Category Archives: Food Explorer

What a burger at Classic Burger Joint – Trade Center

Tired of the usual lunch break, together with some colleagues, we decided to escape the usual routine in Oud Metha and try something new. A colleague of mine proposed to drive to Trade Center area to Classic Burger Joint, “one of the best burger restaurant ever” he added trying to convince me.

I was told that the restaurant is incredibly popular in Lebanon, where the restaurant was firstly opened. Yes, you got it right, it isn’t the usual chain from the States by a pure Lebanese burger chain.  I was curious to understand more about this Lebanese burger tradition that was totally unknown to me, hence we jumped in the car and drove to Aspin Commercial Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road, Trade Center Area, Dubai.

Keep in mind that Trade Center is very busy and it can be challenging to find parking just in front of the restaurant. We were lucky and found parking quite close to the place.

The restaurant is quite small and the waitress very friendly. Loving cheese on all forms, I went for a Mozzarella Classic Burger that consisted in a classic burger to which a thick layer of fried mozzarella is added on top of the beef patty. The burger arrived after 10 minutes as promised by the waitress together with a lot of french fries and a small portion of  coleslaw.

Mozzarella Classic Burger

Loved my Mozzarella Classic at Classic Burger Joint

The burger was extremely good. The fried mozzarella was melted at perfection, the beef patty of good quality and great taste and the little sauce added very light and enjoyable.

The fries were alright, nothing special, even though the person I was sharing the lunch with told me that usually they are very tasty and much better than what we got.

The coleslaw portion was too tiny to feel the taste of it.

The meal is enough to satisfy a very hungry person, so refrain from ordering too many things together. Enjoy the amazing burger first and then you might decide to add something else. At least, this is my advise 🙂

ItaliAsian Fusion: Edamame & Black Beans spaghetti with salmon and seaweeds

In my most recent ItaliAsian Fusion I have combined the already known Edamame Spaghetti with Organic Black Bean Spaghetti I have picked up at Choithram shop in Al Wasl Road and seasoned them with smoked salmon and seaweeds.

Black Bean Spaghetti

I am a huge fan of pasta and I was nervous for the texture and the taste of this black beans spaghetti but I have to admit they turned out to be amazing. I dared to try this new line of “pasta” because of some astonishing benefits:

  • High in fibres: 22 grams per 100 grams of product
  • High in proteins: 46 grams per 100 grams of product
  • Low in sugars: just 5 grams per 100 grams
  • Rich in Iron and other minerals

Since this kind of pasta reminded me of  Japanese like flavours, I decided to add some of the Nori seaweed sheets I had at home (the ones usually used for sushi) to the recipe.

They taste like sea (of course) and are particularly rich in fibres and minerals.

I heated some olive oil in a pan, I added some garlic and parsley and let them brown a bit. Meanwhile I chopped the salmon and cut the Nori sheets in long stripes almost resembling thick spaghetti or fettuccine. I added the salmon first and once it had changed colour, I added the seaweeds.

The seaweeds are dry but highly hygroscopic, hence they absorb water from the other ingredients and become tender. Once the spaghetti were cooked (4 to 6 minutes the time required), I dried them and added them to the pan.

Mix all the ingredients together paying particular attention to the seaweeds that have the tendency to stick together instead of spreading around. Once mixed properly,  I served the spaghetti with salmon and seaweeds together with a generous amount of grated Grana Padano.

Black Bean Spaghetti with Salmon and Seaweed

Edamame & Black Bean Spaghetti with Nori seaweed, smoked salmon and Grana Padano

Noire: dining in the dark! at Fairmont Dubai

I have recently dined at Noire, a new concept restaurant at The Fairmont Hotel Sheik Zayed Road.

As the website states ”from pitch-black settings, night vision equipped waiters or the thrill of experiencing 5-star gourmet cuisine sight unseen, Noire brings you a culinary adventure unlike anything else in town and one of the top experiences in Dubai”, the restaurant offers a very peculiar dining experience.

Noire Dubai

The original idea came to Mr. Edouard De Broglie, an entrepreneur who founded an ethic investment company where 50% of the staff were people with vision impairment. The main goal is to put people in a position to understand other people’s life experience by “putting yourself in the others shoes to better understand” and possibly to raise some funds for charitable organizations.

