Tag Archives: Middle East

Asian Tea at the Burj al Arab – a review

Standard

 

What a meal.  I know, they call it a tea… but lemme tell you – it’s a MEAL.  Remember, my friend Koral and I’d gone to the Burj Al Arab for the afternoon tea at the Junsui restaurant.  I’d described our entering and looking around the resort earlier here  and I promised that I’d get to the tea later…..well, it’s later!

When we approached the elevators, they were just spectacular.  Really.  I mean, I’m not one to take photos of elevator doors (well, OK, from time to time maybe) but these were unusual.

Gorgeous elevator doors.  Really!

Gorgeous elevator doors. Really!

Then, when we stepped inside, they were just as lovely inside as they were from the outside!  Dunno how they’re kept so “un-fingerprinty”.

Burj Al Arab 122 Burj Al Arab 123

They quietly swooshed us right down to the mezzanine level and the doors opened into the lobby of the Junsui restaurant.

Burj Al Arab 129

Walking through the entry was almost EXACTLY like the Tower of Terror experience juuuuust before all the glass breaks…. See the tiny little starlights??

Burj Al Arab 127Burj Al Arab 128 Burj Al Arab 131

And of course I had to pose in front of them.

IMG_1138

Through the starlights, we approached the podium and the most lovely hostess received us, welcoming us warmly, and asking if we’d like to look around a bit before we were seated….. I think it was the cameras dangling from our wrists that tipped her off!  <smile>  We looked at the lounge area,

Burj Al Arab 140

 

then in the bar area….

Burj Al Arab 139 Burj Al Arab 138

Then, I visited the ladies room and whoa lawsa mercy, was it amazing!  Most ladies’ rooms in Dubai come with their own person, and this one was no different.  When she skedaddled for just a second, and I was the only one in there, I snapped a few photos – I was gonna hang on to them for my “toilets of the middle east” post, but these are some awesome photos.

Burj Al Arab 137 Burj Al Arab 136 Burj Al Arab 134 Burj Al Arab 133

OK, so freshened up, washed, dried, lotioned and sanitized, we went out to be seated by our hostess who wore the most lovely costume and posed for us

Our lovely hostess, isn't her costume beautiful?

Our lovely hostess, isn’t her costume beautiful?

– and we were shown to a window table!  I was thrilled, and since we had made our reservations on the spur of the moment, we weren’t expecting to be able to sit at a window table, they’re very limited in number and highly-coveted.  I was truly shocked.  But then again, I *am* the luckiest person I know!  But, now, this isn’t just a window seat, it’s a window-wall seat!  See how nice my friend Koral looks sitting in front of it?  She was kind to let me face it and gawk at the view.

Burj Al Arab 163

As you can see, we weren’t up too high, just high enough that we could still see the grounds, the sunbathing area, the windsurfers….. and the beach.  Just lovely!!

Burj Al Arab 160 Burj Al Arab 155IMG_1142

And the tablescapes were beautiful….. very soothing and un-fussy.  Functional but elegantly done.

Burj Al Arab 159 Burj Al Arab 156 Burj Al Arab 151 Burj Al Arab 149 Burj Al Arab 148

Oh, even the floor was interesting….see how the mosaics shimmer like a dragonfly’s wing??

Burj Al Arab 158

One of my most memorable tiny moments from this experience was the presentation of the warm, damp jasmine-scented hand cloths to freshen up with prior to our meal beginning…. A comfortable, relaxing way to begin our tea experience.

So, we ordered our first drinks, and sampled them – simply delicious!  Teas and fresh fruit juices – just right on a warm spring afternoon.

Burj Al Arab 162 Burj Al Arab 172Burj Al Arab 182

Now, we awaited the first of our SEVEN (yes 7!) courses……. Which arrived promptly.  We asked our server to please explain what each item was as it was presented, and what was in it.  He graciously did so, silly us thought we’d remember all of them!  So, I’ve copied their menu here, and will try to match them up with my photos and memory.

Burj Al Arab 161

See these chips and the four dips?  They’re dusted in crack cocaine, I swear.  They were crispy, fresh, and such an awesome palate-cleanser between courses that we *may* have overindulged.  Just a bit.  Is requesting THREE refills after we ate the initial bowl excessive???

Looking at the menu to keep track of them…..

Korean Bulgogi

Korean Bulgogi

Sesame Tofu with Asian Vegetable Salad 

Soft Bean Curd, Sesame Paste, Bean Sprout, Spring Onion, Carrot, Spinach, Soya Sauce

Nope – what we were served was a fairly traditional Korean Bulgogi dish…. Attractively served on a lovely plate.  The plate you see above?  That was for one person…. we each got our own!  Tasty, and we knew we were in for an international mixture of flavors.

