Sadly this restaurant is now closed. Dubai, do we really care about seafood sustainability? Apparently not enough to have kept this place alive. Real pity.
If anyone has mentioned the words ‘fish,’ ‘prawns,’ ‘seafood,’ or any such variant in my presence over the last ten days, they’ve been hosed with my recommendation to go try Sea Mood in Satwa. Even if they haven’t, I’ve been seeking out people who love their seafood. You there, you like fish? Come here, let me tell you about Sea Mood. (oh sure, you might as well tell me your name while we’re at it.) My friends are probably drenched silly with my constant ‘oh we MUST go to Sea Mood’ references, and it’s not long before someone slaps a flaccid shrimp in my face so I can stop jabbering about it already. (not that we have spare flaccid shrimps lying around, but that would be pretty funny if we did and if you were on the giving end of the flaccid-shrimp-slap.)
Anyhoo, you should go to Sea Mood. First of, they’re done the right thing, gone down the sustainable fishing route, and vowed to only serve fish whose stocks aren’t depleted. Which means no hammour or sharri on the menu, something every other hammour-addicted restaurant needs to learn from. Finally, a restaurant that is willing to educate people, and take the risk of turning away a hammour-addicted customer who can’t seem to acknowledge that there are other fish worthy of his lemons.
Secondly, they serve deep-fried Sultan Ibrahim that wear these lip-smacking jackets of crackly, crunchy batter.
Not fishy at all on the inside, not a visible drop of grease, just tender white flesh (and a crap number of bones that you can cleverly jerk out without stupidly splintering them all over the place. if you are clever. I am not.) - just tender white flesh holding up air-pockets trapped within a hive of salty addictive batter. This must be the first time, across a lifetime of fried fish crunching experience, that I have ever scarfed down (1) a fish without any extra vinegar, tartar sauce, or lemon. Nope, not even the remotest trace. The seasoning was so right that your Goldilocks in a Frying Pan didn’t need anything else. (2) a whole fish, head to tail fin. Or maybe I left a few bits and bobs, but seriously, I think that fish had never seen the sort of undying love with which I polished it off.
The cream-based Ocean Mix Soup is another must-try if you like soups bobbing about with a menacing crab claw, calamari, soft wet chunks of cream dory and shrimp.
What made the soup just bounce of the bowl with flavour was actually something as simple as fresh pepper, generously sprinkled not just in this soup, but across most of the other seafood goodies we had ordered. Smart move Sea Mood, a good dousing of fresh black pepper over seafood is a no-brainer (think ‘pepper crab’) and will make me love you to bits.
The Ocean Mix plate arrived with plump shrimps and butterflied shaari (‘shaari eskheli’ which is on the ‘green list’ of wise fish choices in the UAE, not just ‘shaari’ which is overfished). The flesh was smeared with this tangy mustard sauce that totally obliterated the need to douse the innards with any side dip. These guys SERIOUSLY know how to do keep things simple, soulful, and spankingly fresh.
The rice on this plate had something wacko-wonderful going on with it. It tasted like some mix between Spanish paella and Cajun dirty rice (the kind you get with gumbo), but is actually jasmine rice tossed with a medley of spices that I'm too ignorant to dissect. It had this incredibly earthy, rustic taste – and I could imagine sliced-up sweet smoky sausage going screamingly well with it.
The Mix Tagine had the same creamy seafood (sans the crab) as the seafood soup –shrimps, calamari and silky chunks of cream dory – drenched in this bubbling hot tomato broth that reminded me of those South Indian curries thickened with heaps of coriander powder. There’s flavour pounding through every drop, and especially those bits that continue cooking and become concentrated molten droplets of flavour sticking to the side of the hot clay pot.
I'm not sure why I haven't captured the bread, because it really is worth mentioning. Fresh hollow khubz-like bread dotted with black (nigella?) seeds and the distinct sourish taste of yeast. Maybe I scarfed them down too quickly, or more likely, my fingers were locked around the deep-fried Sultan Ibrahim so tightly that I couldn't extract them to hit the shutter button.
The veggie starters, primarily the platter of mixed dips, taste fresh and thoughtfully prepared. And then there was this intriguing cold eggplant starter with pickled lemony carrots tucked inside...
The sour tangy carrots were right up my alley, though I’m not sure I’d have paired them with eggplants. Or maybe I’d have charred the eggplants to really bring out the smokiness of their flesh. I don’t know, but I don’t care to dwell on it because the place is a seafood haunt, and it’s a little petty to sit here and ruminate over a veggie starter of all things.
Sea Mood is definitely up there on my top 5 seafood places to hit up when I'm craving some down-to-earth, homely, and spot-on-seasoned seafood. No frills, a sustainable and responsible outlook to serving seafood, simple combinations yet big flavours that really highlight the freshness of the catch. And prices that are shockingly low (the prices might be the only unsustainable thing on the menu - so grab them while they last!)
In case anyone's bursting to ask me what's on my order list for the next time around, it's the Shish Samach with skewered and grilled fish chunks. That, and the fried Sultan Ibrahim. Dare I go there and not order it.