As I philosophized to one of my close friends over a batch of pumpkin cream cheese muffins recently:
Every woman needs some high quality trash in her life.
No matter how intellectual and witty and accomplished I'd aspire to be, there are secret moments when I'd much rather curl up to watch Clueless for the eighteenth time or happily lap up the celeb gossip dished out in the OK! or Elle that my manicurist discreetly slides into my lap without my ever explicitly making the request.
So in celebration of those moments in life that help you wind down. turn off. zone out. and in celebration of those friends who are there to enjoy those moments with you - whether it's the girlfriend who buys the gossipy mag at the airport and softly reads out every column near your ear, forcing you to put away The Economist and cackle with her at the '21 things that you could do to...,' or your all-grown-up high school bud who spontanously hops into the car with you after work and chats about that 'bossy girl back in 10th grade who went out with...' - it's in celebration of those moments and those girlfriends that I've decided to write this next restaurant review as a celeb interview, with the basic essence of the interview questions being pulled out of Anniston, Angelina, Kiera Knightley, Katy Perry, and many other 'close-up and personal' interviews that I've read in the past googled specifically for this post. (yep, it is a blog about the food that I eat and love, and indeed, it is an interview of me, by me, and no, my middle name is not Narcissist.)
I've also dragged my friend, one of my favorite ladies in town and a willing accomplice in this latest restaurant excursion, as a co-interviewee. So really, it's not entirely about me.
Moi = FP (Frying Pan)
My Lady friend = MLF (My Lady Friend)
So you both were spotted driving aimlessly around jumeirah beach road...does this have anything to do with your latest gig?
MLF: Yes, we are always inspired by the local culture...
FP: That, and I was just in the mood for restaurant roulette that day...
Restaurant roulette? Is that even a real thing?
FP: Sure it is. It's when you drive - or even better, leave your car keys behind and just walk - around a city, scope out restaurants you've never tried before and randomly pop into one that seems intriguing. You win some, you lose some...but its the thought of sitting down to a dinner table without having done all my usual obsessive cyber review prework, without a clue of what to expect, that just thrills, and scares, me to bits.
Pretty gutsy. What drew you to...what's the name of the place, See See Saghi?
MLF: Nothing to be honest. I was quite skeptical...dark tinted windows, ancient looking building, just seemed to be an imbalance in its CHI, not to mention it didn’t look like a place that would serve me my regular, Dom Perignon. FP had made up her mind...but all that went through my mind was: “ really you want to eat here.. really!?!?”
FP: Yes really I did want to eat there! It was what the place wasn't, rather than what it was, that made me want to go in and explore. Ordinary facade, seedy blue tubelights, red flickering "SEE SEE SAGHI" signs...it wasn't a chain, not inside or next to a mall, not too fashionable to just roll up my sleeves and dig in.
Oh also, it was Iranian. I'm a sucker for good Iranian kebabs.
Tell us about your initial impressions.
FP: Surreal. Especially after the drab brown walls on the outside...rainbow-colored entryway, reddish dining room, sassy red chandelier, black and white pre-war style wall frames, intricate Iranian wall and ceiling art, this disturbingly pensive woman's face staring out from the mural under a royal cushioned canopy, winding staircase lined with old Iranian paintings....it just felt anachronistic, somewhat surreal. I could sense wealth, frivolity, mystery, maybe even hints of eroticism...the same sort of atmosphere I'd associate with a harem. Or maybe an underground mafia hideout (not that I've ever been to one, BUT if I had...).
MLF: Funtastic! Was like stepping into a queer museum inside someone’s home and expecting to being served food there, never really sure if you are supposed to be there or you’re simply trespassing!
FP: ...actually, it was someone's reconverted home - or cooky playpen...queer is the perfect word!
What was your inspiration, the driving force, behind the menu choices you made that day?
FP: The past. The irresistably yummy memories of Iranian and Afghani restaurants I'd tried in the past. I wish I'd have the willpower and adventurous spirit of a Steingarten or Bourdain type personality, but when faced with tried and tested favorites like kabab koobideh (minced lamb skewers) and fesenjan (chicken in a sweetish walnut pomegranate gravy), my mind goes into autopilot mode.
MLF: That’s simple; I live for chicken and berries!!!
FP: That's a tough one. I really fell in love with the food, I wouldn't even know how to begin picking favorites! I mean, would it be the insanely tender minced chicken joojeh kababs that MLF just mentioned? Or the tart barberries with the basmati rice? Or the rich Baunjaun gravy, full of lentils and meat, and thick slices of eggplant that had been grilled till their edges had this intense sweet-smokey char? I don't know...next question please!
What made you sad?
FP: ...that Fesenjan was a special dish made only once throughout the week. But it worked out, I probably wouldn't have experimented with the eggplant gravy if they had my standard Iranian go-to-dish on the menu.
MLF: The huge dog (statue) that stared at us through the evening.
FP: Almost at par with Shabestan (Radisson Blu) and Sadaf, though maybe a notch below because they had a menu which either missed on specialties like Fesenjan six days of the week, or lacked them altogether (like Spinach Nargizi, a Shabestan must-have!).
Were there ever points during the entire experience where you each felt unsure of yourselves...insecure?
FP (hesitates): Um, I guess. I was a bit anxious about not having researched up the place at all before coming. What IF they were known for some unbelievable specialty and I didn't discover it? I could barely stop myself from blackberrying online reviews to get the download on the place...
MLF (with a self-assured huff): Nope. I’m basically a very secure person.
Between this and the three-course french soup, sandwich and pumpkin muffin meal that we heard you ladies cooked up last Friday, you ladies will be role models for food lovers all over the city. Let's face it. But do you think you'll keep that in mind while planning other food ventures in the future?
FP: No, I mean, yes. (sighs deeply, profoundly) For me, defining your culinary experiences is not about what's hot or fashionable, like cupcakes, in the market or about schmanzy restaurants with celeb chefs...it's about following your heart...your most basic, inner primal instincts...whether it's out in the city or in my kitchen...and just being happy. I too often fall into the trap of going with the most reviewed place in town, but its way more liberating to go off and find your own thing, be spontaneous, and not feel compelled to conform to the timeouts of the world. That spontaneity, that self-definition, that security in who you are and what you eat...I definitely want that to be a stronger part of my food explorations in the years to come, less because I have any visions of being a role model for anyone, but more because that's just who I want to be.
MLF: Can you repeat the question please? And this time slowly.
Do either of you ever see yourselves going back there?
MLF: Yes, have to try their Fesenjan. She (looks over at FP) just went on and on about them...
FP: Totally. Mainly cause I'm crazy curious about what was behind the saucy chandelier and black lace curtains peeking out the upstairs windows. I'm quite sure that's some part of the restaurant too, but only spotted it on my way out...have to come back and explore, anyone interested in grabbing a chelo kebab next week?
See See Saghi
Jumeirah Beach Road
Phone: 04 395-6300