BTS Food blogging- Fiction vs Reality?

If you follow my instagram account or any other foodies on instagram, I think you might find this interesting! Let me start by introducing myself so you know where I am coming from.

I am a Clinical Researcher and a Food enthusiast. When I moved to Dubai from Karachi, Pakistan- I loved the food scene here since this is a city where you can get Pakistani, Indian, Middle Eastern, Egyptian, American, Italian, Lebanese and so many more cuisines. All in one city. I splurged on innovative restaurants and trendy meals weekly when one day I noticed a couple walking in the restaurant and instead of sitting on a table, they spoke to the manager and were immediately looked after. I thought to myself maybe they are special guests. Soon, they pulled out a professional camera out of their bags and started taking pictures of food in creative ways. I then thought that they were perhaps food photographers. Later on, I found out that they were food bloggers.

Somehow in that moment I felt that I want to feel the same way. I too wish to walk in a restaurant and aim my professional camera to the glass of pinacolada and be creative with it and also get free food. I started writing food reviews on zomato and instantly loved the feeling of sharing my honest opinion on a fried chicken I devoured or a salad. But my reviews were usually lengthy and I loved talking in detail about a restaurant experience so I started this blog last year and received my first restaurant invite ever to review the menu. Yes, that was an amazing feeling that can not be described into words. Receiving the first restaurant review invite is a happiness that is unlike any other feeling, in fact it is so addictive that I wasn’t able to say “no” to any restaurant invite after that for a year. I blogged about 50 restaurants around UAE in the past year that makes me rank among the top ten bloggers in Dubai today.

 

That sounds cool right? Free food? Foodies to gather with on different ocassions? making new friends? Yes, please.

Let me walk you through this. This is how a restaurant review proceeds- the restaurants provide good food and efficient service (two relatively inexpensive things, compared to the cost of paid advertisements), and the food blogger shares photos of their food with tens of thousands of people and writes an honest review in return.

Now here’s the truth- A few years into my blogging journey, I’ve stopped accepting many of the restaurant invitations. In fact, the longer I blog, the fewer free restaurant meals I accept and the more I pay for everything on my own. Following are the main 5 reasons for this:

1. Honesty is the best policy?

The major problem arises when I visit a restaurant and do not like their food and give them my honest feedback. They ask me to sugar coat this in the blog and that their restaurant rating shouldn’t drop which becomes contradictory to why I started this blog. I try my best to stay neutral in a blog where I did not like the food served at XYZ restaurant because of strict UAE defamation laws and also because I don’t want to hurt anyone.
I was once chased by a Restaurant PR because they wanted me to give them the highest rating when I didn’t like their food at all but it was disturbing and what was all the hassle for? I asked the restaurant- had they treated me the same way if I were a customer instead of a blogger?

2. Time is money

The 2018 version of me would be quite baffled by this statement but over the time I have realized that restaurant tastings take 3-4 hours of my evenings when I can visit the same restaurant as a non-blogger and pay for my food and save 50% of time. Why you ask? simply because the cost of all that food is not worth 3 hours of my time. Heck! I don’t even eat that much.

3. Free food does not pay my bills

I have to drop this truth bomb because its all fun and games until you have to get back to the ultimate reality of life. Sure its fun but it doesn’t pay my rent or the bills.

4. Turn the tables

I love the experience of dining at a restaurant, and when I show up to media tasting as a food blogger, I don’t always get to experience that. Now, I do get to enjoy some other unique things, like talking with the chef, being shown a behind-the-scenes look into the kitchen, and getting vouchers as a take away gift. But none of that is a realistic restaurant experience for the average diner, so I don’t think it’s a realistic way for me to give my opinion of a restaurant.

5. It’s just not the same

I get so many comments from foodies on my restaurant blogs saying- we went to xyz restaurant on your recommendation and the service was so bad and etc etc. I actually feel for that person who was influenced by my opinion of a restaurant and regrets later. For instance, my instagram feed is full of gorgeous photographs of food because I had been to various food blogger gatherings and restaurant tastings. But when I really like a restaurant and their service, I make sure to go back after a while as a paying customer because I just wanted to be sure that I loved it just as much. But sadly, it wasn’t the same.

Am I still accepting Restaurant Invites?

Yes. My criteria to saying yes for a restaurant review invite is:

  • Instances when there is a new small business in town that needs help. When a new food truck invites me to try their menu; I definitely say yes.
  • An older restaurant with great reputation. If PF Changs sends me an invite, I’m running barefoot for this one.
  • When it’s a second or third meal from a restaurant that I really love- I loved the salads at abc restaurant and now they are offering me to review their brunch menu? Yes sir!

