And 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)