Open sesame…Simsim


Simsim’s wall, believe it or not 😉

Correct me if am wrong, but whilst restaurants with Levantine cuisine are abundant in Dubai, it’s hard to find one with a focus on Palestinian dishes. Well until now…with Simsim, a cute new café at JBR Walk.

It’s a two-storey number with a highly urban feel thanks to an industrial-style stairway, but Palestinian chinaware, calligraphy and quirky artefacts make for an eclectic interior with oodles of character. Attention to detail is clearly at the heart of this gem.

The owner and the chef are both Jordanian of Palestinian origin, showcasing recipes borrowed from grannies in Gaza and Ramallah using natural ingredients from Nablus and Toulkarem.

Simsim menuDespite a 12.30pm lunch, we are presented with breakfast menus and noticing my neighbouring diner with a different menu, I query the waiter and the correct one rocks up…much more comprehensive. A clever design incorporating the traditional Palestinian weave with cutlery motifs. The beauty of cuisine from the Arab and Mediterranean world is sharing and one aspect of dining back home in Cyprus that I absolutely adore. Thank goodness my friends here do to. So with freshly squeezed green apple juices in hand and munching on steaming hot wholemeal pitta dipped into olive oil and zaatar, here’s what we order – our choices made easy by mouth-watering photography.

Simsim - Palestinian chinaSimsim cafeSimsim cafe - wall detailShakshukat BandoraArayesSambousek and kibbeh

Shakshukat Bandora – the eggs are described on the menu as poached so I half-expect a version of the traditional North African shakshouka breakfast dish (also on the brekkie menu) but instead the eggs arrive scrambled with a slightly spiced, rich tomato sauce. Different, but works well spread onto the warm pitta. The arayes is a Simsim Levantine speciality – and here it’s gorgeously thick wholemeal pita envelopes stuffed with mince meat and tomato, topped with sesame seeds, which incidentally is the translation of Simsim and a core ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine. Not too oily – moreishly good pure soul food. Our sambousek platter of cheese, beef and veg along with kibbeh is a little forelorn and whilst tasty enough does nothing to differentiate from what every other Arabic restaurant in town dishes up.

Musakhan DajajWe build up to the Musakhan Dajaj – a traditional Palestinian dish of chicken baked with onions, sumac, almonds and pine nuts all perched on taboon, a chickpea flour flatbread. Oh my we’re clearly on a carb-fest day but gosh the chicken is so aromatic and tender, it falls apart as my knife and fork dig in, scooping it onto the marinade soaked-bread. A dollop of yoghurt is all it needs and am in heaven. The pièce de résistance for sure, this is one dish hard to find in Dubai, so if anything head to Simsim for this plate of magic alone.

Sadly though, the menu does feature over-fished hammour. I’ve preached about the importance of seafood sustainability in a number of posts so pretty please Simsim do replace with one of the many ‘green’ and far tastier fish prevalent in UAE waters.

Simsim bill

Sad to present us with the bill, or sad that we have to pay? 😉

Service is a little hit and miss but I put that down to the waiters’ lack of good English – sweet and smiley though – which goes a long way in forgiving the odd pitfall. Our lunch fest bill is AED 126 each with tea, coffee and juices – not bad value given we order four dishes.

I am so, so glad Simsim has opened its doors and we now have a beautiful, bright spot in new Dubai for an authentic Palestinian food fix. Get there before I return.

Have you uncovered any Palestinian restaurants in Dubai that I should know of? Or where do you go for Levantine food?

Simsim is located on the ground level of Sadaf 4 at JBR Walk, right next to Movenpick Jumeirah Beach hotel. T; +971 4 4542319. Open from 8.30am to midnight on weekdays and until 1.30am on weekends. Home delivery also available. Price per head AED 126.

Have a delightfully delicious weekend!

