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Service with a Smile

By Tabassum Vally and Ghazala Tikki Zaman

Published: Wed 23 Mar 2022, 12:00 AM

The Dawat and Dhaaba restaurants at Pakistan Pavilion bring authentic regional cuisine to the UAE to give a glimpse into the rich culture of the land



Pakistan is known for its hospitality and hence it’s no surprise that its pavilion has two restaurants — ‘Dhaaba’ and ‘Dawat’.

Jamal Malik, Operations Manager F&B
Jamal Malik, Operations Manager F&B
Amir Abbasi, Head Chef at Pakistan Pavilion
Amir Abbasi, Head Chef at Pakistan Pavilion
Saifullah Hussain, Host at Dawat & Dhaaba
Saifullah Hussain, Host at Dawat & Dhaaba

Dhaaba is a colloquial word for a shack where one can relax and sip on karak chai and have some snacks. However, the ‘Dhaaba’ at the Pakistan Pavilion offers so much more.

The team of Chef at Dhaaba
The team of Chef at Dhaaba
The team of Chef at Dawat
The team of Chef at Dawat
The staff at Dhaaba
The staff at Dhaaba
The staff at Dawat
The staff at Dawat

The initial anticipation was that there would be around 100 to 120 visitors a day. However, on the first day itself there were about 900 visitors after which there was no turning back. Ever since it opened, the restaurant entertains on an average about 800 to 900 visitors on weekdays and 1,000 to 1,200 visitors on weekends. That keeps the team of 50 odd people at the two restaurants on their toes, recruited from both the UAE and Pakistan, mentioned Jamal Malik while being interviewed.

Chapli kabab burger and chicken boti roll at Dhaaba
Chapli kabab burger and chicken boti roll at Dhaaba

The idea for the Dhaaba restaurant was to bring the street food of Pakistan like chicken boti roll, chicken tikka club sandwich, bun kabab tikki burger, chappli kabab burger etc, to the food lovers visiting the Pakistan Pavilion, and these items became a super hit. The other hot favourite amongst the visitors was the samosa chaat.

Biryani and chicken karahi at Dawat
Biryani and chicken karahi at Dawat

Both the restaurants were designed by Naheed Mashooqallah and Neha Kajani. Naheed is well-known for her work in Pakistan and abroad, and needs no introduction. Talking about the design, Naheed said: “The murals celebrate the many native and frequent birds of Pakistan. The idea is drawn from Pakistani flora and fauna and recognisable landscapes and symbols, as painted in local truck art, with a particular emphasis on the birds. You will find them in their element: in flight, about to take off, up close, at a distance, a boastful stare, a quiet perch.”

The large-scale bird portraits, the soaring silhouettes, the text within, the continuous specks and the concentric circles are composed, and recomposed, to pay homage to the role of birds as companions for travellers on their looped journeys. Therefore, repetition, movement and fluidity are important elements of design here, within each of the individual artworks and even between them, within the Dhaaba space.

While traditionally truck drivers would paint their trucks with flowers and birds of their regions, these murals aspire to do the same. The murals were done by Aarij Hashmi. A modern take on the truck art theme was used for the Dhaaba. A more muted colour palette was used.

Another name that has contributed to making the restaurants come alive is Kamran Sheikh. Chef Amir Abbasi helped finalise the menu along with the team.

The vibe at the Dhaba was great as it was completely packed most of the time with queues of people lined up, waiting to be seated. There were people from all nationalities and ages. There were so many stories of people who were reminded of Pakistan from the food. A family living in Dubai from Islamabad missed the authentic Pakistani taste and were delighted with the food at the Dhaaba they had. “The bun kabab and the authenticity of the taste was amazing,” mentioned Ambareen, working at a local bank, amongst the other things they enjoyed.

Sara, a UAE national, who really enjoyed the samosa chaat, said: “The hospitality is amazing, the service is with a smile.” She found the décor and design of the Dhaaba very elegantly done.

Kudos to the team of Jamal, he believes that service with a smile is at the core of hospitality and yes at 10 pm, a little tough but the job needs to be done.

“A warm welcome and great farewell is all about great service. Also the aim was to give a beautiful experience and great memories of Pakistani hospitality to our valuable guests.”

It also had a fair share of celebrities who visited the place. Some of the names included Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi, Ali Zafar to name a few. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, and Commissioner General of Expo 2020 Dubai, is also a regular visitor at the restaurant.

A family from Hyderabad,India, visiting the Expo enjoyed the Dhaaba experience a lot and came to visit the the Dawat restaurant in the evening. The Dawat restaurant opens in the evening from 6 pm and closes at 10 pm. The idea behind this was inspired by nature as it was an open area. The use of floral and fauna, the marble and stones from Pakistan, the wood work all created a natural feel that allowed the guests to enjoy the natural settings. It wasn’t easy to manage such a large operation and ensure that the standards were met. Thanks to Erth Hospitality and Armed forces Officers Club Abu Dhabi the operations went on extremely smooth across all the areas. There have been a myriad of people and things like the furniture, the lighting etc that have gone into making both the restaurants, so thanks are in order to everyone involved in making us feel proud as Pakistanis.


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