A shade of saffron

Ab:original checks out the latest dining venue on Dubai Marina. 

When you don’t know anything about Persian cuisine you go with the flow. Luckily I am always willing to learn and I have a weakness for good food. It is why I love to travel and explore new countries and opportunities. On this occasion I  got to meet what could arguably be the first man in Iranian cuisine in Dubai, Chef Ebrahim.

He is unobtrusive. Almost childlike when we first meet. Addresses my husband at first and I soon realise it is because most women he meets would never really dare to ask too many questions. There’s an air of respect that I admire and it is good to listen to the banter that ensues. The food that is laid on the table is all fresh. I can see a few drops of water on the crisp green grapes that are laid on the table. They are put right next to fresh cheese and walnuts all waiting to be eaten. If this isn’t sheer poetry, I don’t know what is.
Warm fresh loaves of bread are brought to our table by ladies dressed in traditional attire. Shiva is all smiles. She is from Iran and is dressed in an orange brocade gown. “I’m extremely proud of my country and I want everyone to try our food,” she says.

Soon after we discuss the commonality of spices and aromas, a new freshness envelopes the air around the Dubai Marina. This is a new venue so the staff is pottering about as guests come and go. It is set in La Verda Suites and Villas. We see most people talking in Arabic and a mix of Persian, and many words are similar to Hindi. Could it be a meeting of new cultures all in one spot? Or could it be that we found common ground?
For me, most memories come from food. It seems as if Chef Ebrahim, with 35 years experience in the food industry feels the same. “When it comes to our food, we make sure it is never too spicy and always easy to digest,” says the Chef. His assistants come to pour out a tomato based chicken gravy which is cooked with Ivy gourd, (commonly referred to as Tendli in India). There is another green chicken gravy which is slow cooked for a while to tenderise the meat.  
This new Persian cuisine venue, called Bahar, has both outdoor and indoor seating options. We chose to enjoy the view of people walking past on a quiet Saturday evening. Dubai always charms me, no matter the day or season. It has always welcomed guests. Right now we are enjoying such glorious weather and we can see the canal light up in front of our eyes. 

“After working at all the top hotels in this city, we decided to set up Bahar here. It is already getting customers from around the world and that makes us happy,” says the chef.
The waiter brings us an aromatic display with the Kabab E Sultani. It’s a lamb fillet cooked on a charcoal grill with an assortment of pickled vegetables. We also try the Kabab E Kubideh another lamb delicacy that is grilled. “We usually customise our dishes according to the guest’s taste,” explains the chef who sources most of his ingredients from the local market.
He rushes to the kitchen to oversee what is going on. Meanwhile my attention is transfixed on a plate of rice that comes in to arrest everyone’s attention. Mind you, the rice isn’t decked with a thousand embellishments, all it is scented with is the aroma of saffron. 

We ask the chef to indulge in a few house secrets, “Most people will tell you that the highest quality of Saffron comes from Spain, India or any other part of the world. We actually believe it comes from Iran,” says the chef. “I make sure we only buy the best. We use it generously. In fact we use the petals and mix them with rose water and boil this for many hours before using it in many of our dishes.”

It is hard to pay attention to all the finer details. There are plenty. Thankfully we haven’t ordered too much because a second visit seems necessary. Among the many vegetarian options is one prepared with eggplant which just melts in my mouth. We listen to the sounds of food being prepared indoors. The language is not familiar but there’s a harmony of cultures everywhere. 

Suddenly a platter of saffron infused fillet Mignon arrives. Not particularly Persian is my first thought. I soon realise that this is adapted to the surroundings. It is accompanied by a large blue pot of herbal tea. “We like to serve our guests every little bit of heaven,” says Ghani, the Indian waiter who has faithfully followed the chef over the course of an illustrious career. Tea water is poured in to rose coloured tulip shaped glasses and a sugar infused saffron stick is kept at the side. Now I know why my own father says that the Shah of Iran drank White Tea. My own family back home deals with White Tea and I’m only beginning to learn its many calming effects. After a royal meal, it is only befitting to drink a cup of warm tea.
As we leave the premises I am sure to return to this warm and hospitable place that is only beginning to share its magic.

(All images and text property of Ab:original)


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