Even though it lasts just the time of a dinner, it proved to be very touching and instructive.

The dinner takes place in the dark. A pitch black where you cannot see anything apart the red dot on the infrared googles used by the waiters. Listen to the noises in the dark, touch to understand and learn what you have on the table or in the plate, recognize the scents and discover the taste of the proposed foods. Yes, because the chef won’t tell you what you are eating until the dinner is over and you have tried to guess the various ingredients.

We can summarize the dinner as “an experience to learn to see beyond the appearance“.

You will be surprised in discovering that your brain might be deceived by your taste buds if not supported by your eyes. And you will ended up feeling different textures and aromas than the one you would have expected by looking at the plate.

We arrived at Fairmont Hotel by metro, the nearest station is World Trade Center few meters from the hotel, and went to the 9th floor where the restaurant is located. We got lost since there was no one and couldn’t find anything looking like a restaurant. We finally understood that the restaurant is adjacent to the shisha cafe available on the terrace that serves the purpose of meeting points for the restaurant guests.

We were offered a welcome drink and then had to wait some 40 minutes!! before being allowed to enter the restaurant.

The waiters are very well trained and after having escorted us to our table, they helped us understanding what was on the table: on the right spoons and two glasses, on the left forks and bread, in the center the napkin.

After few minutes the appetizer was served. It is difficult to dig into the meal without seeing anything, but not impossible after some practice. After few failures, I eventually managed to get a full spoon of food and bring it to the mouth.

Something fried was tasting like fish. There was salad. Maybe berries and fois gras. It was a continue murmuring and mumbling “taste like fish”, “mine got hazelnuts”, “s..t I spilled the wine”. It is difficult to talk to your partner because you don’t what they are doing, if they understand you, how far are they.

In the main course I found some beef, maybe cabbage, some kind of fish and potatoes. The dessert was formed by a cake, an ice cream and something like a pudding. Soft and creamy one bite and poppy and crunchy the other one.

We all felt the burning taste of chilly since there were many “oh gosh it’s spicy!!”. In reality was pepper.

I was there celebrating my birthday and I was amazingly celebrated by the staff  that invited all the guests to sing for me. It was really a great sensation because almost everybody sang. Something I doubt would have been happened if with the lights were on.

Once we were safely guided outside, we found the chef waiting for us with a display of the food we had.

Dinner at Noire Fairmont Dubai

Left: starterLeft: starter with battered oysters, salad, strawberries, foie gras, avocado and hazelnut. Center: main course with bbq eel, wagyu beef, salad, fries and caw flower. Left: dessert with panna cotta, red velvet cake and oreo ice cream and pepper.

ItaliAsian fusion: Organic Edamame Spaghetti with Surimi

I simply have a passion for pasta. And couldn’t be otherwise since I am Italian. I had pasta twice per day for almost 25 years of my life and only recently I started reducing my daily intake, since I have a sedentary work and a carbohydrates rich diet is not really recommended.

In a first attempt to reduce the carbs intake, I started enjoying the ‘integrale’ version (whole wheat pasta) because richer in fibers and proteins than the normal one and with a good 10-15% less carbs per portion. Taste and consistency is different from the traditional pasta but it is fairly good.

Some days ago I was screening the supermarket shelf looking for whole wheat pasta or a different version like kamut or barely pasta just for a change when my attention was caught by strange product available: Organic Edamame Spaghetti. A combination of the famous Japanese snack in the most famous Italian shape pasta.

Edamame Spaghetti Bag

The Organic Edamame Spaghetti bag says they cook al dente. A mandatory prerequisite for an Italian.

The particularity of this kind of spaghetti is that they are made with edamame flour instead of the common wheat one. It sounded weird at first but I decided to give it a try because of the exceptional nutrition facts: only 18g of carbs in 100g of spaghetti and an astonishing 20g of fibers and 45g of proteins!! Like having a steak but in a vegan-spaghetti-like form.

Edamame Spaghetti Nutrition Facts

The Edamame Spaghetti are superb for an high protein, high fibers and low carbs/fat diet.