 

 

 

Featured post

Loosen up a little

AER specializes in Italian, Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine. Located in DIFC; this place is for people who want to have fun and some food as well. The restaurant is beautiful with dreamy chandeliers and comfortable velvet couches with indoor and outdoor seating available. The restaurant has a full bar available as well.

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Salad:

I started off with the AER wellness salad that instantly became my favorite because of the fresh beetroot and tangy orange along with chickpeas, sunflower seeds and salted maple butter dressing to bind it all together. This salad is a must have from my end because of its sheer simplicity.

Cold appetizer:

I ordered Bruschetta- Tunna and green apple, Tomato caponata, cheese and exotic mushroom. Loved all three of them. My favorite was the mushroom and cheese one, so creamy and light.

Then I tried their Sicilian Arancini and my lord! these were packed with creamy cheese. Loved every bit of these. Totally recommend you try them.

Mains:

For Mains, I tried the wagyu steak which is usually amazing by itself without much effort due to the buttery flavor of wagyu meat but I feel I should have asked the chef to keep my steak medium rare as well done was over cooked for me.

Pasta:

First world problems- To order pasta or risotto? I ended up having Pasta Al Funghi that’s loaded with wild mushrooms and looked absolutely smashing but unfortunately lacked basic flavor and some hint of spices like black pepper or nutmeg.

Desserts:

I couldn’t decide between chocolate molten cake and turtle cheesecake so I ordered both. The chocolate molten cake was pretty good, but I wish it didn’t had crumbs in it that tasted a bit odd.

But the turtle cheesecake was perfection! so soft that my spoon glided in there and the flavor was super indulging! I highly recommend you try this one.

Thank you Team AER for having me over. Your service and ambiance is top notch.

AER Restaurant and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fall in love with grills again.

The city’s finest Grills restaurant has so much to offer such as Salmon, Lamb chops, Grilled pepper chicken and their Chinese Bhel that’s offered complimentary before your meal arrives is simply amazing.

What I loved most about Back to Grills was the fact that it is great in all three areas: Food, Look and feel of the restaurant and service. It is a fairly small place with outdoor seating available as well serving Grilled, Asian, Continental and BBQ cuisines. Their food hygiene has been rated Excellent, which is a plus point.

One cannot help but notice the colorful decor inside the restaurant including the creative wood art where the restaurant name plate is placed. The menu is vast with everything from salads to grills, shareable platters, Asian bowls, sizzlers, burgers, mocktails and milkshakes and so much more.

We started off with the chinese bhel that was refreshing unlike the heavy buns and cheese sticks you get as a complimentary starter in most of the restaurants. Our first item on the table was B2G fiery prawns that were a treat for the eyes and soul. Beautifully drenched in a coconut oil based marinade, the prawns were an absolute hit. I would like to mention here that the presentation was extra ordinary.

We then had shareable non-veg platter that comprised of shish tawok, smoked chicken leg, chicken tikka, turkish lamb kebabs and lamb boti. Everything on this platter was pretty good. I specifically loved the lamb kebabs, they were so tender and the combination of spices here was amazing.

On the side, I was sipping Pattaya Breeze that’s made from Guava, galangal (you can think of this as ginger’s sister) and tobasco. Yep! you heard that right! And it tastes beautiful! I would totally recommend you order this one.

I loved their asian bowl- Kung Pao chicken, the sauce was so tangy and intense and the noodles on the side were subtle with bits of fried garlic that paired so well together. I feel this should be a must have dish here.

For Dessert, I had to go with  Tangerine baked yogurt as I was curious to what is this, Yes! I have never had baked yogurt which is why I wanted to try it here and I am so glad that I did. It was wonderful! The flavor was like having warm ricotta cheese with tangerine on a cold night. *gosh*

Thank you so much Team Back to grills for having us over. So impressed with the quality of food that I have already planned my next visit.

 

 Back to Grills Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sway with Pakistani spices at Des Pardes

Now I know that Pakistani restaurants generally share this reputation of un-hygienic and overly spiced food but I as a foodie confirm that the food you eat at a hawker stand is far better than the one you get at fine dining 5 star luxury restaurants. Des Pardes is a small cafeteria kind of place in Oud Mehta and they serve Karachiite cuisine that means coal smoked karhayi with layers of oil on top and crisp naan straight from tandoor.

