After a week chock full of dinner parties and dessert gift boxes that weighed my stomach down with the same humid and lethargic fogginess of the weather outside (stunned disbelief of the obvious. Are we really approaching summer again?!), Friday morning rolled in with a lazy craving for something simple, fresh and light. My partner and I decided to hit up Toast Café at the Mall of the Emirates, a place recommended by a friend for its “light homemade food”. Precisely what I needed to purge my stomach of its gluttonous sins of the week.
On arriving at the mall, I was rudely shocked to learn that Toast was part of the mall food court. While my taste buds politely reined in their cries of blasphemy, they were openly skeptical about finding fresh, wholesome food amidst the mass of undifferentiated chains that commonly find refuge in a food court. Would Toast prove us wrong?
Our café of choice was strategically positioned at the entry way of the food court, potentially luring away a few health conscious customers with their ‘Fresh Food Fast’ tagline before the fast food chains could pitch their mass-produced burgers and chicken nuggets to the unsuspecting public. Toast’s menu and display racks boasted an array of salads, quiches, sandwiches, crepes (both sweet and savory) and desserts, as well as a fresh hot foods bar for those in pursuit of a lunch platter combo deal. We finally settled on the Quatro Colore Halloumi sandwich (Dhs.18) and the Caprese crepe stuffed with mozzarella, pesto and basil (Dhs.20), sheepishly realizing in retrospect that we had picked two dishes with the same margherita-like cheese, basil and tomato combination.
We first zeroed in on the sandwich, one that I had my hopes set on given its use of one of my all-time favorite cheeses, halloumi. Ready...set...CRUNCH. And then anticlimax. My first bite was greeted with mild disappointment. The doughy baguette slices stubbornly fought for the lead role, which as far as I was concerned, should have been reserved for the creamy halloumi cubes within. Instead, the attention-hogging carb layers should have been slender and crispy, playing a humble supporting act in the Rock-On Halloumi show.
On the other hand, the Caprese crepe was a clear palate winner – with its soft folds of sweet crepe encasing meaty morsels of gooey mozzarella and savory pesto sauce – giving me a flavorful balance of a roadside Parisian crêperie and a brick oven Italian pizzeria in a simple but well-executed dish. Also, hats off to Toast Café chefs for using fresh basil as garnish and plump cherry tomatoes in the side salad – very non-food-courtesque. Really gave each dish a refreshingly sweet and earthy zing, and came pretty close to convincing me that Toast’s ‘Fresh Food Fast’ motto was not just a common mall gimmick.
Having substantially distanced ourselves from our earlier goal of attempting a ‘light meal’ by consuming copious amounts of halloumi and mozzarella cheese, we decided to undo our good intentions with a vengeance, finishing off with molten chocolate cake (Dhs. 17) and strawberry napoleon (Dhs. 17). We happily devoured both desserts – after all, I’ve rarely found myself experiencing buyer’s remorse with anything that oozes chocolate and custard cream in abundance. I can't say the same about the cappuccino (Dhs. 14) we ordered with dessert, which was more like tasteless coffee dishwater under the lofty guise of an espresso drink, priced equal to what you could get in a far more upscale coffee shop. Ironically, I needed a heaping spoonful of molten chocolate cake to help wash down the taste of the coffee imposter.
Overall, we spent close to Dhs. 100 for the entire meal, which despite the few disappointments, felt like money well-spent on food that tasted far fresher than what I could have dug out of a happy meal box. Would I come back to Toast? Probably not all the way to Barsha, but I would definitely pick this place if I were having a craving for crepes or if I found myself needing a fresh and fast alternative to refueling after hours of window shopping at the mall.
Mall of the Emirates; Dubai Mall
Phone: (04) 341-0750