Salmon Sushi with Roe

Salmon Sushi with Roe

Salmon Sushi with Roe

Salmon Sushi with Roe

Salmon Sushi with Roe

Salmon Sushi with Roe

Crispy Tempura Roll

Prawn, Sushi Rice, Seaweed, Wasabi, Mayonnaise, Tobiko

Odd – I’m guessing that their menu is “subject to change” because we were served some truly awesome Salmon sushi, topped with big fat sparkly roe – they were so pretty I almost didn’t  want to eat them, but I’d never eaten salmon roe before, so down the hatch they went.  Slightly salty with an odd “pop” to them when you bit them, sort of like a big ole tapioca pearl does?  Yummy.  And the cute little wasabi “leaf” beside them on the plate was just the right condiment.  I’m not a pickled ginger fan, but it was fresh and attractively served alongside.

 

Asian Chicken Bite in Puff Pastry

Asian Chicken Bite in Puff Pastry

 

 Asian Chicken Satay with Pickled Vegetables and Rice Cake

Chicken, Cucumber, Carrot, Shallot, Rice Cake

Nuh uh.  Not at all what we had…. This was an Asian Chicken bite, served in a richly-browned puff pastry, and served on a bit of a banana leaf.  Quite yummy and all that we sent back to the kitchen were crumbs from the pastry.  Really.  (Oh, and see the silverware in the background?  We got a set of it for every single course served.  7 sets of flatware.  Two of us.  14 sets of flatware for one meal…. so happy I wasn’t the dishwasher!)

Dim Sum Collection

Dim Sum Collection

Dim Sum Collection

Dim Sum Collection

Selection of Dim Sum -Har Gao, Siew Mai, Chaw Siew Bun, Vegetable Dumpling

I have never met Dim Sum I didn’t like.  Even the overcooked ones on a Chinese buffet in a strip-mall in the US, you know?  But this stuff was really good…. Well-prepared, attractive, and the flavors of each were wonderfully distinctive.  Steamed to perfection, they each left me wishing there were actually more of them in the little basket.   A treat!

 

Oh look!

Oh look!

There's a guy paddleboarding!

There’s a guy paddleboarding!

(oh, look outside!  There’s a guy paddleboarding…..)

 

Burj Al Arab 177

Thai Fish Cake served with Tom Yam Goong

Tom Yum Soup, White Fish, Red Chili, Egg, Sweet Chili Sauce, Peanut Oil, Coriander

 

Now, of all the things we ate there, (and there were a LOT) this was the only one that neither of us truly loved….. something was odd about the dried fish, made both of us cough.  Yes, cough.  And, we noticed others around us doing the same thing!  As I recall, the scrambled egg was on a (McDonald’s hash-brown-shaped) shredded radish patty of some sort – but it didn’t taste of any radish that I’ve ever eaten…..…kind of interesting, but not a favorite.  The dark colored strips are dried fish…. They made us all hack for some strange reason.  *shrug*

 

Fried Green Tea Ice Cream

Fried Green Tea Ice Cream

Ice Kacang with Sesame Ball

 Shaved Ice, Corn, Peanut, Lychee, Assorted Jelly, Grenadine, Sago, Condensed Milk, Sesame

Hmmmm…. Nope,  another swing and a miss.  If I am remembering this correctly, we had a deep fried serving of green tea ice cream….. kind of interesting flavor – when it first hit your tongue, nothing.  Just cold and creamy.  But as it melted, that subtle green tea flavor wandered right in and sat down on your tongue…. Made me happy.  And, anything that you add shaved creamy milk chocolate to is my friend…

So. Pretty much, you can see that what’s on their menu is not what we actually ate, right?  Not that it mattered, because we’d not researched the menu before we got there, had no clue what to expect.  Plus, there was very little that we didn’t really enjoy food-wise.  We just knew that we were going for a 7-course Asian Tea, and it sounded cool as hell.  And it was.

Chocolates

Chocolates

Asian Flavor Petit Four

We actually got an assortment of chocolates, instead – they were on the prettiest serving stand, though – I was sooo full, I couldn’t even eat a chocolate!

Listen, I was thinking after initially seeing these tiny little portions, we were gonna have to stop somewhere on the way home and grab a shawarma so we weren’t starving… but holy cow, we were literally stuffed by the time we left there.  I think that a bit of it had to do with those amazing rice cracker things that were dusted with that addictive crack-like substance….they were *amazing*.  Fresh, crisp, and so very tasty with a bit of the sauces on them – now that we’re no longer there, I can tell you with a slight bit of embarrassment that we ate FOUR BOWLS of them!  Can you imagine the guys in the kitchen??  “Man, crazy American women with all this high-class food and they’re pigging out on RICE CRACKERS?  Crazy”.  Yeah, you know they said it.