I was curious to try the newly bought spaghetti that clearly mentioned “cook al dente” and prepared an easy dish with surimi and butter sauce. By the time the edamame spaghetti were cooking (around 9 minutes), I sliced the surimi, put it in a pan and added some butter, olive oil and nutmeg.

The meal was surprisingly good. The edamame spaghetti cooked ‘al dente’ maintaining a good texture.

They taste differently from any other kind of pasta I have ever tried before. I would say it reminded me to sea flavors and aromas and I got lucky to combine it to some fish products as first experiment.

We really enjoyed the spaghetti meal, appreciating the rich taste of the edamame based pasta and its protein content like meat, fiber content as a super veggie and low carbs and fat content.

Definitely a nice surprise that we are going to explore deeper since there are many variants available.

Edamame Spaghetti Surimi

A simple but tasty meal prepared with edamame spaghetti and surimi.

A creative and healthy Italian-Japanese fusion really appreciated.

Japanese breakfast at Sukiya Takeshiba – Minato, Tokyo

During our stay in Japan we tried each and every traditional dish we encountered on our way. We haven’t limited our exploration to the most popular ramen and sushi options and we included rice cakes, dried fish, matcha tea products and so on. In order to do so, we booked the hotel without any meal included to avoid the usual “international breakfast” you might find all over the world.

Obviously, the first morning we woke up in the Asian Country, we rushed to the nearest breakfast restaurant and ordered one of the “special” breakfast options (the menu was only in Japanese but luckily was provided with photos of the meals).

If you are used to western food and taste, you might find the Japanese breakfast weird. We have got steamed rice, miso soup (made with green onions, seaweed, tofu and fermented soy beans paste), nori (dried seaweed), tsukemono (pickles) and natto (fermented soy beans) and a raw egg.

The Japanese Break Fast

Japanese breakfast in a common restaurant in Tokyo. Natto (the fermented soy beans) can be disgusting for someone.

Since I didn’t know what to do or how to combine the food together, considering that no one was speaking English in the restaurant, I had to learn from another customer how to deal with the food I had in front of me.

so I added some soy sauce to the natto, I had the miso soup with the spring onions and some rice with the nori. I was enjoying my breakfast when I saw the other customer breaking the raw egg on top of the rice and enjoying it. My partner stopped eating while I managed to have the unusual mix. But the worst moment was when we had to eat natto. 

The taste itself is not bad, but the consistency and texture of the mix is weird. The fermented soybeans are covered by a filamentous and sticky jelly that resembles something really unpleasant. Again, my partner gave up at the first bite, I struggled to have a second. I had to drink an entire glass of iced barely tea to cancel the fastidious sensation from my mouth.

Needless to say that we have opted for a somehow more suitable breakfast option during the rest of our holiday.The service was nice and the food came quick because precooked and ready to eat. Even though it is based on a fast-food philosophy, the quality of the food was good enough.

Funny start of our holiday.

5 Indisputable Reasons to Visit Bucharest – Romania

I have been once in Romania and loved the Country. If you are looking for a destination off the usual tourist path but that offers as many beautiful things to enjoy as the other European cities, Bucharest is the right option for you. The life in the Romanian Capital differs from the stressful rhythm in most of the other European capitals. Therefore you can have a wonderful holiday in a peaceful environment without compromising on the quality of your stay and the number of things to see, experiment or do. Without letting aside the superb food selection.

Above everything, it is worth mentioning that Bucharest is still a relatively cheap city if compared with the other European cities since a stay can cost as little as 40 euro per day in well located hotels and meals are served at 10 Euro per person.

1 – The amazing parks and public gardens

If you think that your city is the best in terms of public parks, once you will have visited Bucharest you might change idea. The city has at least 4 major parks: Cismigiu Garden (in the photo), Botanical Garden, Carol I Parkv and Herastrau Park that give to the capital real fresh air and the constant sensation to live in close contact with the nature. Moreover, there are other open gardens with museums and local markets that are really enjoyable (e.g. the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum).

Parcul Cismigiu - Bucharest

Parcul Cismigiu is simply astonishing and worth to pay a visit.

