An Egyptian Lair that Serves Koshari, Duck and a Complimentary Bowl of Intrigue.

blankSitting in the massive lair of an Egyptian restaurant in the middle of bleak dog-eared Abu Hail, my imagination was doing a sleazy song, dance and sudden mafia-style shoot-out to break up the non-existent party. I had never seen such a large dining room in any of the little Abu Hail joints. And definitely not one with overhanging chandeliers. Farhat Alasli seemed like one of those dusty places where deals are struck, bonds are strengthened, scores are settled. A restaurant that is more than just a restaurant. A restaurant where someone with a silver tooth and gold chains is perched upon a throne in a secret smoky room somewhere at the back – maybe behind that innocent Chinese divider I had spotted, which had no other logical raison d’être in an Egyptian restaurant.

I temporarily traded in my poetic license for a bowl of lentil soup, the surest way of silencing my wanton thoughts. Someone used the word ‘nurturing’ to describe a lamb dish on my food tour last night – and that’s exactly the word that describes this soup. The comforting nature of the lentils begged me to stop peering at the Chinese divider and focus on deflating crusty balloons of bread in the warm nurturing brew.

Khubz - Farhat Alasli - Egyptian Restaurant - Abu Hail Dubai

Our bowl of koshari was not a dish, it was an Event. A hefty shovel’s worth of rice, garbanzos, spaghetti and macaroni were smothered under a blanket of crunchy caramelized onions.

Koshari with Kofte - Farhat Alasli - Egyptian Restaurant - Abu Hail Dubai

The whole carb-heavy construction stared back at us like one of those ludicrous eat-this-stupidly-huge-burger-in-ten-minutes competitions. And to make things even more outlandish, we had ordered chopped pieces of minced lamb kofte to crown a bowl that was one onion sliver away from exploding with its overstuffed koshari contents.

I prefer the more restrained yet flavourful koshari and addictive tomato sauce of temporarily-closed Al Ammor, but the spiced vinegar and bitter chilli oil were definitely winners on Farhat’s koshari show. I’d order this dish again, except that I’d drag three other friends with me to hack through the carb jungle together.

Koshari with Kofte - Farhat Alasli - Egyptian Restaurant - Abu Hail Dubai

My duck meal was definitely overkill given the koshari on the table, but this had been recommended highly by an Egyptian friend and was the reason I’d made my way to Farhat Alasli. While the duck innards were a rich juicy pink encased in crackly skin, they lacked seasoning or some form of acidity needed to cut through the richness. The more interesting elements of the duck meal were the buttery rice and vermicelli nestled under the bird, as well as the gizzards that had been stacked discreetly to one side of the plate.

Duck Meal - Farhat Alasli - Egyptian Restaurant - Abu Hail Dubai

The green sap-like molokhiya served with the duck didn’t have a fair chance after the amount of food we had already ingested. Had I begun with the silky sticky soup, I might have spent more time pondering over the wooden, almost jute-like aftertaste that was not familiar, but not unpleasant either. I had reached that heavy point where I was completely wiped out by the portions and everything tasted the same. Next time, we’ll be more restrained.

Koshari with Kofte, Molokhiya, Lentil Soup - Farhat Alasli - Egyptian Restaurant - Abu Hail Dubai

As we stumbled out dizzy with food coma into the warm afternoon sun, I couldn’t help but look back at that mysterious back door behind the Chinese divider one last time. I silently paid my respects to the gold chained, silver toothed, ruby ringed man who just might be peering back at me through a secret opening somewhere, back there.

Farhat Alasli
Phone: 04-2964949
Behind Abraj Hotel in Abu Hail, in the same line as Canadian Specialist Hospital.

 Farhat Alasli - Egyptian Restaurant - Abu Hail Dubai

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.

4 thoughts on “An Egyptian Lair that Serves Koshari, Duck and a Complimentary Bowl of Intrigue.

  1. Didi says:

    I love koshari (with extra onions please!). And it’s perhaps the only dish (to think that I am a certified carb lover) that can induce a real food coma. Obviously, this is not best eaten on a work day, unless you’re licensed to take an afternoon nap by your boss or the company.

    The addition of the kebab is a nice touch!

  2. IshitaUnblogged says:

    Lovely, top shot – must say that even these food shots are looking fabulous. I would like to see an aubergine look good – honestly, I want to learn some tips to make veg dishes (specially aubergine) look good. Would like to accompany you to a joint where they serve very good Koshari:)

    1. Arva says:

      @ishitaunblogged:disqus – clearly I’m late with responding to comments! But pick a place and we’ll go food-snapping together ;)

  3. MyCustardPie says:

    Review writing at its best. This is award winning – I was bewitched from start to finish. Not a spare word or superfluous adjective; your imagination knows no bounds and you express it brilliantly. So enjoyed being with you at the table, staring behind that Chinese screen, through this post.


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