The cost for all this deliciousness, and awesome atmospher?  AED 275 per person

So – just shy of $75 bucks each.  Yeah, it was a tad bit steep, but a LOT less than the high tea there, and we had such a good time, wandered around the lobby of the hotel and enjoyed such excellent service, it was truly fun.  Not stuffy at all, just a fun experience with a good friend in a nice place.  What more can you ask for?? Put it on your list of “must dos” in Dubai.

UAE Marketing Misses

Standard

Language is a funny thing.  Language interpretation is even funnier sometimes.  In my shopping here (which happens WAY too much) I’ve found some advertising copy that just misses the mark for me, or that truly made me laugh out loud…. So you gotta know, right?  Read on…..

A local luxury hotel chain’s loyalty program (Rotanarewards.com) advertises “When exclusive is not so much a privilege, but a lifestyle.”  So, wait.  Does that mean they’re too exclusive for me?  If my lifestyle is already exclusive, does this add privilege?  Or perhaps I’m so privileged that this exclusivity should be my lifestyle…..  I’m not certain exactly who this one is aimed at, but I’m guessing it’s not me or the other 85% of the population here made up of expats ….. not sure.

Be-dazzled duster and dustpan – I have no explanation.  Does it make your cleaning cleaner, maybe?  Things sparkle more?  Try for the life of me,  I have no clue about this one.

bedazzled2 bedazzled

And soap with a “killer price” – literally?

grocery 004

This was a giggle too, who names a sports drink “sweat”??  Apparently, this company does…..

sweat drink

I didn’t get a photo of this one, but one of the handbills on a light post downtown advertised “House Shifting”.  My first thought was that perhaps it was something to do with house-movers, like I’ve seen in the states…. They literally move houses from one location to another.  But, one of our neighbors here has lived in Dubai since 1998, and talked about “shifting” from one neighborhood to this so that’s how I learned that it meant moving!

And, in the toilet paper department….  The always-popular “puppies on a roll”.  *shrug*  I honestly got nothing on this one, can’t for the life of me fit anything into that line.

puppies on a roll

Or, how about one enriched with shea butter.  I mean, what the heck use is that??  Not sure I actually *want* my toilet paper enriched with anything, thank you…..

toilet paper shea butter

Or this one, advertised by a sultry-speaking woman….”Andrex classic white.  Soft, Strong, and Veeerrrry Long”.  <snort>

soft strong and very long

Now, I’ve never personally had one….. but this was certainly eye-opening….. a bust-firming massage???  Holy cow….

bustfirming

Or the popular tapioca-pearled drinks called “Boba”….. this one has an interesting attribute…. It’s “fatally fruity!”

boba 003 boba 007

While we’re talking about drinks…. Check out these… um….. well, if you can’t read the label, turn it over!

IMG_1593

Cute little drawstring teabags – took me a bit to figure these out once I got them home….

IMG_1594

And here, the Thai Dried Plasaitan.  Otherwise known as “deaddriedfishinabag”.  :::shudder:::

deadfishinabag

Hhmmmm…. Something from cows that you can turn into a mexican-looking flan with a perfect crunch topping.  *snap*  Got it.  Sweetened condensed milk…. There it is, in tiny little letters.  But isn’t the packaging brilliant?  No more scraping that thick stuff out of a can that’s got sharp edges and you never get the last bit out…..

IMG_1884 IMG_1883

Just squeeze it up and done.  Less space in the landfills, less space on the shelves of both the grocery and your pantry.  Lighter weight too.  Brilliant idea!  Here’s another along the same line… I love these bags!  “Honey, run to the cold store and get me a bag of spaghetti sauce!”.

Taste of Dubai 002 Taste of Dubai 004

How about some pocket tissues?  Cute little dotted bag, would be easy to slip into my handbag…… wait, WHAT does it say??

marketing 007

“The plant has strong vitality.  It grows into beautiful flowers and fruits and moisten our lives”.   Okay…..

Now this is cute…. Took me a minute or two….

IMG_1934

Get it?  “jiggle it loose”??  It’s a spray lubricant!  Kinda like WD-40, I’m guessing.

