Surprisingly fresh, gooey mozzarella crepes at none other than a mall food court…

After a week chock full of dinner parties and dessert gift boxes that weighed my stomach down with the same humid and lethargic fogginess of the weather outside (stunned disbelief of the obvious. Are we really approaching summer again?!), Friday morning rolled in with a lazy craving for something simple, fresh and light. My partner and I decided to hit up Toast Café at the Mall of the Emirates, a place recommended by a friend for its “light homemade food”. Precisely what I needed to purge my stomach of its gluttonous sins of the week.

On arriving at the mall, I was rudely shocked to learn that Toast was part of the mall food court. While my taste buds politely reined in their cries of blasphemy, they were openly skeptical about finding fresh, wholesome food amidst the mass of undifferentiated chains that commonly find refuge in a food court. Would Toast prove us wrong?

Creamy halloumi cubes lost somewhere in a dense carb jungle

Our café of choice was strategically positioned at the entry way of the food court, potentially luring away a few health conscious customers with their ‘Fresh Food Fast’ tagline before the fast food chains could pitch their mass-produced burgers and chicken nuggets to the unsuspecting public. Toast’s menu and display racks boasted an array of salads, quiches, sandwiches, crepes (both sweet and savory) and desserts, as well as a fresh hot foods bar for those in pursuit of a lunch platter combo deal.   We finally settled on the Quatro Colore Halloumi sandwich (Dhs.18) and the Caprese crepe stuffed with mozzarella, pesto and basil (Dhs.20), sheepishly realizing in retrospect that we had picked two dishes with the same margherita-like cheese, basil and tomato combination.

We first zeroed in on the sandwich, one that I had my hopes set on given its use of one of my all-time favorite cheeses, halloumi. Ready…set…CRUNCH. And then anticlimax. My first bite was greeted with mild disappointment. The doughy baguette slices stubbornly fought for the lead role, which as far as I was concerned, should have been reserved for the creamy halloumi cubes within. Instead, the attention-hogging carb layers should have been slender and crispy, playing a humble supporting act in the Rock-On Halloumi show.

On the other hand, the Caprese crepe was a clear palate winner – with its soft folds of sweet crepe encasing meaty morsels of gooey mozzarella and savory pesto sauce – giving me a flavorful balance of a roadside Parisian crêperie and a brick oven Italian pizzeria in a simple but well-executed dish. Also, hats off to Toast Café chefs for using fresh basil as garnish and plump cherry tomatoes in the side salad – very non-food-courtesque. Really gave each dish a refreshingly sweet and earthy zing, and came pretty close to convincing me that Toast’s ‘Fresh Food Fast’ motto was not just a common mall gimmick.

The Caprese crepe. Seemingly modest on the outside…
...but full of molten goodness on the inside.

Having substantially distanced ourselves from our earlier goal of attempting a ‘light meal’ by consuming copious amounts of halloumi and mozzarella cheese, we decided to undo our good intentions with a vengeance, finishing off with molten chocolate cake (Dhs. 17) and strawberry napoleon (Dhs. 17). We happily devoured both desserts – after all, I’ve rarely found myself experiencing buyer’s remorse with anything that oozes chocolate and custard cream in abundance. I can’t say the same about the cappuccino (Dhs. 14) we ordered with dessert, which was more like tasteless coffee dishwater under the lofty guise of an espresso drink, priced equal to what you could get in a far more upscale coffee shop. Ironically, I needed a heaping spoonful of molten chocolate cake to help wash down the taste of the coffee imposter.

Volcano of molten chocolate cake with a drizzly ice cream peak
Toast's Napolean claiming to be a Strawberry Cheescake. Whatever, it was yummy regardless.

Overall, we spent close to Dhs. 100 for the entire meal, which despite the few disappointments, felt like money well-spent on food that tasted far fresher than what I could have dug out of a happy meal box. Would I come back to Toast? Probably not all the way to Barsha, but I would definitely pick this place if I were having a craving for crepes or if I found myself needing a fresh and fast alternative to refueling after hours of window shopping at the mall.

Toast Café
Mall of the Emirates; Dubai Mall
Phone: (04) 341-0750

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.

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