Old high school friend: "Hey, could you pick a lunch spot for the group for Saturday? We can head out there right after we're done painting at Jam Jar."
Nothing excites me more than being The ONE asked to pick a group lunch spot – the furious research for the perfect joint, the cross-validation of different public reviews, the delicate balancing act between the group’s dietary do’s and don’t’s, the nervous anticipation until mealtime, and the sublime satisfaction that you, the trusted lunch-spot-picker, experience if the group happily devours the meal (or soul-shrinking mortification if your pick turns out to be a disaster). I relish every minute of the entire process.
This time around was doubly hard. I had to pick a place close to the Jam Jar painting gallery, right on the grim gray perimeter of the bleak industrialized and warehoused part of town – Al Quoz. The group was tough to please – “please no Mall of Emirates – we do that every time!,” “nothing on Sheikh Zayed, it’ll be a pain to drive over from Jam Jar,” “Veggie. Something more substantial than chips and cucumbers would be good this time.” Presssssure.
A frenzied google hunt later, I stumbled across a familiar name – More Café, in the Gold and Diamond Park, conveniently located right around the corner from the art gallery. More had been on my lengthy list of Dubai must-try’s for over a month now, having read a Time Out review about their signature burger. I lazily slunk back in my chair, gloating over the restaurant find – not only had I fulfilled my duties to the group as a conscientious lunch-spot-picker, but I would also be able to check off another place on my selfish foodie agenda, all in one delicious swoop.
Stepping into More Café made us feel like we had never really stepped out of the painting studio at Jam Jar. The minimalistic wooden décor, pipeline-exposed purple ceiling, center column with a collage of silver-framed photos, and impressionist and modern art wall hangings labeled with five-digit price tags– all gave the café a very contemporary, art gallery-like feel to it.
The menu, in sharp contrast to the understated artsy look of the place, was like an overworked painting where a crazed artist decided to splash up every color on his palette that day. More’s goal is to delight the diner with international options “in a way that makes them uniquely MORE” – everything from beef sashimi and mushroom ragout to Chinese noodles and Duck Breast from France. And did I mention the Tandoori Style Brazilian Chicken Sandwich ?! As far as I was concerned, this was no menu, it was culinary World War.
Our plates reinforced the theme of excessiveness – hence the name More? - that we were subject to througout the menu. In fact, the More signature burger, with its four-tiered stand of condiments, may ironically have been the most restrained dish on the table (and it was appreciatively devoured by the South African native in our group. South Africans know they're meat, so I'm guessing that burger was top notch). Actually, even the fish and puffs were minimal in comparison to the other dishes: flaky golden brown puff pastry with a moist inner layer that was quite yummy, though the local fish stuffing was far too fishy and killed the dish for me.
Here's the rest of the line-up for the six people on the table, in all their heaping quirks and excesses (I'd have taken more photos, but was sadly told of a no-photos policy midway through the meal. Boo.)
...the warm salad of goat cheese rolled in eggplant not only had goat cheese (a nice creamy eggplant-covered chunk of which I had the privilege of picking out of the salad bowl), but also had blue cheese and parmesan (which I never ended up tasting, and was probably unnecessary in the dish anyway). All that said, this was my favorite of all the dishes I tasted on the table.
...my open-faced braised lamb sandwich showed up on a lone slice of black pepper rye bread, drowning under the weight of a heaping mountain of chutney-drenched lamb chunks
...the veggie sandwiches were...well, let's say they weren't your typical lightweight throw-in-a-carrot-here-and-a-tomato-there that shows up on the menu as an afterthought. These were more like massive farmer’s markets piled up on two thick slices of rye bread, behind which the two friends who ordered the sandwich disappeared for the rest of the meal and were only to be seen once we'd left the cafe.
...the much-anticipated Tandoori Style Brazilian Chicken Sandwich turned out to be a massive, swampy playground of not one, not two, but three sauces - yoghurt sauce, mint and coriander sauce, and mango chutney. Any Brazilian twist in the sandwich probably drowned in the sauce swamp, and was totally undetectable.
...Even my friend’s French onion soup – how crazy can one get with a soup? - turned up in a stock pot fit to serve the entire table of six and more! (where’s the warning, ‘6-person portion’ sign on the menu??)
I wasn’t really fazed by the gargantuan plates placed in front of me, and actually quite enjoyed the cheesy eggplants and my lamb sandwich. It’s just that there were just so many different potent flavors thrown into each dish, and each in such large quantities, that my taste-buds started to zone out mid-way through the meal, even before I could get to the dessert goodies teasingly displayed next to the weekend brunch buffet table.
My sincere advice to the chef : tone down the menu options, sauces, and portion sizes. Clichéd as it sounds, less is More.
But all that aside, the group seemed to have enjoyed the place – both its artsy ambiance as well as its quirky excessive menu. A satisfied grin crossed my face as I waddled out of the café on my overstuffed belly – I'd just been appointed, once again, to pick a lunch place for our next group event.
Al Murooj, Al Garhoud, Gold and Diamond Park, Festival City, The Dubai Mall, Mirdif City Centre
Phone: (04) 323-4350