TRIBES doesn’t look like your regular casual dining restaurant. And that is not it’s only USP. If you are looking for an excuse to dine in a restaurant for an experience then this probably is the final destination. Isn’t that pretty apparent from it’s location? Located in the Fashion Dome of Mall of the Emirates (MOE), the restaurant is under pressure from designer boutiques which are located on the first floor just above the restaurant. Names such as Christian Louboutin, Cartier, Galliano, Versace, Mulberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci and D&G can be intimidating. The decor better be fashionable and the food better be more than just plain good!
Recently, TRIBE hosted a food tasting evening for Fooderati Arabia to celebrate the forthcoming South African Heritage Day. TRIBES does live up-to all expectations. In-fact, the vastness inside is quite a revelation. It also broke the two myths that I had – 1) There’s not much difference between a restaurant in a shopping mall and a regular cafe! 2) You can never enjoy a delicious meal while visitors flanking by with swinging shopping bags and sipping on their take-away coffees!
Here, you have the choice of both – you can sit outside and be overwhelmed by a crowded and noisy shopping mall or you could venture inside – into the world of the TRIBES – a modern cave, decorated with furs, leathers, woods, shields and yes, hold your breath – a fire!
TRIBES – The South African Restaurant
Authentic African Cuisine in a themed ambiance; No Alcohol; Kids welcome
The menu offered at TRIBES is taken from the African continent since the Tribal era, influenced by the Spice Islands of the East, the French in the West, the Malay & Dutch in the South and the Arabic flavours of the North. The experience unfurls the moment one enters the restaurant and is greeted by the staff in their tribal language – Tawareq, Shona or Luhyia! Infact, every member of staff has been recruited from African tribes – Xosa, Nguni, Tawareq, Shona, Luhyia to provide the diner with an authentic African experience.
Incidentally, there are many ethnic groups in Africa, each having its own language or dialect and culture. You’ll find a more detailed study about them here.
South African Heritage Day being celebrated at TRIBES (21 September – 27 September, 2012)
TRIBES, during this period of celebration, will be adding to their standard menu some traditional offerings like Biltong Bread, Beef Tripe Stew with Beans & Tomato served with Pap and Pan Fried Calf’s Liver served with Yam Mash. There will also be traditional entertainment with tribal songs accompanied by African percussionists.
On 24th September, on the actual Heritage Day, each guest at TRIBES will get the opportunity to have photographs taken with authentic African shields and armour, as well as having traditional African face paint – an experience that I don’t want the Z-SISTERS to miss out on!
A small video from SouthAfricanTourism which reflects the sentiments of the Heritage Day…
South African Heritage Day was announced on 24th September, 1996 by the former President Nelson Mandela. This is one of the newly created Public Holidays in South Africa and South Africans all over the world celebrate ‘their cultural heritage and the diversity of their beliefs and traditions, in the wider context of a nation that belongs to all its people’. Nelson Mandela’s speech echoed the ethos of the nation – “When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation”.
Our experience in TRIBES
The decor: As I’ve mentioned before, the inside of the restaurant is a revelation. African masks don the walls along with shields and armour. And the space inside almost runs unending, atleast longitudinally. African drums, pictures of tribal faces, traditional wooden serving bowls - add a lot of drama. And the drama is heightened by a series of spectacular spiky lights hanging from the ceiling! This describes a cosy portion of the dining area which is practically dug into the ground.
This is where we were seated. This can actually serve as a private space to a group of diners. The ceiling here rises very high and the shadows of the bricks on the wall are deepened by the spiky lights.
Maybe, I am over exaggerating the lights a bit – but yes, I seemed to have taken up by them. And the brick wall. And the smiling staff wearing bright colourful clothings!
Well, if only I realised there was more to come. As I ventured further inside, into the longitudinal modern cave that the restaurant has been designed after, I ended up being hit by an actual fire burning inside with sitting arrangements all around this fire. If this doesn’t replicate an experience of having your grilled meat by the fire in the middle of the night in Africa, what else will?
Visually enthralling, but definitely high-maintenance for the Air Conditioning system! Just curious – what would be the likely temperature at which the Air-Conditioning is switched on with an actual fire inside a restaurant? Never mind – I just loved it and don’t want to act as the mood-dampener!
I don’t know what surprised me more – a fire burning inside the restaurant or the suggestion from Sipho, who was dedicated to us for explaining the food that we were being served – ‘It will be nice if you all washed your hands and tried eating the Beef Tripe with Pap – well that’s what we do in our country’!
I could do it, yes! I’ve grown up eating Rice and Daal with my Bengali hands… it’s a different matter altogether that the cost of salon manicures prevents me from doing the same!
The Food & The Foodie Company
Enough has been said about the things that matter but shouldn’t matter to a foodie – the decor! Let’s re-direct our focus to Food. Now here I have to admit that I went slightly astray while clicking. Most of my food shots have come really messed up. I can’t be terribly blamed. Even Annyen’s mobile fell into the dessert and probably will write about that one day in her GirlieAnnyen’s Blog!
To my rescue, comes dear Arva of I Live in a Frying Pan who sizzles ‘up hole-in-the-wall ethnic eats of old Dubai’. Destiny always has some alternative chalked out for a person. So in a fateful evening when I was predestined to take terrible pictures, Arva was generous enough to lend me hers. The beautiful Drina, who writes a mouthful of wonderful in her Eternal Zest modeled for them. That’s what I call adding cherry to the topping!
