North Indian ‘Amala’ – spicing up the Palm?
Dubai; FooDiva’s visited Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on the Palm a couple of times; once in soft opening with hardly any F&B (food & beverage) operational, so we settled for a caesar salad lunch at the pool bar, and second time round with the intention of afternoon tea, but having skipped lunch, a delicious club sandwich called out instead. The signature restaurants caught my eye on both visits, so now with some of them open we ventured out to try Amala for Northern Indian cuisine. More specifically Mughlai, synonymous with rich, creamy dishes ranging from mild to spicy. Now even if you live in new Dubai, Jumeirah’s latest addition on the Palm as is One & Only’s, are a bit of a trek – but when that left crescent is complete, oh my will it be a treat on the eye.
Now all the hotel’s F&B is located on one strip spanning the left and right wings, making it easy to find your preferred restaurant, or even just to meander until you decide. Amala screams opulence with wooden beamed ceilings, a central marble fountain and ornate chandeliers. The remaining lighting could do with being dimmed slightly. Naturally, with such a rich decor, the interior is far more atmospheric than al fresco. And all the restaurants share the same, very lengthy terrace – with nothing to distinguish one from the other.
Amala has a pretty compelling offer of an unlimited choice from the menu for a set price of AED 225 per head – our waiter was unsure as to whether this was just an opening offer (six weeks later) or a permanent fixture. Now FooDiva may love a good Indian, but I am by no means an expert – so faced with pages and pages of dishes covering starters, soups, curries, tandoor, biryanis, where do I start? Could we just have one of everything? Luckily a very experienced waiter came to FooDiva’s rescue, and with expert guidance we settled for ten dishes as starters and mains – and that’s without rice and naan. Clearly too much for two people, but hey ho, am a reviewer no? So here follows our feast;
Starters; Kur Kuri Bhindi (deep fried crispy okra with chat masala) and Chokhi Tikki (deep fried potato, green peas and black cumin cakes).
Mains – curries; Rogan Josh (lamb leg in a red onion, tomato, yoghurt, nutmeg and Kashmiri spice sauce), Butter chicken (tandoori chicken with tomato, cashew nut, cream and fresh coriander sauce), Achari Batar (quail with shallots, mustard oil, coriander, cumin and fennel)
Mains – vegetarian; Dal Amala (black lentil, tomato and fenugreek leaves), Aloo Gobi (potato, cauliflower, fresh coriander and tomato masala)
Mains – tandoor and served on a hot charcoal grill; Murg Malai kebab (chicken leg marinated in a cashew nut, amul cheese and cardamom paste), Till Jingha (tiger prawns in a sesame yoghurt and aromatic spices paste), Kayree lamb (lamp chops with green mango and cumin paste).
Oh and heaps of steamed and vegetable biryani rice, plus a selection of plain, garlic and cheese naan. You’d be reading for hours if I was to describe every single dish; suffice to say that each and everyone was brimming with flavour, even though cooked mild as per FooDiva and friend’s request (sorry Indian friends I know am not doing your cuisine justice). Aside from butter chicken and dal, all-time FooDiva faves (who doesn’t love all that butter?) so great to see innovative produce such as quail in this market. The tandoor dishes all deserve a special mention, in particular the lamb chop which succulently fell off the bone.
Did we have room for dessert? No, but of course our smiley waiter insisted on a selection; FooDiva’s not a huge fan of sickly sweet puds, so the only one that really captured my attention was the banana samosa drizzled with dark hot chocolate. Now that I would gladly eat on its own.
I only have two gripes with the food and presentation; call me traditional, but where were the poppadums to nibble on while perusing the menu?…and our post dinner teas were served in thick china coffee cups…I admit am a tea snob, therefore only very fine china or heat-proof clear glass are acceptable. Whilst service was attentive to begin with, the starters took a long time to arrive (aggravated by the poppadum craving), and an even longer wait until the mains. The kitchen was clearly under pressure, with not enough waiters on hand. The restaurant manager, having approached us for feedback agreed and promised to review.
Dinner for two including two bottles of Aqua Panna, two green teas, one glass of rose and taxes; AED 618. Yes you can certainly feast on Indian in a non-licenced establishment for half the price. But considering the excellent quality of the food and ingredients, plus the surrounding luxury, Amala is a good contender for Dubai’s high-class Indian scene, whilst spicing up the Palm’s F&B offering. Four out of five FooDiva knife rating.
Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s Amala is open for dinner only daily except Monday. T; +971 4 453 0444.
FooDiva will return for the other restaurants, but looks like my patience will be tested as the much-anticipated French-Vietnamese won’t open until after Ramadan. In the meantime, a fun-filled Easter to those that celebrate!