2 – The surprisingly good food

No matter where you decide to stop for a break, lunch or dinner, you will get something your taste buds will enjoy. I had dozens placinte that are sold in many kiosks around the city. They are a traditional pastry usually filled with cheese, ricotta and dill, apples or just plain.  Romanians love polenta (they called it mamaliga) that usually comes with cheese (branza) or pork sausages (carnati) and pork or beef meat. Among the many traditional dishes available, my favourite is the tochitura that consists of beef and pork stewed chunks served with mamaliga, branza and a fried egg (see photo).

Tochitura pork beef stew - Bucharest

Tochitura is a stew made with pork, beef and sometimes chicken served with mamaliga (polenta) and cheese and a fried egg.

3 – The Old Town

The old town is a most enticing area of the city with the historic architecture, the old churches, the outdoor terraces and cafés and the romantic feel. The Old Town is the old district of artisans and merchants that emerged around the Princely Court, back in the 16th century.

The beauty of this part of the city, a fifth of which was destroyed to accommodate Ceausescu City Project, was recently restored with a series of renovation works that breathed new life in the superb period buildings.

The old town is now the real centre of the Capital with restaurants, pubs and much more.

Bucharest old town

Bucharest Old Town is under constant renovation and is rich in historical building, pubs and restaurants. – Photo from Google Images

4 – The Communist Legacy

Romanians ended the Communist Dictatorial Regime on December 25, 1989 after vibrant protests started in the city of Timisoara that culminated with the capture and execution of death sentence of the President Ceausescu and his wife. The leadership of Nicolae Ceaușescu (also leader of the Romanian communist party) lasted almost 34 years and the symbol of that period of time is certainly the impressive Palace of the Parliament.  This gigantic building was ordered by Ceaușescu in the 80’s and its construction started in 1984 and was completed (only partially) in 1997.

It cost almost 4 billions Euro that were taken from the population as ‘donation’ and therefore it was also called ‘Casa Poporului’ (House of the People). The building is the second world’s largest office building by floor after Pentagon, it has more than 1,000 rooms available, 8 underground levels and a anti-nuclear bunker. Rumours say that a secret tunnel links the building with the airport and the most important places of the City.

Casa Popolurui - Bucharest

Casa Popolurui is immense. Book in advance to visit its interior.

View from Palace of Parliament in Bucharest

The view of Piata Constitutiei from the balcony in the today palace of Parliament.

5 – The Night-life

Of all the wonderful things that Bucharest has to offer, night-life is not the least of them. There is something for everyone in this town: and I mean everyone. From trendy bars to Irish pubs, lounge clubs and jazz clubs and the odd steamy strip shows. Bucharest is a young and energetic city and the renovated old town, packed with pubs, restaurants and clubs, soon became the central night-life strip.

Among the various clubs and discos available, surly the most famous is the Bamboo Club, whereas one of the most popular restaurants and beer hall is Caru’ cu Bere that is a must for all the visitors.

Restaurant Review: Freiche Cafe & Bistro, JLT Cluster Y – Dubai

Weekends in Dubai are synonyms of Friday and/or Saturday breakfasts with friends. There are so many options to explore that it could be considered as a tough job to visit all of them.  However, from time to time we decide to visit the same restaurant because it is conveniently located close to home or because we have positive memories about it.

One of the last weekends we decided to visit once again Freiche, in Cluster Y in Jumeirah Lake Towers, on the ground level of Swiss Tower. I had a very unpleasant breakfast few months ago in that place and momentarily banned it from my wishlist. However, some friends insisted to go and hence I forced myself to be think positive.

The restaurant looked different. I mean, the furniture were the same with dark wood decor and full wall windows, but the food items were displayed differently and the restaurant was full!!

We were warmly welcomed by the manager of the place (I think she was the owner) and immediately realized that something had changed in the past months. The staff was well trained and polite and managed our order without troubles even with personal requests of variations like: more salmon, less pepper and the like.

The food came quickly and it was way much better than I remembered it.

Fraiche Eggs Benedict

The eggs Benedict were really good with the right amount of sauce and slamon/spinach.

I have asked my eggs medium and I received them as requested, however, my partner received quite soft ones. Not a big deal, since we have exchanged the plates (i don’t mind soft eggs) but it is disappointing and can sometimes ruin your happy mood.

They have a all you can eat breakfast deal if you want to take advantage of some cakes and biscuits and enjoy some complimentary drinks.

Prices are normal and comparable with major competitors in the area.