Restaurant Review: Off The Hook
The one great thing about seafood is that it cuts across cultures; if you’re going to make this your resto’s selling point, you’ve got to do it well. So at Off The Hook (OTH), that’s what they’re trying to do — try to reel you in with their own take on flavours. At their newly-opened branch at Ibn Battuta Mall — third in Dubai plus six in Abu Dhabi equals nine in just five years, with more to come — you’re greeted with a warm atmosphere; the aroma of what’s cooking is the real come-on, like a fishing line reeling you in.
Only that nature’s way will prevail and you’ll feast on the seafood. The main attraction — you may know it as ‘boodle fight’, but we’d rather call it ‘dig-in’ — is a proverbial ocean of flavour: crabs, prawns, mussels, salmon, squid and crab balls all drenched in a choice of seven sauces. Cajun is, by default, the most recognisable, but you’ve got other different stuff like garlic butter, mushroom and onion and, by consensus, the crowd-favorite, coco cream sauce. Un. Limited. Rice. Of. Course.
Their menu is quite limited, but the idea here is that OTH is the type of place that you’d really go to when you know what you’re craving for. The only thing out of sorts is the chicken fillet; we highly recommend to our friends over there to add more for the non-seafooders and for the sake avoiding groups to split up for a meal.
And one thing to ‘dye’ for is the Black Calamari, which is your regular battered squid… but with their ink thrown into the mix. Don’t let that ‘dark’ tone fool you: Inside that unique look are juicy, tasty rings of those cephalopods that have somewhat a creamy feel to it. This offering is OTH’s latest creation, and they’ve pledged to keep experimenting and serving new ones as often as they can. But all that wasn’t enough to earn it top billing in this run…
MAY WE RECOMMEND…
The Puff A’ Fish (sorry, Black Calamari). At first, we misheard it as ‘puffer fish’, giving us false hope that there’s some fugu in these parts. But we forgot about that ‘suicidal’ idea once the actual star of this dish, a sea bass, hit our ’buds: The unique combination of zest, herbs and spices made me down consecutive portions while literally staring at it for a minute like a preying shark. Sea bream and salmon are also good options.
Taste: Save for the powerful Cheesy Seafood Crunch (prawn and crab crammed into a takoyaki-esque frame), no dish had flavours that overwhelm each other. The seafood themselves are screaming fresh, and we appreciate the rather ‘healthy’ crabs.
Ambience: A wooden theme blessed with plant decor — brightened up by natural light at day and mellowed at nighttime — is always a nice touch. There’s also a small function room that makes an occasion a little intimate. And while the heat’s still tolerable, enjoy outdoor seating when the sun’s down.
Service: It does take a little while to get food from the kitchen to your table, but that’s only because everything’s freshly-prepared, and there are certain items that need a bit of your patience. And the staff are busy bees that buzz around to assist you and make sure you don’t run out of rice.
Presentation: While nothing special to those used to it, it’s rather cute to see how first-timers react to the dig-in style of eating. Really, the only thing that will elevate your senses for the grub scattered on the table is to make sure they look the (fresh) part. Dig-in joints, please take notice.
Covid-Consciousness: The only time you’ll see something on the table is when you place your order, meaning all equipment — gloves, aprons, napkins and even hand sanitiser bottles — are safely stowed away. Utensils — for whatever reason you may need them — are disposable.