One of my favorites so far that even made TBG laugh outright was this one…. A local propane/LP gas delivery company has its company name emblazoned on the delivery trucks…. And it truly tickled my American sense of humor.

alboom alboom2

Get it?  “Al Boom”??  “Boom” like an explosion…. And it’s a propane truck?  I think the cartoon character Hank Hill of the FX TV show “King of the Hill” would appreciate that humor, don’t you??

Anyhow, just a few of the things that have caught my eye that didn’t translate as expected.

Dubai Thunderstorm Video

Standard

Ya know, having lived in the deep south in the US, driving in an afternoon thunderstorm is no big deal – you just slow down a bit, allow some extra room, and expect to have limited visibility and water ponding on the roads in low spots, right?  And, ya kinda get used to it, because every summer afternoon, between 1600 – 1900, there’s gonna be a brief thunderstorm.  Every. Day.

In Dubai  –  not so much.  There’s not many days of rain there, and when there is a thunderstorm, it must mean that the gods are angry or something – really rare.  Consequently, Dubai drivers don’t have a lot of experience driving in an unexpected downpour.  And *all* weather in Dubai is “unexpected”….. no weather forecasts, ya see.  So, we ended up driving in one of the worst thunderstorms Dubai had seen in years – TBG was sure, safe and steady, in control of the situation, but many other vehicles on the roadways sadly were not…. here’s a quick video I made of that odd drive……

Arabian Ranches Golf and Nails

Standard

Since TBG was gonna go to the Arabian Ranches Golf Club driving range and hit some balls, I decided to tag along and get my nails done, and enjoy the lovely weather.  Luckily, TheNailSpa salon in the Arabian Ranches Clubhouse had an opening, and I was able to get in to get my raggedy-looking nails done.

The interior was pretty and calm and fairly quiet… my nail technician was quick and efficient and did a nice job.  The chairs were comfy, and futuristic looking.  The pedicure chairs looked particularly inviting.

Furniture here tends to be a bit... um..... extreme.

Furniture here tends to be a bit… um….. extreme.

Don't the pedicure chairs look comfy?

Don’t the pedicure chairs look comfy?

It was odd that the salon supervisor and another woman stood together with a clipboard watching her the entire time she was doing my nails.  Prices here are at a premium, they seem to be between 10 – 15% higher than other places I’ve frequented in Dubai.  And, like most, pressure to purchase additional product was consistent and heavy.  But it is convenient and the quality was good.  Beware of providing your phone number, you’ll be receiving many many many phone calls from them!  If you schedule an appointment, they’ll call back to confirm your appointment.  Then, they’ll call the day before the reconfirm your appointment.  Then, you’ll be called on your appointment day a bit before your appointment time to confirm that you’re coming.  And if you don’t schedule an appointment, you’ll be called to ask why and to ask you to schedule one.  If you’re like me, and on a pre-paid phone system, it’s annoying, to say the least!

IMG_1795

After the bit of pampering, I wandered out to the driving range to watch TBG hit balls for a bit.  Not my norm, but I was “car-less” and he was my chauffeur!  Found some comfy chairs to lie back in and wait for him to tire.  The view was lovely and relaxing, so I never made it to the range, just waited for him on the patio.  This is a bit of what I saw as I relaxed…….

Lovely course.

Lovely course.

Some of the villas are right *on* the golf course.

Some of the villas are right *on* the golf course.

Calm pretty view.  In the desert.

Calm pretty view. In the desert.

comfy place to stash my pocketbook and mickey mouse hat

comfy place to stash my pocketbook and mickey mouse hat

Great place to prop up my fee, huh?  The bottom of the trees appear to have all been trimmed.... wouldn't want to brush up against them, ya know......

Great place to prop up my fee, huh? The bottom of the trees appear to have all been trimmed…. wouldn’t want to brush up against them, ya know……

Not long after I arrived, he came up toting his clubs…. And we headed back to the truck.

And yes, TBG, hauling his clubs.   Says something about good exercise..... I think he's too cheap to tip a caddy!

And yes, TBG, hauling his clubs. Says something about good exercise….. I think he’s too cheap to tip a caddy!

IMG_1813 IMG_1812 IMG_1809 IMG_1808 IMG_1807

Now, just take a look at the amazing brickwork here, and the landscaping.  It’s such a beautiful, well-tended place.  Hardly looks like the desert now, does it??  It’s a lovely compound, a gorgeous place to live in Dubai.

