I got stood up. And then ran over to Emly and Chilli.

You know that feeling when your evening date dumps you? And then you have to make a bee-line for that back-up option who’s been twiddling his thumbs, waiting like a lonely pathetic soul for your phone call…knowing he’s second-fiddle? And then that second-fiddle actually turns out to not be such dismal company after all?

I sort of had a similar situation last week. Though my only dates (in that same lonely pathetic soul sort of way) are with restaurants. Luckily in this case, I wasn’t all alone in my misery – Fatma, a fellow blogger who’d once infected me with a ridiculous strawberry and rhubarb pie craving, had agreed to check out this hidden gem with me. Our date was Sindudurg Restaurant, a resto in Oud Mehta that dishes up seafood traditional to a town called Malvan in coastal southern Maharashtra. I’d psyched myself up for this place, despite never having tasted Malvani cuisine before or even knowing what it was, I had that feeling in my bones that this could be amazing.

Fatma and I, now in the woods behind Lamcy Plaza, start walking around the Splendid Hotel building in search of the restaurant. My heart beat steps up a notch…uhhh, why don’t I see a sign for it? Where is it? I scurry inside the building to ask the watchmen, and they respond with the two words no restaurant-dating girl ever wants to hear: It’s shut. Nooooooooooooooooooooooo….

I’d been dumped.

Whatdya know, Sad Sniffling Frowny from my previous Bakefest post is back.

It was comforting to have Fatma with me as we ranted on about why some of the best little joints in Dubai shut down, while the ones with hopelessly sub par food are still thriving. Bluefields was one of those gems that shut down on me last year…I still haven’t moved on.

At that desperate moment, my back-up option in the neighbourhood came to the rescue – Emly & Chilli’s, just steps away from us. This is why I love dating restaurants, you never run out of back-ups. Plus the second-fiddle resto never knows that it’s being used, so you’re really never the hot but heartless prom queen either.

Emly – not Emily which I’d been reading it as forever, until I stepped foot into the tiny Pakistani joint and wondered why in the world would they name their restaurant after an Emily?? – means Tamarind, and this Tamarind Chilli namesake features Pakistani style kababs and parathas and rolls and buns and all those kinds of carby meaty snacky foods that are right up my alley.

Little girl, why on earth do you have a sweater over your head….?

This was my first time meeting Fatma in person, but the fact that she zoned in straight for the fried paratha roll over the healthier, oil-free roti made us friends instantly. There could be no worthier companion other than a crispy paratha for that tender yogurt-drizzled beef seekh kabab roll she’d ordered…

That paratha with all its crispy fried craters makes ALL the difference – Fatma and I just broke out into big stuffed-mouth smiles at the naughty greasiness of it all.

Naughty cratered greasiness

We also sampled the healthier roti-wrapped chicken roll…just had to compare…and as expected, nothing spectacular. Don’t make this mistake. If you opt for the dry healthy roti over a thin juicy paratha, just remember that you will have a lonely crying kabab feeling wasted inside.

Piously healthy chicken kabab roti roll

Yep, that paratha was the right call. Fatma just got what it meant to walk into a hidden gem, not tippy toeing around the more pious menu selections, and going straight for the kill. We connected over our mutual love for tiny unassuming eateries that give off the aromas of true, immigrant, ethnic Dubai…and as we shared our mutual family memories of the paneer pakodas and chicken lollipops at Kwality in Bur Dubai, or of our fathers being naturally brilliant chefs who to this day create magic when left in the kitchen, we’d stop every now and then to dissect what we’d ordered, what the other thought of it, what ingredients had gone in…

…like the kabab in the Shami Bun, which we both agreed felt like it had been processed through an industrial meat mincing tube. I tend to have high expectations of anything that has “Bun” in its name [maybe because of my floofy bun experience at Dubai Mall?], and this just fell flat on its belly. Moral of the story: Not all buns are floofy, and not all will encase things that make you go mmmmmm.

Here was my favourite plate of the day…the bihari boneless chicken kabab. The chickens that made this creation possible on my plate must have been borne of butter. And swum around in a dense yogurt and coriander pool every Sunday of the week.

