People, here’s a dirty little secret about this blog.
I tell you about tiny little restaurants hidden away in some Godforsaken corner of Dubai. Places that don’t have great access to parking. Places that don’t have glittering silverware or white linens. Places that don’t necessarily have English-speaking servers. Places that…get ready, here’s the dirty little secret…
Places that sometimes, don’t give a rat’s derriere about service.
It’s true. I’ve often told you about my love for a restaurant, raving about the creamy fish fillets or serenading the hot floofay buns. Yet, I rarely whisper a thing about how the server forgot our order of fried calamari…or how he grunted in our faces with disbelief at our ever having ordered calamari in the first place. Sure I’ll tell you if the calamari was bad…that when it came out, it looked like the poor soggy creature had died twice before it reached the basket – once at the hands of the fisherman who caught it, and twice at the hands of the chef who’d drowned it in his Canola oil spill. But I just don’t dwell on service. Because if I did, I should really be walking up to the poshy big-name places in Dubai first – and we know, hell we know, even those places often don’t get it right. So I’m willing to cut the small fish some slack….small fish like this tiny Kanafa café in Hor Al Anz that I dragged Sheban into after our little Moroccan tagine feast.
The slogan of Bait Al Kanafa (The House of Kanafa) should be:
Kanafa from the heart.
Service from the ___*
*fill in the blank with your least favorite body part or rhyming bodily action.
But kudos to the restaurant, they had done justice to this famed Lebanese dessert. It was good, so good, that I'd become numb to the atrocities the servers were inflicting on us. And watching me go numb made Sheban [once my dinner compadre. now a quivering furiously boiling kettle.] realize that the crappy service wouldn’t get more than a side mention on this blog. The thought of it was killing him.
SO, in a little departure from my self-obsessed blogging norms, I’m going to give him some space to vent, and to augment my review with his own personal rant point of view of the place. So that you, my fabulous reader, will be fully aware of what you’re walking into when you go in to order that deadly yummy plate of cream kanafa.
Here goes: the good, the bad, and the…dayaaam that kanafa was GOOD.
Kanafa from the Heart. By Me.
The last time I wrote about Kanafa, I referred to the cheese-filled one. It inspired me to the point where I came up with a shockingly brilliant idea of revolutionizing Mickey D’s menu with kanafa. I always thought that I preferred the cheese-filled kanafa over the cream one, until the cream kanafa at Bait al Kanafa converted me. Actually, they don’t keep the cheese version at all. All you can order is this full moon of cream, covered with a crispy skin of toasted semolina noodles.
If I were Goldilocks, there’d be three types of cream Kanafa on the table. Too thick: overpowering blanket of cream that threatens to suffocate you. Too ick: watery, milky, icky layer of cream that spills out and violates the notion of a well-assembled dessert. And then this one, the Bait al Kanafa one. Thin layer of cream, super dense, yet impossibly light, crowned with a crispy sheet of golden semolina noodles – and not drowned in this sea of cloyingly sweet sugary syrup that often tends to mute out everything else in the dessert. This was juuuuust right. (On a side educational note, I'd recommend all kindergarten teachers to switch the Goldilocks story from blah porridge to crispy-creamy Kanafa. Let the kiddies live a little.)
Also worth mentioning was our beverage choice: a styrofoam glass of warm saffron milk, which was really supposed to be saffron and cardamom tea, but the server messed it up. And I’m glad, cause saffron milk with creamy Kanafa deserves to become the new oreos and milk of midnight snacking.
Service from the ___. By Sheban.
Here's my review of the Kanafas: They're brilliant, squishy and delicious – and you must try one before you kick the bucket...also, they're really rich, so you may kick the bucket because you had one.
And...now that we've gotten that out of the way, what follows is my opinion on The Bait's service, which was really, really bad. How bad you ask? Well, for starters – we took more than a minute to order, so our server came up to me and in Clint Eastwood style went "You going to order??...(punk...) Ouch. That set the tone for the rest of the experience.
Before ordering, we asked if they were made with Cheese, the guy frowned on us – and a whole bunch of them chimed in together "NO cheese, Only cream". Okay, Choir boys – we'll have the Cream ones then – with a Zafrani Chai. After confirming our orders twice, the Choir boys slinked away to aggressively discuss our order. Yes, they spent about five minutes talking about kunafas in an Indian sub-dialect I couldn't put a finger on - and I'm Indian. I sensed a disturbance in The Force...we noticed the choir boys didn't really seem to get along very well, it was a bit like watching Indian MP's in parliament. Thankfully our Kanafa arrived before the chair-throwing started, with what looked like...milk. I didn't feel like arguing with Clint Eastwood over the milk-tea mix up, lest he shoot me with his .44 Magnum, so I decided I was going to have the milk, and I was going to like it, dammit.
One bite of the Kanafa, however,and everything started to seem better. This place wasn't really that bad... maybe I was just being cranky because I was hungry. I cheered up, wolfed down my Kunafa, decided I was going to like this place, and asked for the bill in the customary "Write in Air" fashion. Clint Eastwood looked at me, nodded, and promptly came back with a...paper and pen. Realizing that war was imminent, the very tactful Fryingpan stepped in and asked Clint Eastwood for the bill, in her voice – in hindi.
And then the bill arrived (it was 17 AED btw). I paid, but before we could scramble we were informed that we'd paid only part of the bill. I guess The Bait does its bills in installments, you pay once before you leave the table, you pay the rest before you're out the door. I proceeded to tell Clint that a bill usually entails ALL the items you've asked for, fished out more money, paid my debt...and not feeling particularly generous, waited for my change. Clint got me change – which was more than I was entitled to. I could've corrected him, but the thought of being 6 AED richer was just too good to pass up.
So there. This time, you have BOTH sides. Sometimes restaurants with hidden yummy gems just have shiaatty service. All you need is a big spoonful of thick, sweet noodle-studded cream to swallow the crappy service down.
Bait Al Kanafa Restaurant
Phone: +971 (4) 2689900
Abu Hail, Deira. Behind Ramada Hotel, close to Emirates NBD Bank. I've tried to shove the general location on a google map, though you may need to ask someone once you're on 24th street, or just walk down the road a bit, cause my directions are far from scientific.