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x


  • Posted under
    Arabic, Cafes, Dubai, Dubai Marina, Jordanian, Levantine, Middle Eastern, Palestinian, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants
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21 Responses to “Open sesame…Simsim”

  1. dave reeder June 20, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Sounds intriguing – hope they deliver to DMC! Have you tried Zaroob in Jumeirah Tower on SH Z Rd?

    As I keep discovering, the hammour story is much more complex than we think. Yes, hammour from the UAE is dangerously over-fished but stocks from Oman are more sustainable. add to that the fact that ‘hammour’ is used for a variety of sub-species of the grouper family. I suspect too that many cheap restaurants are actually calling any white ‘hammour’ because of its popularity. What perhaps we should all be doing is asking questions of restaurant staff about the origins of fish on their menu.

    • FooDiva June 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      They will deliver to DMC for sure.

      Yep tried Zaroob a couple of times and both food and service disappointed…all style and no substance. Love the design though.

      You’re right about hammour. The Zighy Bay folks in Oman were saying the same thing. It certainly helps if we question the restaurant staff to help put pressure. But surely it should come from them and their management – they should be setting an example and educating the consumer. Or am I asking for too much? 😉

  2. GA June 20, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Sounds like a super little find Foodiva 🙂 I have an aversion to JBR though due to the traffic and parking issues 🙂

    • FooDiva June 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      Yep I know what you mean GA. I lunched their mid-week (Sunday) traffic-free with plenty of paid parking diagonally opposite. Or park at Make and walk there 🙂

      • GA June 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm

        sounds like a plan 🙂

  3. dave reeder June 20, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Every time I talk to chefs and ask them why they don’t do more to educate, they claim that it’s not really their responsibility – customer is always right, of course. Some, when they have taken items off the menu, will explain why but I think they don’t ewant to appear pushy. The seem to feel that good alternative produce will do the talking for them.

  4. Holly June 20, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Oh, thanks for sharing this. This looks like just the place my family and I would go to. 🙂

    • FooDiva June 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      Thought it might be right up your street Holly 😉

  5. IshitaUnblogged June 21, 2013 at 12:58 am

    I would love to visit this – cute little name and how you have described. No issues of traffic for me!!! Loved this new find by FooDiva:)

    • FooDiva June 22, 2013 at 8:36 am

      No traffic issues for you Ishita 😉 Enjoy!

      • IshitaUnblogged July 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm

        So so so enjoyed Simsim! The bill was more or less the same – hugged by the same sad face:)

        • FooDiva July 8, 2013 at 8:07 am

          So glad it was consistently good Ishita! Ha ha they need to change to a smiley face 🙂

  6. Penny Mackenzie June 21, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    We visited just after it opened. So glad you have given it a thumbs up. I thouroughly enjoyed our meal. We ordered a similar meal to yours. Yummy.

  7. Penny Mackenzie June 21, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Would it be okay if Ilinked you simsim review on my blog post?

    • FooDiva June 22, 2013 at 8:37 am

      Good to know Simsim’s consistent Penny! Sure feel free to link in. Could you send me the link to your blog post when it’s up? Thanks for dropping in with a comment.

  8. Miriam June 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Simsim sounds delicious! Must try soon! Your description of the Musakhan Dajaj made me hungry! (shame about the hammour though)

    • FooDiva June 25, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      I would return for that dish alone…in fact could just eat it right now 🙂 Appreciate your comment Miriam.

  9. TF February 24, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I actually tried this out on a friend’s recommendation and was equally charmed by both the décor and the food. The breakfast menu is delicious and well worth trying; it was great seeing items you don’t regularly get to sample at most Arabic eateries but they also have the regular omelettes, eggs, falafel etc. for the less adventurous eater. Well-priced, good service and good food. We need more of these gems in Dubai. The rich karak tea was worth the trip alone.

    • FooDiva February 27, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Good to hear it’s consistent Natasha. I must return for breakfast. Sim Sim is my top pick on the Walk and I have included in the Gourmet Trails we have mapped out for Dubai Food Festival.

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