The proof a tagine is in the gravy.

blankAnd the smoky den that chooses to call itself Musaharati, after the early morning suhoor callers during Ramadan in the Arab world, sure knows how to put out one hell of a gravied-up tagine. In the eclectic mess of dishes that is only partially organized on an iPad menu – a hi-tech move that feels as out of place as does a tagine on a menu with fettucini alfredo – Musaharati’s Moroccan selections are strong contenders on my Old Dubai hit list.

If you swipe across to the Moroccan section of the haphazard list of dishes, you’ll find a surprising variety of starters, meats and sweets traditional to Morocco. This isn’t the same half-hearted attempt at the token continental representation on their menu, the yawningly usual shawarma stamp or a vague push for pizza – Bibironi if you will. I’m usually averse to restaurants with such muddled menus, but whatever it was that drew me to a restaurant like Musaharati where people just hang around smoking sheesha all day, puffing in the face of any serious notion of thoughtful food emerging from the kitchen, I’m honestly glad it did.

Moroccan Meat and Plum Tagine - Musaharati Restaurant - Garhoud - Dubai

The meat with plums was one of those dishes that makes you howl with deep, unrestrained lust. Mita and I couldn’t help but swoon over the seductive combination of sweet plums and juicy chunks of lamb, the most classic of tagines that lived up to its flavourful fullest. I’ve admittedly had more meltingly tender meat in my other Old Dubai tagine haunts, but the luscious gravy that had gradually collected at the base of the clay pot was simply unforgettable. If I could order a bowl of just gravy, I’d do it.Semolina buns - Musaharati Restaurant - Mankhool - Dubai

Musaharati definitely one-ups my other tagine spots with their doughy, semolina-dusted buns. The two branches (Mankhool buns above, Garhoud below) each have a slightly different touch resulting in buns that look like distant cousins – but both are worthy of a table heavy with slow-cooked saucy meats. These buns are far more dense and cushiony than the airy kinds I’ve seen in the Moroccan-heavy Abu Hail neighbourhood, and are all the better for sopping up gravy.

Semolina buns - Musaharati Restaurant - Garhoud - Dubai

The chicken tagine that Varshik ordered on my second visit to Musaharati’s Mankhool location was also shockingly good. Shocking because for slow-cooking techniques, chicken is usually not my preferred option. I’d only volunteer a taste if someone else places the order. But in this case, my meatball and egg tagine was completely overshadowed by the olive and lemon-infused broth that lapped about the brown caramelized crust of the chicken.

Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives Tagine - Musaharati Restaurant - Mankhool - Dubai

It’s not just the tagines that win serious meat points at Musaharati, I’ve had one of the most aromatic Moroccan chicken bastillas in the city at their Garhoud location.  Arising as a background aroma from the magically moist blend of chicken, almonds, cinnamon and sweet confectioner’s sugar, was a subtle saffron scent that deserves to be enjoyed in isolation. Crackle through the buttery pastry-encrusted bastilla first, all on its own fragrant merit, before distracting yourself with the louder flavours of a sweet or lemony tagine.

Chicken Bastilla -  Musaharati Restaurant - Garhoud - Dubai

A creamy side note – the garlic labneh is a great way to start the meal. The angelic lightness of smooth garlic butter, the soft molten scallops of labneh, the strong savoury spunk of garlic – it’s a no-brainer dip.

Garlic labneh - Musaharati Restaurant - Mankhool - Dubai

If you’re not into the whole passive-sheesha-smoking scene, the more airy and open Mankhool branch is a better bet. But whichever branch you pick, any hopes of work or serious conversation after the meal should be buried – not to be resurrected until the joint hangover from passive sheesha smoke and tagine overindulgence lazily fades away.

 Musaharati Restaurant - Garhoud - Dubai

Musaharati Restaurant
Two locations: Airport Road, Garhoud and opposite Ramada Jumeirah Hotel, Mankhool Road. Here’s my Google map with the location and all my other hideouts
Phone: 04-2929148 (Garhoud); 04-3454511 (Mankhool)

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.

2 thoughts on “The proof a tagine is in the gravy.

  1. Marcus says:

    I’ve never wanted to re-visit Moroccan food as much as I do right now. I’d just about given up hope. And to think Musaharati’s Mankhool branch is just a short walk from where I live! I’ll definitely check it out soon. Thanks for the great post, and especially for the mouth-watering (and informative) photos. Keep up the good work!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Never give up hope Marcus! Though it sounds like you’re a Moroccan food connoisseur, so let me know the verdict after you visit this restaurant. Thanks for the encouraging comment :)

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