Restaurant review: Amala, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray
Discover India through a journey of tastes from every corner of the country
What makes a great Indian meal? The taste? The aroma? The spices? The variety of dishes? All of it? At Amala, the Ottoman-inspired fine diner at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, everything comes together in grand fashion inspired by true flavours of India, just as they emanate in different corners of the country.
An old black-and-yellow Premier Padmini taxicab parked at the entrance will take you to the streets of Mumbai of the 60s and 70s, but the magic begins the moment you step into the mansion-like restaurant, where opulence speaks through its carved teak furniture and elegance basks in the rich upholstery. As you make yourself comfortable – you could choose the outdoor porch overlooking the sea as well – you are welcomed with a tray of poppadom and a special mango lassi within minutes.
Next, you are introduced to the set menu of the Swad Ka Safar brunch, on every Friday between 1-4pm. And as the food begins to arrive, you gradually realise how the chef and his team have worked hard to take you on a culinary journey across the length and breadth of India through its rich flavours and exotic spices, true to the brunch's name.
So, a machli koliwada, fish fried in a batter as they would in old fishing neighbourhoods of India’s western state of Maharashtra, finds a place on the table with a dahi poori chaat, a typical North Indian street food with yoghurt as part of the starters. And Butter Chicken, a pan-Indian favourite comes with another - Tawa Keema, a spiced dish of minced Indian mutton. Grilled tandoors deserve a special mention too as does the biryani, mildly spiced and aromatic and influenced by the master chefs from the streets of Old Delhi. But the winner lies in the special Amala daal cooked, Bukhara style, with lentils soaked overnight.
The four-course brunch ends on a sweet note with a selection of classic desserts with contemporary twists like a kaccha aam (green mango) sorbet served alongside Gulab Jamun and a samosa made of a decadent date filling. In the end, an experience truly worth the time spent on it.
Ambience (5): Opulent furniture with intricate wood carvings, giant chandeliers, decorated marbled arches and pillars give this restaurant a palatial makeover befitting Zabeel Saray’s grandeur. There’s a sprawling alfresco area too, if you decide to make the best of the weather now for a relaxed lunch overlooking the sea.
Taste (4): Not for nothing is this brunch called Swad ka Safar (a journey of taste). The four-course platter is designed to take you on a journey of India through its vibrant dishes and their unique flavours — be it their Dahi Poori Chaat in the starter or their Gilafi Seekh Kabab.
Service (5): You will find one of the most amicable bunch of people at Amala. They don’t just welcome you with a smile but in fact make you feel at home in an instant. And what’s best, the chef will come out of the kitchen to chat with you in order to make sure your journey of taste is going well.
Presentation (4): How do you make Indian food look good? Simple. Present it with honesty and aplomb. So, the curries look delectable in the bowls as they come, the special Amala daal fully washed in its glory and the desserts neatly packed in a row, ready to be picked up. And what will grab your attention are the little baskets that bring the breads – from buttered naan to kulchas.
Value for Money (4): You pay Dh190 for the Swad ka Safar brunch, served in a sharing concept. Four courses including two items from the tandoor and at least five mains, served alongside a welcome drink and soft beverages – what more could you ask for in a special Friday brunch for under Dh200?