Dubai Dragon Mart

Standard

Dubai’s Dragon Mart

www.dragonmart.ae

Really big warehouse/madhouse full of really cheap stuff!  Pretty much if it’s made in China, it’s been unloaded here.  At 1.2 kilometers  in length, it is the largest hub for Chinese products outside of China.  This market is truly huge, contains over 3500 individual shops, and is generally open from 10 am till almost midnight.  You can buy wholesale or retail here, and bargaining for the best price is a must!  Here’s a picture of the dragon-shaped facility – notice that even the end of the head is marked by a “tongue”.

aerial view

aerial view

 

So, what do they sell you ask?  Everything.  Our experience there started with a perk from the bank we use here in the UAE – if you are an HSBC customer with a Platinum Advantage credit card, you will receive valet parking at no charge for as long as you shop.  This is about a AED17 perk, so drive right up to one of the orange cones beside the “valet parking full” signs that they must use to simply block the lanes.  They’re really not full.  Plus, you won’t be adding a long walk after your shopping, and this is a big deal, so take advantage of that HSBC perk!

Oh, out front is a cool fountain with a globe and a dragon wrapping itself around the globe – pretty cool for photos, and the entrance is dramatic.  If you’ll look off to the sides, there are also some small outdoor kiosks, and the prices there were better than many shops inside!

souk 020 souk 022

pretty cool dragon, huh?

pretty cool dragon, huh?

Main Entrance

Main Entrance

 

First stop was a costume jewelry section – the facility is roughly separated into like shopping, all the tools in one section, all the jewelry in another, etc.  I say “roughly” because it was likely the original plan, but once a shop owner has a shop, they’re gonna sell everything they possibly can.  Little separation.  I took a couple photos of some “pageant jewelry” that I thought my friends in Alabama in the US would appreciate.  I did resist the desire to buy a monstrous tiara, though – they are truly CHEAP here!

Definitely had southern Pageant Jewelry!

Definitely had southern Pageant Jewelry!

fabulous fakes, to be sure

fabulous fakes, to be sure

shiny crystal earrings

shiny crystal earrings

chandelier earrings

chandelier earrings

 

And, unlike most of the shops in Dubai staffed by friendly Phillipina women, it’s staffed by generally unhelpful, young Asians, I assumed they were children or relatives of the shop owners, who were almost all Chinese.  Oddly, it was really really difficult to get their attention, they were all glued to their phones, texting, gaming, watching videos…… After several attempts to interrupt one video-viewing young lady in a kiosk that had some batteries that we wanted,  TBG was frustrated and asked me “How do you get their attention??”  I said “like this”

“Hello.  How much??”  Loudly.  Almost rudely.  And weird, because it’s not my style.  But, it got her attention and she grudgingly put down the phone, removed one earplug and looked at us.  Didn’t stand up because that would have been WAAAAY too much trouble, you see.  And as soon as we asked for something, she shook her head “no” and went back to her phone.  So, we didn’t know if they actually *had* the battery we wanted, or if she simply didn’t want to be interrupted.

Oh, this sign made me smile……

A sign from one of the merchants at Dragon Mart......  the "Goats Grinding Wheel" just made me smile.

A sign from one of the merchants at Dragon Mart…… the “Goats Grinding Wheel” just made me smile.

I did pick up some wickedly-kitschy artificial floral stems that will make an excellent corner accent when I finally get around to making that happen.  Also got a small speaker for my ipad for when I want to watch movies or TV shows, and some forms to put inside pillow covers.  And a Dyson-look-alike fan for something outrageously cheap, like $40 US – crazy.  I did not buy any of the “Prada” bags or the “Jimmy Choo” shoes – I thought that $60 US was just waaaaay too much for a genuine “Prada” bag…. <snort>

Oh, and a couple of really huge silk jungle plants, I forget the names of them – they’re tropical, but stupid expensive in the States, I’d shopped for them before.  I tend to murder indoor plants, so silk is the way for this gal to shine.  I snagged both these beautys for only AED350, IIRC…. That’s about… um….. Just under $130 for them BOTH.  Shoot, I’d found the cost in the States to be more than that for just ONE.

a smidge dusty, but the price was REALLY good!

a smidge dusty, but the price was REALLY good!

nice plants, huh?

nice plants, huh?  And yes, those are TBG’s bigass boots I forgot to crop outta the photo.

 

There’s also all sorts of food-ish choices in the middle of every section – popcorn, corn (!), gelato, tons of fresh fruit cut-up.  Resist them, go upstairs to “Charley’s” and get a toasted sub.  Yum.  http://www.charleysme.com/

The escalators were oddly-decorated but interesting, and there were some Chinese entry-points that were fun.

souk 017 souk 019 souk 018

All in all, a great shopping place for things where quality isn’t critical or you’re looking for nothing in particular.  Or if you’ve got an entire afternoon to just wander around and look at stuff.  It’s sort of a Chinese Wal-Mart, but pleasantly confusing.