The evening started on a perfect note with cool, refreshing juices of fresh Oranges and Strawberries – the minty flavour further upping their freshness. As different types of dishes were plonked on our table, I was glad that Sally of My Custard Pie did the food distribution. She did that perfectly and most importantly without any bias! Or else, Debbie of CoffeeCakesAndRunning who is just back from climbing Mt Kilimanjaro might have been the most deserving candidate for the entire Hakuna Matata Platter for her feat! Or, say Jasmine of Pear Tree Food Diaries for being one of the youngest members of Fooderati Arabia. Or, the other Debbie whose blog is called The REAL Geordie Armani for having created the illusion for people like us who ends up reading the name of her blog as ‘The REAL Giorgio Armani’!
The Hakuna Matata Platter set our tastebuds rolling! There were Grilled Calamari, Ugandan Fishcakes, Madagascar Pan-Fried Chilli Prawns in Peri Peri Sauce, Tunisian Chicken Giblets and African Beef Pie – served with Rice and Ripe Mango Salad and a sweet and tangy dip – very similar to a the Indian Mango Chutney. And in the centre, there was something that I normally hate – fried Bitter gourd! I think the Platter is rightfully named Hakuna Matata – a Swahili phrase which can be translated literally as ‘There are no worries/No problem’…
Yes, with prawns so succulent and Calamari grilled to soft and juicy perfection, you can only feel happy to have found the perfect platter! I liked the Prawns, the Calamari and the Giblets the best!
For main-course we were served Pan-Fried Calf’s Liver along with Yam Mash and the traditional Beef Tripe Stew with White Beans and Tomato Sauce and served with Pap.
I enjoyed the former while I have some reservations on the latter. But that’s purely individual.
The Beef Tripe Stew and the Pap was served very dramatically on large oval trays. This was exactly the way, as Sipho said, how his Mum would have prepared back home. He was also telling us how in older times this was only for the menfolk who would tear up the intestines of their hunt! Oops!
To be honest, I didn’t quite enjoy the Tripe. Probably because I am not used to eating it. I also found the texture very hard. But the gravy consisting of white beans cooked in tomato sauce was quite tasty – I could make out that quite a few Masalas similar to Indian cooking had gone into it. However, this is a traditional dish from South African Cuisine and often eaten at dinner time as a stew with Pap, specially during winter. The Pap tasted a bit like unsalted Upma (an Indian dish made up of Semolina).
Pap, also known as mieliepap in South Africa, is a traditional porridge/polenta made from ground maize. Many traditional South African dishes include Pap. Pap can be of two types – a very thick consistency that can be held in the hand - Stywe Pap or a more dry crumbly Phutu Pap (Info Courtesy – Wikipedia). Arva said that there is something similar to Pap in India. Coincidentally, it is also called Putu!
These traditional South African dishes will be available at the TRIBES only during the Heritage Day celebrations. A tripe-eater is not rare and a lot of dishes are popularly made from it (read here).
The Desserts: A good dessert is always a heartening sign off to a good meal. We were definitely not disappointed. A delicious array of dessert appeared… Melk Tart with Raspberry Coulis (African Milk Tart); Warm Date and Pistachio Sponge served with Pistachio Ice Cream; Chocolate Malva Pudding served with Madagascar Vanilla Sauce & Apricot Compote;
Coffee Crumble, Poached Pear, Chocolate & Hazelnuts, topped with Coffee Crumble mix, served with Hazelnut Ice Cream!
The Milk Tart was lovely. So was the Date & Pistachio Sponge. The latter reminded me of the local Cake Al Tamor - the date cake, which is deliciously soft and absolutely yummy! I am utterly confused with the taste of the Coffee Crumble – the confusion arising from not being able to hit upon one taste – is if coffee-ish? Or is it pear-ish?
However, the absolute winner would be the Chocolate Malva Pudding - the chocolate filling running out lusciously as we cut into the Pudding. Malva Pudding is a celebrity sweet pudding of Afrikaner origin and derives the name from Malvasia Wine from Madeira. It is usually served hot with custard and/or ice-cream and is made with apricot jam. (Info Courtesy – Wikipedia)
It is always nice to see the source of all the food that has reached our tummy – the kitchen. I’ve always envied big kitchens as our apartment can boast a kitchen – the romantic one, where only one couple can stand inside at any point in time! The kitchen at the TRIBES is beyond my boundary zone of my envy – it is huge! Probably, the entire length of the restaurant is flanked by this open kitchen.
The Chef who is from India (below left) was more than willing to share his culinary stories and answer our never-ending list of queries. Similar enthusiasm seemed to be shared by all the other staff. In-fact, we were really surprised when a few of them broke out into traditional singing and dancing along with some traditional drumming as a diner celebrated his birthday!
I am longing to go back to TRIBES during this period of celebration. I would love to see the African face paints on the faces of the Z-SISTERS. I’m most certain that Big Z would love to drum on the massive African Drums as shown below. And Li’l Z will climb onto the chair below which looks like a throne to me. Ah, my little tribal princess in the land of bling!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: TRIBES hosted the food tasting evening for Fooderati Arabia to celebrate the forthcoming South African Heritage Day (21 September – 27 September). A few food shots have been provided by Arva of I Live in a Frying Pan.