This is perhaps the only restaurant in Dubai that hasn’t changed over the years, despite it’s soaring popularity and its enormous media publicity in recent times. The first time I had visited Bu Qtair, it must have been in 1999. We had just arrived in Dubai and went all over the moon discovering a run-down small shack in the unexpected of places – on Jumeirah beach, serving lip smacking fried fish. In-fact, the only change that must have taken place over the years, is the change in the name from Bu Qtair Cafeteria to Bu Qtair Restaurant (with an additional tagline – Fish Restaurant, in their modestly printed visiting cards). The charm of Bu Qtair lies in the contradiction in its location – the sudden discovery of a modest porta cabin selling fried fresh fish on the beach, with the 7-star hotel Burj Al Arab acting as the unusual backdrop. As such, a fish shack on a beach is not a novel concept, it’s probably the most common organic development in beach-front cities and places. But for a city like Dubai, it is a novel concept for sure, specially when the location is the posh Jumeirah beach. My humble attempt at making a time-lapse video has failed where I wanted to capture the change in the Bu Qtair landscape throughout the day. I’ve captured this nevertheless in several video footage with Z-Sisters and the wind howling through and I’ve managed to make an amateur film, which already has more than 8,000 hits on YouTube.
The seating arrangement in Bu Qtair is basic – plastic dining tables and multi-coloured plastic tools (the later is an investment that the restaurant has done in recent years. No more investments please – the charm of the place would be gone completely!). There is a long queue while placing the order inside the tiny porta cabin which also holds the kitchen area. Once the order has been placed, there’s a long wait outside. As the number of people waiting outside, after having placed their orders (below right) increase, so do the number of cars that drive in and park by the pavement. The restaurant staff serves the waiting diners simultaneously while they attend to honking cars demanding their take-aways. It’s a manic rush but all’s well that ends well – everyone gets their right orders (no goof -ups there) and each person goes back a happy soul with an overfilled tummy!
It’s all in the fish, the fresh fish, the deep fried fresh fish, the deep fried spicy fresh fish!
The menu is unwritten, and is flexible depending upon the catch of the day which is limited to mostly Sheri, Hamour (belonging to the Grouper family and very popular in the UAE. Dear restaurant, please note that Hamours belong to the ‘overfished’ category!), Pomfret, Snapper and Shrimps. In colder months, King Fish is sometimes included in the menu. My favourite in Bu Qtair, are the fried Shrimps (below). Marinated in Salt, Turmeric and a *secret* ingredient which Moosa, the owner is hesitant to share, these insanely tasty fried Shrimps have to be accompanied by a bowl of spicy Fish Curry prepared in the Malabari (Keralite) style with fresh Sardines and Coconut Milk and some soft Malabari Parathas (Indian flat breads fried in oil) to dip into the messy curry. Half a kg of fried Shrimp costs Dhs 75/-. The other fish ranges between Dhs 35/- Dhs 80/-, depending upon the size of the fish and the type of fish. Sheris would be the cheapest while the Pomfret or the Hamour can cost you a bit more. A bowl of Fish Curry comes at Dhs 5/- while a Paratha would cost a Dirham each. Water and soft drinks are the only beverages available here. Though no one is complaining, but I definitely can hear silent whispers from the diners, almost every time I visit Bu Qtair – if only this place was licensed and served some Chilled Beer!
1/2 kg of Shrimps, 2 medium sized Sheris, Parathas, a bowl of Fish Gravy cost us Dhs 155/- and fed 3 hungry adults and 2 equally hungry kids sumptuously. While the above images show the food that arrived to our table, the following is a behind the scene image of the marinated Shrimps before they went into the frying pan.
Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant
Fresh Seafood Budget Restaurant; Out door sitting and Take away
Telephone: 055 7052130; Opening hours: Saturday till Thursday – 12:00pm – 2:30 pm and 6:30pm – 11:30pm, Fridays open after afternoon prayers.
Location: Umm Suquim 2 (Jumeirah 5). As you are heading towards the Burj Al Arab from Union House, take the right exit at Street 35a, off the glamorous Beach Road. Look out for an Emarat Petrol Station before the Umm Sequim Park which houses a small McDonald’s. Once on Street 35a, approach left when you hit Street 2b and you’ll find the Bu Qtair amidst the boat sheds.
Once the evening sets in, the place becomes so crowded that it’s impossible to speak to Moosa, the Arbab – the owner, or any other staff, to the point that one starts to feel that the staff is really rude. But hang on there for some time and you’ll realise that they are busy, working in a fairly synchronized rhythm to tackle the crowd that pours in. Everybody is attended to. The place has garnered a lot of media attention lately and this shack-eatout has become a hot place to visit. My estimate is, there would be 100 diners on a regular weekday. Moosa deserves all the attention. He’s been hanging on here for the last 23 years. While in the initial days, he would be buying in from the local fishermen who would anchor their fishing boats by his shack, now he resorts to a regular supply from bigger fish markets. He also has more staff who work for him. They speak in broken English – ‘Enjoy your food Madam’ and ‘It’s my pleasure’. Well Moosa, it’s been my pleasure writing about you. I should have done this long back. Sometimes one remembers to give attention to strangers and acquaintances while friends and family remain unattended. It happens when we are in a trance and forget to look inwards. Thankfully, I’ve shaken myself off that trance.
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: After I came out with this post, Emirates 24/7 has published this video and the post on their website. Please note that this post is not a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals, please do not use any material from this post. You can catch my daily travel and food journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
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