It’s not easy being a foodie. Even less so if you’re a food blogger. Everyone and their uncle suddenly feels like I should know about their favorite little restaurant in town. If I don’t, then I get the look of utter disbelief. Followed by that withering, condescending stare: …and you call yourself a foodie?!
B...b…but, I just moved back to Dubai last February, after practically all of my post-high-school grown up life away. I admit I’ve failed to try some of the most renowned places. I admit that there are still big gaping holes in my knowledge of the good eats in this city, embarrassingly big fat gaping holes. I admit it I admit it I admit it. And if ignorance is a crime, then for the love of God SPANK ME [softly].
Shebanx was the latest one to throw down the gauntlet and challenge my foodie status:
you've never been?
no. I can't believe it either.
ok ok. please don't rub it in. I just moved back to dubai last year. [...and I was terribly occupied hatching an egg farm before that.]
i won't rub it in .. but this situation .. it needs to be fixed...yeah, i won't take you seriously till you've been there.
I was devastated. 1) Because my foodie status was being threatened by a guy who may be a cool photographer, a car guru, a computer dude, a movie buff, a parrot tamer, a whateverbutHESNOTAFOODAAY. And 2) because I hadn’t been to the legendary Daily Restaurant ever. Nope, nev-ver. It was all pretty damning. Worse, I was shipped off to India the next day after this debilitating conversation with Sheban, so my foodie status was left hanging in the limbo, not to be rectified until I got back to Dubai.
Two and half painful weeks later, the boy dragged me to the place to redeem my self-proclaimed foodie crown of glory. That's when it dawned on me that I’d been driving past plates of these nearly every day with blinders on –
Every forkful of Behari kabab – occasionally alternated with a simple cooling coriander yogurt raita, but mostly eaten plain because it was too damn delicious to be diluted – was like a pleasurably painful tight slap of reality after Sheban had already made me feel like foodie dipshit. I couldn’t even fake a hmmm, it’s okaaay, a bit overhyped look of tedium on my face to redeem my foodie status through the meal. Those first few tentative bites through the grilled yogurt spiced kabab marinade...gradually realizing that the buttery mushy heady meaty paste wasn't just marinade, but it was...GASP...it was actually the beef itself...melted into a tartare like magic substance on the grills...those first few bites spread this look of realization, this kabab coming-of-age acceptance right across my face. I couldn’t fake it. I'd been touché-d...by a guy who didn’t even profess to love food at 0.2% of the passion I put into it.
I figured maybe this meat-transcends-meat experience was only peculiar to the behari kababs. Only to be proven wrong minutes later by a chunk of Naihari mutton that nearly dripped off the spoon with the same ease as the gravy it was drenched in:
My time in Hyderabad implies that I am no stranger to high quality Naihari. But somehow, I can’t distinctly remember any one time that catapulted me into the state of giddy meaty delirium like Daily’s Naihari did. It was so good, I could feel this giggle waiting to erupt from within…out of disbelief, out of enlightenment, out of dopey-eyed soppy melty mutton love.
We ordered tandoori roti, but really, the bread of choice was the sheermal. Typically made with milk, cardamom, ghee and all the things you’d find on the other side of the Indo-Pak rainbow. Good, very good, but not extraordinary. I wasn’t as wow-ed because I’ve had more moist and decadent sheermal at the famous Karim’s in Delhi. But sheermal is one of those things that even if not at its peak of perfection, the fragrant cardamom buttery smell will instinctively draw you to nibble on it.
Another guy who's foodie recommendations are not to be taken lightly, @calvinslogic, has stamped his seal of approval on Daily's mutton biryani and shami kababs. But there was only so much enlightenment I could deal with in one sitting under Sheban's Itoldyouso gaze, so I'm reserving those two dishes for when I crawl back to Daily's all alone, like a hermit entering a cave for supremely silent meat meditation.
But getting back to the kababs, the raison d’etre of this institution, those Behari kababs are the most – and when I use that superlative, I mean that superlative – the MOST unbelievably soft gooey meaty completely-in-sync-with-raw-wild-masculinity-of-headstrong-beefiness that I have ever tasted. Honestly, that I have EVER tasted – spanning Dubai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Istanbul, New York, ethnic caves of Virginia and Houston, and every other lesser kabab city I could have crossed over the years.
Daily should make it to my IwannaTATTOOyoutomytastebuds list. But since I don't have said list (yet), it'll have to settle for a spot on my Best of 2011 list.
I think there should be a moral to this story. All such coming of age stories have gotta have a moral. In fact, I think there may be two morals to this one. The superficial one, and the deep one. The superficial one is that you can’t ever take your foodie status for granted, always be humble, observe what people around you – whether food lovers or not – are noshing on, bury your ego to try something, and admit how awesome it is to the person who made you weep over not having tasted one of Dubai’s greatest kababs.
The deep, more profound one, is that if you haven’t eaten at Daily’s, then you sure in hell ain’t a foodie.
Phone: +971 (4) 3960338
Tariq Bin Ziad Road, right before Al Maktoum Bridge and Ramee Hotel if you're coming from Bur Juman, Bur Dubai