Al Maeda: Beachside Mezze at JBR
As the temperature in Dubai steadily rises, it’s a good time for reviews by the beach. I’m at the Doubletree by Hilton at the end of the JBR Walk to have lunch at Al Maeda, and looking forward to a panoramic view of sea and sand, which is so much more inviting than clusters of office buildings or the ever-present construction sites. Unfortunately, the latter is something that can’t really be escaped as my beach view broken up by the sight of cranes and scaffolding. Still, the setting is comfortable enough, and I do have a nice meal to look forward to.
Earlier this year, Al Maeda revamped its menu, expanding from a focus on Lebanese cuisine to cover the Levant region, and adding in some Moroccan dishes, such as Zaalouk (a Moroccan eggplant and bell pepper dish) and Taktouka(eggplant and tomato salad).
Of course, there are the usual Lebanese mezze staples, such as hummus, fattoush, tabouleh and moutabel. Al Maeda’s mezze selection is quite traditional, and each one hits its flavor notes just perfectly. Nothing is overly spiced or bland, and tart flavors like lemon and pomegranate are used well to add a nice tang where needed without overwhelming the palate. Al Maeda has a few different variations on falafel, featuring accompaniments like goat’s cheese, spinach and mango salsa. I try the latter, where the salsa adds a nice sweet backing to the falafel’s earthy flavor.
The Moroccan starters seem quite similar at first as they’re both eggplant based, but they provide a good contrast of flavor. The Zaalouk gets a sweet undertone thanks to the roasted peppers, while the Taktouka brings the acidity of the tomatoes to the fore. Perhaps the star of the afternoon, however, is the vegetable tagine. Now, it should be noted that all the tagines (and couscous dishes) on the menu contain meat, but a vegetarian version can be prepared on request. My first thoughts on the vegetable tagine are that it looks vibrant and summery, with lots of greens and yellows, but I worry it might be a bit bland. One spoonful puts all those worries to rest. It’s just delicious and really should be a part of the regular menu.
For dessert, there’s the classic Egyptian bread pudding Umm Ali, and Al Maeda’s is definitely one of the best takes on that dish that I’ve had. From the Moroccan side we have Rose Crème Brulee, which is light and fluffy and has a wonderfully subtle floral flavor.
I had gone in expecting a pretty decent lunch at Al Maeda, but it exceeds my expectations. All the flavors are perfectly balanced, whether sweet or savory, and the ambiance is elegant and charming. They tend to have different sports matches (most often football) on in the evenings, which are a crowd pleaser, and there’s also a brunch for the weekend crowd. The only major downside is the construction that mars what would be a beautiful beach view.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: ✔
Pros: Vegetable tagine is a standout dish, good food overall, good ambiance
Cons: Beach view disrupted by ongoing construction
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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