Open mouth. Feed self. Do the Your-My-Crispy-Charred-Juicy-Tender-Chicken Dance.

We left the place still chattering, exchanging tips on other hidden eats in the city, already planning for our next dinner out, lamenting over the disappearance of Fatma’s favorite manakish on saj maker at the Global Village. [Frowny face has clammed himself shut in a dark melancholic cave and has refused to emerge for an encore.]

As for Emly and Chilli, this place isn’t the love of my life, but they do have some solid greasy, meaty comfort foods that I’d run back to when lonely at night.

Special credits to a very special uncle who always unearths the best hidden eats and tosses them my way every now and then, like he did with Al Ammor here. Both Sindudurg and Emly & Chilli were his finds – Thank You Mamu :D

Emly & Chilli
Beside American Hospital, Oud Metha, Bur Dubai, Dubai.
Phone: +971 (4) 334-4554 (delivery)

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

12 thoughts on “I got stood up. And then ran over to Emly and Chilli.

  1. rado says:

    great! now i want to run there and try the fried one as well!
    why are your event and outing in evenings…it makes it impossible for the not so young, but still "fun" mothers like myself to join!

  2. Sally says:

    I’m still on the hunt for really good Pakistani food here in Dubai. The best I had was in Saudi Arabia (and I’m not going to go back to sample it!). Keep combing the backstreets – I love hearing your cheap eats reviews.

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @DevinaDivecha – remember the paratha only, no roti rule when you go there! ;)

      @rado – awww…I would love to do this morning, noon and night, but a girl’s gotta put in a day’s worth of labor to get food on her plate at night. [actually, before you go off thinking that I’m out toiling in the heat in the mornings, I’m not ;) I do have a non-food job during the day though, but maybe I will have to pull myself out so I can venture out into town with the hip mom crew!] *writes note to self to make lunch-time hidden gem hunt with fun moms happen*

      @Sally – Hunt in vain no more. Frying Pan will come to your rescue, after she has eaten her way through the streets of Dubai for the best Pakistani fare. Stay tuned…[in 2020. it’ll take me that long with the mindblowing number of Indo-Pak restaurants around here ;) ]

  3. saleem says:

    I will never be able to survive eating so much meat and oily food – guess dads can still create a few things in the kitchens if LEFT alone.

  4. dina says:

    When i worked with a firm earlier, this used to be a common place to order from! And it is so cheap that we got a lot of rolls ordered with a minimum order of 50 AED! Brilliant food, and I agree, the buns aren’t that great..but the rolls r amazing..
    Have u tried chatkara. kebab rolls at karama? I sampled Lal Qila and thought it was quite a nice place.. Good going ladies!

  5. kooksfood says:

    I’m gutted to hear Bluefields closed down… it was always on my "to go" list. Completely agree if you’re going to go out why "pretend" with a roti when paratha is soooooo much better! :-)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @saleem – all in moderation dad, or go with the plain roti route – though I would rather have half an oily paratha rather than a full roti at a place like this! And yes, you do create wonders in the kitchen without any interference from the ladies of the house :D

      @dina – yay! you just gave me more kabab roll places to try – I have actually tried and liked Kabab Rolls (in Al Quoz), adding chatkara and Lal Qila to my list :)

      @baakomar – hmmm…but you have already commented? ;)

      @kooksfood – I know. It’s tragic…I only went there once and it was about to become my ’to go’ place too, and then it shut on me. Such is life. Just grab a crispy fried paratha to make it all better!

  6. Mishti says:

    Wait, why was Sindhudurg shut? Is it shut forever? Please tell me they are only renovating or something? They had such nice Malwani food. The pomfret stuffed with prawns, the bombil fry, the… everything!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Mishti – YES…t’is true. :[ They have turned off their stove. Shut their doors. Refused hungry pomfret seeking diners. Never to serve another plate of bombil fry again [I have no idea what that is but it sounds so dang good. even more so because I can’t have it now, ever.] Sealed and Shuttered. FOREVA.
      (ominous gong meant to accompany the comment above – doesn’t sound quite right without it.)

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