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The staff was so friendly, I had to pinch myself to realize that I am not in Pakistan just yet. We ordered Chicken peshawri karhayi that’s a north frontier delicacy in Pakistan. It is specially delicious because the amount of spices in here are quite low, the meat gives its original flavor in combination with tomatoes.

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We also had the galawati kebab curry which was outstanding. The chefs nailed this one as it was packed with bags of flavors and a variety of spices. The kebabs itself were tender.

The chicken biryani wasn’t as good as I was expecting. Perhaps it needed more moisture, the masala was a tad bit dry but even then it tastes pretty decent.

The showstopper for me was the lassi. I have been extremely disappointed of the lassi standards here in Middle East because yogurt blended with sugar is considered as lassi at most of the restaurants. But I grew up having the perfectly proportioned milk and yogurt lassi and I am so glad that I found it at Des Pardes.

The best bit is that these guys are open 24 hours. I highly recommend you enjoy movie night on weekends and hit it to Des Pardes for mouth watering karhayi and grilled kebabs.

Des Pardes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Meals that make you happy at India Palace

India Palace is widely known in Dubai for its authentic quality meals with an evident royal touch in terms of flavors and presentations. I recently visited Indian Palace in Garhoud for ala carte lunch and I must say that I was impressed with wholesome meals with refreshing addition to my palate as a foodie.

We started off with malai shorba that’s actually pretty amazing with the warmth of chicken stock and gently spiced creame that blends to give a lovely flavor especially for those that have dry throat or runny nose. This is the soup for ya’ll.

For salad, I opted for Murgh tikka salad that was presented beautifully in a papadum bowl, the trick is to break that bowl and mix everything together to get that delicious flavor. The chicken was absolutely lip smacking and I recommend this chicken salad to anyone who does not usually pick salads because of bland taste.

I was then served shahi seekh kebab, these were basically mutton kebabs that tasted pretty good. Although I felt the amount of whole spices could have been toned down a bit to enhance the original flavor of mutton.

My choice of curry for the day was Murgh Makhanwala because I was informed by the kind server that this is butter chicken. The curry was luscious and tangy, the chicken was grilled perfectly and I paired this with laccha paratha for an awesome experience.

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Then I tried chicken dum biryani that was fabulous in terms of the quality of rice and aromatic spices in there and the chicken was cooked well. Overall the biryani was pretty great.

I kept sipping on mango lassi throughout the lunch since it was so refreshing.

For dessert, I had ras malai that is soft cheese dumplings that are soaked in saffron infused sugar syrup for that melting sugary taste.

Thank you Team India Palace for a wonderful lunch. Your service was impeccable and the quality of meals was great. I shall come back for more soon.

 

 

 India Palace Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Feel the vibe with A Cappella

A restaurant’s atmosphere sets the stage. It’s about more than just a dining room away from home. Food takes the spotlight as guests become its audience. Factors such as music, lighting, artwork and spacing combine to create comfort, intimacy and even romance.

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A cappella is just the right restaurant to visit with your special one. Located in Pointe the Palm; the restaurant offers a variety of mocktails and fine dining options. The staff is extremely courteous, they look after you with undivided attention and make the entire dining experience worthwhile.

I started off the culinary journey with pani puri that comes in a theatrical presentation with smoke blowing from everywhere around and you can witness laboratory inspired funnels carrying chutneys and tiny pani puris lined on the sides. It definitely looked awesome. I believe the stuffing inside paani puri could have been improved.

This place is a goldmine for people who enjoy alcoholic cocktails but since I stay away from all kinds of intoxicants, the staff made sure I don’t miss out on the experience so they served me a non-alcoholic lychee mocktail that was super tasty and pretty.

Then I had amazing beef sliders, the beef patty was juicy and not overly spiced but the caramelized onion at the bottom of patty were the real deal. The entire slider was outstanding. I also tried the cheese slider that was actually made with a cheese patty and it was brilliant! I am definitely ordering beef and cheese sliders separately the next time.

Then came the show stopper lamb chops, they were glazed with slightly sweet yet charred spices. The lamb was soft and convenient to eat with a knife and fork in such fancy setting. Right after this I witnessed bhuna murgh approaching my table and my eyes were wide open with excitement because usually you expect finger food in such settings but this was beyond my expectations. The chicken looked amazingly charred from the corners and was cooked perfectly.

After all of these delicious meals, I was served mac and cheese and this one is honestly the best I have had so far. There was fried garlic chopped into crumbs and garnished on top which provided extra flavor to the dish and the cheese inside wasn’t just liquefied cheese that usually tastes weird. It was pure cheese that melted with the macaroni.

