A place called ‘Yum!’

Yum! was not really on my restaurant ‘must-try’ list. Restaurants with exclamation marks in their names or gimmicky-sounding unoriginal names usually turn me off. But reservations aside (pun unintended), I agreed to try this place when a friend suggested that we grab a quick casual lunch to bring me back to my senses after a hip-busting, cramp-inducing, boot-camp workout – cunningly disguised under the name of “dance class” for us unfit and unsuspecting newbies at the gym.

Yum!, located in the Radisson Blu hotel directly facing the Dubai creek, is a casual, middle-of-the-road Asian eatery that claims to be the “trendiest ever Noodle bar!” on the Radisson website (the exclamations seem to be a theme here.) That is a stretch, to say the least, of some excitable, exclamation-pointed PR officer’s imagination. The bare-bones wooden furniture, menu placemats and white paper napkins printed with the green Yum! logo didn’t quite scream “trendy!” at me, though maybe our web PR guy was referring to the restaurant’s few jarring attempts at pretending to be more upscale and eclectic, notably the low-hanging tubular ceiling lights or spice-decorated wall at the entryway, or a randomly-placed antiquated ice-grinder reminiscent of the ice-lolly scene in Memoirs of a Geisha. Still, despite the cyber hype and misfit ritzy touches, the place did give off a cool, informal vibe that made it a good summer lunch spot.

The menu had the usual suspects common to most South East Asian restaurants, including tons of noodle and rice variations, Thai curries, the full range of sauces from black bean to oyster sauce, tropical papaya and mango-inspired dishes, and the shrimp, duck, beef and chicken ‘specials’ that are ironically routine across a majority of mainstream Asian places. My friend and I decided to start out healthy with a green papaya salad, and then build up to the grease with chicken in green curry and chicken in mango – two relatively unadventurous dishes that any Asian place worth its noodles should be able to get right. I remember searching for a spicy fish concoction, but was disappointed when I saw only hammour as a Middle-Eastern stand-in for the typical red snapper or sea bass or salmon options that feel more compatible with Asian flavors.

The papaya salad (Dhs. 32) was a perfect summertime appetizer; crunchy mouthfuls of papaya and carrot slivers, fresh green beans and red capsicum slices, amplified with even more crunchy peanut clusters, and tossed in a cool, tangy, teasingly spiced dressing.

Papaya salad spilling over with fresh veggies and crunchy peanut topping

My friend’s order of chicken in green curry (Dhs. 48) looked bleakly unappetizing, with little bits of boneless chicken peeping out like choking fish through the congealed globules of an oil spill. Only after having the server drain out the excess oil (it was far too much even for a calorie-unconscious person like me), were we able to taste the lemon-grass and curry spice that ultimately redeemed the dish.

The curry chicken oil spill. Chicken pieces: Somebody save us before we drown in this gunk!
I will rescue you from the gunk my little chicken morsels. Come to mama.

My plate of chicken with mango (Dhs. 48) looked far more inviting as it was presented on the table, proudly glistening in a deep orange gravy together with chunks of capsicum and toasted cashew nuts. It was like eating McD’s crispy chicken nuggets (yes, I’ve had them in some earlier life) together with soft mushy mango bits drowned in sweet-and-sour sauce – and as with most things deep-fried and slathered in greasy sauce, the mango chicken had a sticky, deeply satisfying feel that would have done any good Chinese takeout place proud.

Crispy fried chicken and mango mushy bits (hidden under the chicken) dunked in sticky sweet and sour sauce

Overall, we had a pretty standard, no-frills Asian food experience that was neither meant to outstandingly impress nor to exceedingly disappoint. As expected, Yum! not only managed to bring my post-dance blood sugar levels back to normal again, but it also happily gifted back every inch of hip mass that I may have donated away at class, and for any upcoming class in the week ahead if I chose to undergo aerobic torture again. But as a true foodie who aims to educate, seduce, and verbally satisfy the taste buds of my readers, I could be bothered less about counting calories in the oodles of oil and sugar on my plate.

Phone: (04) 222-7171
Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Creek (near Union Metro station) – Baniyas Road


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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