Hoping that the New Year is treating you all well. This is my first post of 2014 and I am wondering where do I begin? A round up of the year that went by – a year that had been overtly generous to my culinary travel blog? Or should I make a fresh new beginning? Let me start my blogging year with a brand new restaurant that has given me a lot of solace. I visited the place for the second time today when Dubai was under the wraps of heavy clouds and pouring rain – within a week of my first visit. My Ma who is visiting us, wanted to enjoy the rains – she wanted to see the rains approaching the shore, to be precise! And I wanted to have a quick lunch rendezvous with my blogger friend @coffeecakesandrunning before I picked up the Z-Sisters from school. So there we were on the terrace below which overlooked the Umm Sequim fishing harbor, gazing at the horizon with my arms outstretched as I embraced the rains.
What is unique about this restaurant? A seafood restaurant overlooking a harbor by the sea or a menu serving fresh catch from the sea hulled to the shores daily by fishermen employed by a restaurant – all these may sound like the most obvious developments in other cities in the world that may boast of long shorelines. Unfortunately, Dubai till now, didn’t have such a restaurant. The seafood restaurants by the beach were mostly premium restaurants and belonged to well known hotels. A few stand alone restaurants that popped up once in a while, were mostly lined along the Jumeirah Beach Road – but none of them claimed having their own fishing boats that brought in the fish directly from the sea to the dining table. Visits to a few cities located on the waterfront – San Francisco, Singapore, Istanbul, Colombo, Panjim etc and I have come back to Dubai, longing for a laid back casual restaurant, picking up on my fish bones blissfully and not shrieking out loud when the final bill arrived. The restaurant that I am talking about in my post, has a licensed fishing boat to catch fresh seasonal local Hamour, Sheri, King Fish, Mullet, Mackerel, Shrimp and Crabs, thus keeping the daily menu flexible and dependent on the fresh catch of the day. I wish all this could be enjoyed over a mug of beer or while sipping some white wine. Alas, that is not going to happen, as there is no alcohol license!
Seaview restaurant is a brand new restaurant – it is not even two months old. On my first visit here, I arrived in my full capacity – two kids and a group of visiting house-guests. Most of them had seen Dubai in its full glory, having already ticked off all the things to do and places to visit in Dubai. We wanted a restaurant which served good seafood, was different from the expensive branded or popular joints, haven’t been visited before by us (the Dubai residents who have managed to visit most of the places a multiple times accompanying guests) and which would calm our senses without making a hole in our pockets. Seaview restaurant fitted our criterion perfectly. After our initial gasps of ooohs and aaahhs following the first glimpse of the panoramic view of the fishing harbor (the above pictures are from my first visit last week when the sun shone brightly and refused to be tamed by the wintry chill), we chose to sit on the terrace outside. Barely a few meters away from the water, the December chill in the air soon gave into a warm welcoming space with the friendly staff ushering us in and settling us down around our table. A few minutes into the menu and I realized that I couldn’t categorize this restaurant according to a particular cuisine type. Although the menu wasn’t too elaborate, it had been thoughtfully created with a nice medley of Arabic, Continental, Indian, Malaysian and African flavours. Hence, a Peri Peri Sheri vied for equal attention as an Achari Machi Tikka (Fish Tikka prepared with pickled flavored spices in the North Indian style) or a Malay Steamed Sea bream competed with the Prawn Caprese.
The food and the preparation style: From the fresh catch that’s on display inside the restaurant (above), we could choose the styles in which we wanted our fish to be prepared. For our Main Course we could choose between grills, Arabic BBQ style, Indian Tandoori style or fried or steamed. Interestingly, the catch of the day is priced ‘per piece’ and not sold by weight. We chose a grilled Hamour in the Arabic BBQ style (I had stopped eating Hamour after it had been categorized in the UAE as over fished. I ordered this Hamour after I learnt about how Hamour can also be fished sustainably. That story comes in here a bit later), a grilled Sheri to be prepared in the North Indian Tandoori style, a fried Sheri and one of the signature dishes of the restaurant, namely Seaview Prawns.
While we waited for the Main Course to arrive, we munched into a delightful array of seafood Starters (above). The Fried Calamari is our family’s all time favorite and it is rarely that we don’t order this – the most-common-take in any seafood menu. A plate of crispy breaded Calamari rings preceded a plate of Jhinga Tandoori – Prawns marinated in mild Tandoori Masala and cooked in a traditional Tandoor or a clay oven. A Tandoori preparation is one of the most famous exports from the North Indian kitchen and can hit a non-Indian palate very strongly if the Masalas are not blended properly. Although a very popular preparation, most restaurants don’t do justice to the preparation, lending a Tandoori dish spicier than it should be. A perfectly crispy fried Calamari and a flavorful but a mildly spicy Tandoori Prawn preparation as Starters complemented by a Fatoush Salad, set the tone for a brilliant afternoon spread that was about to be unfurled soon.
By the time our Main Course arrived (above), the waterfront was abuzz with seagulls encircling above the anchored fishing boats and although the sun was yet to set in the horizon, the blue in the sky had started to pale in its color. A slightly tangy sauce with chopped tomatoes, onions and Arabic spices covered the grilled Hamour. Hot and flaky, the flesh seemed to glide off the bones. A plate of Majboos Rice and the Lemon and Herb Rice were perfect accompaniments to our fish preparations.