Finally, it was time for desserts (my favorite part of the dining experience). We were served Tiramisu and a chocolate pecan globe. Even though the chocolate pecan was sinfully indulgent, my winner was tiramisu. It was gentle and the mascrapone cheese was added in just the right amounts for a smooth texture.

Thank you for such an amazing night Team A cappella! I would recommend my readers to visit this restaurant on a Friday as they have bollywood nights and I am sure they will be super!

 

A Cappella Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Biryani that was worth a war

Legend whispers of a mythical kingdom called Behrouz, 2000 years ago, which rose to popularity around the world for its recipe of layered rice and secret spices. A recipe that lured Kings and masses alike; A dish that we now know as Biryani.

The recipe was lost forever when King Cyrus laid siege to Behrouz until it was discovered amongst the ruins. With this Biryani, the restaurant have brought back to life this lost recipe of Behrouz. It is unlike the usual Indian/Pakistani version of Biryani, its aromatic, the spices are subtle and generous amounts of raisins and cashew nuts bring the royal touch.

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I was given the opportunity to try this biryani and honestly I wasn’t expecting such rich presentation. The box that enclosed Lazeez Bhuna Murgh Biryani was creative and stylish. There was a pop up castle inside that comes as a surprise. The biryani itself is not for someone looking for heat and a concoction of onions and tomatoes, it is rather royal in terms of quality and quantity as well. Its a wonderful getaway from the usual flavors of biryani available elsewhere. I would recommend the chef to use chicken with bones for more flavor. Loved the texture and flavors packed in the rice. There was tangy raita and sliced onions in seperate boxes. There was a tiny box with gulab jamun dipped in sheera (sugar syrup). Loved this bit of the entire meal.

The delivery was efficient as I placed order beforehand and shared my location with the delivery person via whatsapp. Really happy with the efficiency of Team Behrouz Biryani.

 

 

Behrouz Biryani Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Just one of those days when dressing up feels like a chore and I end up eating in my car. Blessed to be in Dubai especially on such days because there are numerous dine-in-your-car places where people just park their cars and eat at the ease of their comfort. Headed over to Rabbash cafeteria in mamzar where finding a parking spot is always an issue but because it was a weekday, I found parking easily.

I ordered chicken funtasia and zinger chicken waffle burger, both came with curly fries and ketchup mayo. But the food took long time to arrive. I waited more than 30 minutes in the car and that left me a bit disappointed.

I liked funtasia, it was generously filled with black olives, cheese, chicken and onion bits. The bread wasn’t oily at all, I have had funtasia from numerous restaurants previously and most of them were dripping with oil but this one was nice and dry.

The zinger chicken waffle burger can be improved as the waffle was too doughy and not crispy at all. Believe me, I had it instantly so the fact that it wasn’t hot the moment they delivered it only gets challenging once the delivered food is consumed late. I am yet to try the shakes and desserts from here. Fingers crossed for my next visit/order.

 

 

Rabbash Al Mamzar Cafeteria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Famous Dave’s serving passion

You know when there’s “famous” in the name of a restaurant, you gotta figure that out and see what is all that about. Hence, my visit to The Famous Dave’s in Festival City Mall located on level 1 with views of the gorgeous waterfront and LED show; you are bound to fall in love with the restaurant. What I love the most is their staff’s courtesy and the way they make you feel like home/family, they were so friendly that even my bossy toddler gave one of the staff a hi-five.

We decided to sit indoors and started browsing the menu that had several options to choose from. While we were busy doing that, the server brought us a basket of fresh potato chips sprinkled with herbs and salt. He also briefed us about the kinds of sauces on the table and what each sauce is made of and how does it taste. I personally loved the Texas pit because it paired so well with the tacos but more on that later 😉

From the famous American steaks to the barbecued ribs, you can choose anything you like. I had my heart set on the crispy chicken tacos while my husband ordered the Dave’s fried chicken that comes with fries and pickles. The tacos were out of this world! They were literally good enough to sweep my feet off the floor. Crispy chicken with fresh lettuce, zesty lime chipotle and the salsa were just meant to be together, the cherry on cake was fresh jalapenos on top. I am definitely recommending the tacos. Even though these were perfect, I drenched them in the Texas pit and sweet and sour sauces and had a ball!

The fried chicken was pretty amazing as well. Loved the charred chicken skin that was just golden and all the juices ran on the inside, the flavors were subtle unless you order the hot one. The smoked beef was brilliant! Packed with bags of flavors, this is a sure shot to your heart. Portion size was perfect for 2;I would say but if you’ve had a long day, Go for it man!

 

 

 

Famous Dave's Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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