Tag Archives: United Arab Emirates

Asian Tea at the Burj al Arab – a review

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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”.

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

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

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

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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,

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then in the bar area….

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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…..)

 

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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

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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.

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And soap with a “killer price” – literally?

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

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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.

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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…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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…..

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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!”.

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

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“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….

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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.

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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.

Never know who you’ll meet~

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When we walked into a mall we heard an unfamiliar sound…. the distinctive “swapp — swapp — swapp — swapp” of a basketball being dribbled on a tile floor…. you’ve all heard it, right? No mistaking that sound at all. But in a mall? What the heck??

so surprising to see stature and accent in this setting!

so surprising to see stature and accent in this setting!

Went a little further and saw this gent – he was here from Chicago, and was conducting some basketball clinics in order to promote teamwork, leadership and training, plus some athleticism for the younger residents.

Obesity is at epidemic levels in the UAE, especially in the younger age groups. Diabetes is also at epidemic levels in the UAE. Back in 2007, ABC News was reporting that one person in four had the disease, that is 25% of the population!  By some calculations, over 40% of the UAE’s population will have diabetes by the year 2020! So there is a big media and social push on to promote a more healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise.

Yup.... it was one of those "huh?" moments.

Yup…. it was one of those “huh?” moments.

It was so unexpected to see a man as tall as TBG, and speaking with an American accent as well – just one of those “huh?” moments I’ve encountered.

Dubai Thunderstorm Video

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.