The 3 sauces compliment each quiet well regardless of their different tastes.
However it’s the crackling short rib that comes up trump when it comes to the main course. Tender on the inside with that a thin crackle on the outside pairs nicely with a side of white stewed beans. It reminds me of a hearty Sunday roast and a dish I’d definitely order again.
The coconut panna cotta although it’s missing the coconut taste is made up for with a passion fruit purée, shards of meringue, basil leaves and a sprinkling of crunchy fried quinoa.
Their weekend strawberry dessert with Yuzu custard, fresh strawberry granita and biscuit crumble was also pretty special, although only available for a limited time. If they get a good response from the customers, they will consider adding it to the menu.
For those that live around the area they have delivery options although for obvious reasons not all dishes can be delivered.
However there’s no reason not to dine in, with free parking at La Mer and the seaside only a few steps away it makes for a great non-pretentious casual dining restaurant with quality food.
SLAB – La Mer North
04 298 8899
When they talk about hidden gems I never thought it would be that hard to find the entry to this Balkan Cafe. I got dropped off by taxi and walked passed the hotel entrance assuming the cafe had it’s own entrance only to not find one and walk back inside the hotel to then find the entrance to the right as i entered. Oops. Lucky I was early so my friend didn’t witness my clumsiness.
Located inside the Park Regis Boutique this cute & cozy cafe serves up some of the best coffee I’ve had in Dubai. So good I was tempted to order another one immediately but it was already 8pm and I didn’t want to hinder my chance of sleeping that eve.
I was there to try a new set menu they had introduced with my friend. The 4 course set menu had a few options for each and we alternated between each so we could maximize our tasting experience.
The spanakopita salad was an usual spin with the crispy phyllo pastry adding that extra crunch.
The stuffed vine leaves with minced beef served on a bed of mash potato and a dollop of yoghurt was apart of the second course and was my preference over the Istrian fusi; a hand-rolled pasta dish complete with mixed mushrooms and aged cheese.
By the time the mains arrive I’m already getting full but push through as I’m eager to try some meat. The lamb shank is off the bone and the tender meat is atop some purple cabbage and garnished with herbs. The marination is subtle and I don’t notice the horseradish sauce. The other main, Pljeskavica which is the national dish of Serbia, is a mince wagyu beef patty stuffed with bacon and cheese and served on top of a flatbread which has a chopped tomato sauce. An interesting dish but I wasn’t quite sure on how to eat it. Was I suppose to make a wrap or eat each item separately?
Last but not least the desserts. We tried the Krem Pita and Tufahija. The former make use of that phyllo pastry again with layers of it between soft cream cheese and topped with berries and fruit sauce. The latter was walnut stuffed poached pears served with a vanilla sauce.
Overall it was an interesting tasting menu though I’m more inclined to come back for their delicious coffee and to try their burek. Especially if I wanted a quiet cafe to get some work done without any interruptions.
Here’s another example of a successful food truck turned restaurant with Maiz Tacos. The restaurant located in Dar Al Wasl Mall started out doing the rounds in Dubai events and is now also a cute space with a brightly painted feature wall and witty art.
Their menu is straight forward and they also allow you to mix and match tacos which is fab as I like variety.
They didn’t even need to upsell the Big Dipper to us as my friend already wanted it. It’s a starter that comes with a generous portion of round corn chips, two salsas as well as their famous queso cheese dip. If you love cheese, this is a must order. Eat it whilst it’s hot!
The fresh agua of the day was a hibiscus special with a hint of orange and lemon which was deep red in color and served without straws. (You all know how much I hate plastic straws)
The tacos albeit a little on the expensive side, each with its own distinct taste, surely will give Maria Bonita (One of Dubai’s oldest Mexican restaurants) a run for it’s money.
Between the fish taco (el dorado), the 6 hour slow cooked pulled beef (El Jefe) and the vegetarian taco (calabaza) we had a hard time choosing our favorite. The lightly battered crunchy piece of fish on the el dorado barely fit inside the soft taco shell and the combination of chipolte mayo, red onions & mixed bell peppers was just heavenly.
I’ve tried their churro ice cream sandwich before which’s is a tad hard to eat although next time I’ll definitely opt for the plain churros with the chocolate dipping sauce (If room permits).
Definitely check out this semi hidden gem if you haven’t already. I know I’ll be back soon rather than later.
Location: Dar Al Wasl Mall, Al Safa, Dubai