The winner however had to be the Seaview Prawns (above) – a brilliant adaptation of the Mangalorean Prawn Ghee Roast. Ghee Roast is one of the most popular delicacies of Mangalore (a coastal town in South Indian state of Karnataka) that has been popularized by the Bunt community of Kundapur. The finishing act in this preparation comes from the mild aroma of clarified butter – the Ghee and as I bit into the soft, juicy and spiced prawns, I could imagine myself coming back to the restaurant a couple of times only to taste this particular preparation (which I did today). A restaurant staff recommended that we order a few Seafood Roti Canai (below) as well as a plate of regular Roti Canai (a type of Indian influenced flat bread found in Malaysia and Indonesia and is very similar to the Indian Kerala Porotta – picture further below) to dig in with the Seaview Prawns. Soft and slightly crispy, they were perfect to scoop out the juicy and buttery prawns off its plate. A note here – the staff seemed pretty well versed with the menu and confidently guided us as we placed our orders, without succumbing to call upon the senior staff – a thing that I have got used to in most restaurants in Dubai, especially if it’s a new restaurant. This is indeed a welcome change indeed and lets the diner discover a menu that he/she is not conversant with.
On our second visit, apart from ordering the Seaview Prawns, we tried two other signature dishes – the Malay Steamed Sea bream and the Peri Peri Sheri – both of them are definitely must-trys. Do try their home made sauces that are served along with them – the tangy Tomato, Honey Mustard and the Roasted Lemon with my preferred sauce being the tangy Tomato. The only dish that I wouldn’t recommend is the Fried Sheri (above). I don’t know whether it was the chill in the air or the long time that had elapsed between the time the fish was served initially and the time we actually ended up eating the Sheri, it had turned a bit too crispy and very cold.
The question of sustainability of Hamour: With its location in the Umm Sequin 1 fishing harbor that is maintained and strictly controlled by the Dubai Customs, licenses are issued only to Emirati fishermen. They are the boat owners, who in turn employ South Indian fishermen (mostly from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu) to assist them in all their fishing activities. Fresh licenses are not being issued currently in order to prevent overfishing. However, occasional transfer of licenses among locals is permitted. What is interesting here, is that fishing with large nets is prohibited during the months of June to October and most of these 900 odd fishermen return to their home state in Tamil Nadu. Only a handful of them stay back and fish with small Ghargour metal cages and this gives some breathing period for fish like Groupers to mature. This is also the justification of maintaining Hamour in the restaurant’s menu and my justification in ordering a Hamour after ages (in recent times we have been refraining ourselves from ordering the overfished Hamour and have enjoyed our dining experiences in restaurants that adhere to sustainability and eco-conservation – Samak Restaurant in Desert Islands Resorts by Anantara, Zighy Bay by Six Senses in Oman or Islanda Krabi in Thailand).
Signing Off: It is about time that Dubai had a simple, fuss free restaurant like this serving fresh local catch. I feel that the restaurant has got a huge potential. The menu is fresh and interesting and as I have mentioned earlier, has blends from different cuisines – Crab cakes served with Guacamole, Fish Masala Pappads, Haryali Hamour Tikka, Kesari Macchi or the Saffron flavored fish, Grilled Fillet with Gherkin Sauce, Polenta Crusted Mullet in Oyster Sauce, King Fish Darne in Banana Wraps and many more. The location is spectacular – much like the Fishermen’s Wharf in San Francisco. Mr Prashant, one of the partners of the restaurant, has a degree of Hotel Management and his contribution comes in the form of the subtle adaptation of the Mangalorean Prawn Ghee Roast into the Seaview Prawns, so that it may suit the international palate. Mr Majid, his local partner is a third generation Emirati. He is a part of the local fishing industry and owns a couple of fishing boats. Hence, one can expect that the quality of the fresh catch that goes into the restaurant kitchen or the taste of a prepared dish is unlikely to be compromised here.
Although the restaurant adheres to it’s tagline ‘Seafood for all’, for all those who are not into seafood, there are a few Chicken and vegetarian fare in the Menu supplemented by the incredible harbor view and the lure of the proximity to the water. You can sign off your meal on a sweet note too with a Crème Brûlée or a Blueberry Cheese cakes which my companions declared as not too sweet and nice (I didn’t want to dilute my seafood experience so soon with a dessert, an exception for my sweet craving Bengali genes). With future plans of selling live fish which will be stored underwater in the Ghargour nets next to the restaurant’s fishing boats and a changing menu every 4 months, I really look forward to my next visits, especially since the next change in the menu will include a few local Emirati seafood delicacies like Jesheed, Maleh and Habool. If only the seafood could be gulped down with some white wine, sigh!
Hoping that even in 2014, my blogging journey is accompanied by my readers, blogger friends around the world and my foodie friends in Dubai, who had made my 2013 tastier and more wholesome. To name a few… My Custard Pie has not only been inspiring me to write better, but also to read better; The Hedonista has made Dining Predictions for 2014 – Dubai and the UAE; FooDiva on whom I always banking on for impartial reviews of all the new top notch restaurants in town; I Live in a Frying Pan who writes on eating holes and ethnic eats around old Dubai that give me so much solace; Dima Sharif who is always trying to teach her readers something new; and Coffee Cakes and Running who had been my travel mate on my blogging trips to Thailand and Istanbul. Have a fabulous 2014 all of you!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Location: Umm Suqeim 1 fishing harbor (second right after KFC/Hardees on Jumeirah Beach Road if you are going towards Burj Al Arab and once the road bends naturally to the left, you will find the Seaview restaurant on your right side). For more info, please can visit their website. The bill amounted to approximately Dhs 550 for 5 adults and 2 kids. You can see more of the menu here. Also read fellow blogger Geordie Armani’s review.
Disclaimer: 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 see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.