Monday, August 21, 2006

A Dubai dining deal

One thing I have been doing a lot of while I’m here is eating. Not that my fat ass really needs to eat, mind you, but, given the cosmopolitan, tourist-oriented nature of this city, there’s no shortage of dining options and it’s hard to resist the urge to enjoy a nice meal in the evening. Restaurants are everywhere and just about every cuisine is available: Middle Eastern, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Filipino, French, Italian, American… If you have a taste for a certain type of food, you’ll find it in Dubai.

I’ve discovered one restaurant that is quickly becoming a favorite. It’s nearby, the food is good, the service is great, and it’s cheap.

Close to my hotel and right behind the bustling Diera City Centre Mall is the peculiarly-named “Dubai Shopping Center.” It’s a smallish mall that doesn’t appear to be in the best financial state right now; a lot of the lease space is empty and the occupied lease spaces are dominated by computer stores and real estate offices. But while exploring the otherwise nondescript mall, I came upon Zarrin, an excellent Persian restaurant on the third floor.

The portions are generous; both times I’ve been there I’ve ordered kebab dinners which come with a huge slab of meat and vegetables along with a plate of basmati rice so big there's no way I could finish it all. Dinners come with bread, a complementary kiwi fruit drink and a free salad bar which featured not only salads and dressings but hummous and tabbouli as well. Complementary fresh fruits are available for desert.

The first time I was there I ordered the mixed grill and a bottle of mineral water. I was stuffed, and the total bill came to 33 dirhams, or less than $10. I left a small tip – 5 dirhams or so – although tipping isn’t normally expected in this part of the world. The second time I was there I had the chicken grill and decided to have some tea after dinner. This time the bill was 43 dirhams, or just under $12 before I left another small tip. And, although I don’t think it’s normally free, this time around they even set me up with a complementary hookah pipe so I could smoke some shisha (flavored tobacco) while I drank my after-dinner tea! (I really shouldn’t smoke, of course, but I thought I’d at least give it a try, especially since it seems to be so popular here.) The service is outstanding, even by Dubai standards, and there is live music as well.

Zarrin seems to be popular with the locals, and for good reason. I think it’s one of Dubai’s best-kept dining secrets, and I’ll definitely be eating there again.

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