Restaurant review: Asil, Rixos Premium Dubai JBR
The hip Turko-Arabesque restaurant will help you step right into the Orient
So, what is your idea of the Orient? Far East? South Asian subcontinent? Edward Said’s critical yet famous concept to describe the West's oft-used, contemptuous depiction of "The East"? Societies and people who inhabit the places of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East? Orient, in my book, was all of this — until I stepped into Asil, the hip Turko-Arabesque restaurant in Rixos Premium Dubai in Jumeirah Beach Residence.
The first thing you notice is their motto that defines them, and it asks you to literally “step into the Orient”. Little did I know that it would take me on a trip of Algeria, Morocco and also rekindle my memories of a long-cherished Turkish sojourn over a sumptuous brunch, launched just last month.
More on the food later, for it’s the ambience that will strike you first. What comes to mind instantly is the mystical backdrops of Arabian Nights. You are transported to the land of Aladdin in an instant, as you settle down under bedazzling chandeliers and in the opulence of Arab-themed furniture. And if you are lucky enough to find a spot on their terrace, you could dine al fresco, looking over JBR beach and Ain Dubai.
Talking food, there is a whole range of Arabic dishes, Turkish street food and hot and cold mezze, served sharing-style but enough to cater to everyone’s taste and appetite. Signature dishes include the Turkish delight of Köpolu – fried cubes of aubergine in a dip of buffalo yoghurt with candied tomato jam. Then there are some stunning side acts, including a bowl of beetroot crisps served with avocado dip, a platter of vegan kibbeh (yes, you read that right!) and sushi as part of cold mezzeh. A big dish of Asil kebab make up the mains (you really don’t need anything else!) and a classic Turkish kunafa with pistachio ice cream stars on the dessert menu.
Throw in a fusion of house-inspired Arabic and Turkish sounds by Turkish music producer and resident DJ, DJ Mustech and you have an experience just like you would in a restaurant and lounge on the busy Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul!
Taste (4): For those who believe food from the Levant is all about meat, Asil’s new brunch is for them. From delightful Lavash crackers to beetroot walnut cheese to simit kumru, there are plenty of options for vegetarians looking for a different kind of taste. But the one that wore the crown for me was the Tornado Prawns – katayef style prawn rolls wrapped with curly fries and a dose of harissa mayonnaise before being served fried. That should tell you all about taste!
Ambience (4): There is luxury written all over Asil in everything you can set your eyes on - from its elegant cutlery to its lavish interiors that add to the magic of the place. So, the cultural and culinary adventure here happens not just through its food — but also through the sights and sounds of Turkey, Lebanon and Morocco that the place offers. And the service staff complete the script in their inimitable attire, just like they would in a lounge in Beirut, Istanbul, Marrakesh or Casablanca.
Service (3): Weekends may not be the best day of the week to judge a restaurant’s service staff for obvious reasons, yet the team at Asil did their Friday best to keep us happy – with plenty of warm food on the table (almost always on time!) and an equally warm smile.
Presentation (4): There’s not much you can do about skewers of meat, but when it comes to some of Asil’s exotic starter items, the art of presentation comes alive — be it through their Hummus Balila or their simple cauliflower salad. Special marks to their duo of meat and chicken shawarmas wrapped in a pita pocket bread that looks a great deal more appetising than an average shawarma on the street.
Value for Money (4): The Brunch by Asil happens every Friday from 12.30 to 3.30pm and will cost you Dh275 per person with soft beverages (mocktails, coffee and tea) included. Did somebody say it’s a steal? It absolutely is.