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.
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.
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.
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