Is Seven Sands a strong addition to Dubai’s Emirati dining scene?
Stepping into Seven Sands, a new contemporary Emirati restaurant in Dubai, felt like stepping into a spa; a very quiet sanctuary cut off from the hustle and bustle of JBR with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the beach. I arrived with an Emirati friend just as sun was setting; perfect timing.
We were welcomed with a simple yet mouthwatering complimentary strip of thin, crispy and warm flat bread sprinkled with zaatar flakes and a chilli labneh dip on the side. Our smiley waiter was extremely knowledgeable with the Emirati dishes, responding well to our flow of questions. I decided to start with jisheed bil ajeen (minced shark) on baked dough, while my friend opted for a rocket salad where the leaves were plucked fresh from an Al Ain farm and tossed with sliced, raw, green mango in a zesty dressing. “Tangy” was her response – which had her stop half way through feeling satisfied but wishing the level of zest was toned down just a little bit. My appetiser had a thin layer of what tasted like sweet chilli infused amongst the aromatic, minced shark meat and warm, plump bread; an excellent contrast. Both appetisers were generous portions.
For our main course, we both craved thereed. My friend opted for the lamb version and I chose chicken. Thereed is very similar to a Moroccan tagine, however the highlight here was the generous layers of rigag (Arabic bread) at the base of the dish, topped with a heart-warming stew of succulent meat and slow-roasted veggies (marrow, pumpkin, potatoes and tomatoes) – a simple, comforting, carb-loaded dish. One that you feel you must stop eating but you simply cannot. I enjoyed tucking into mine, although wished there was less of the bread and more of the veggies. I’m a big fan of cinnamon, which was evident in my dish, however my friend felt it overpowered hers.
Halfway through, we paused to take our dessert outdoors on the terrace with a refreshing ocean breeze (but not so refreshing now). We digested with a strong Turkish coffee and shared a much-anticipated ferni with khabeesa – a typical Emirati dessert made of crumbled roasted flour with sugar, ghee, ground cardamom, rose water and saffron – and garnished with nuts and sultanas. I was excited to try Seven Sands’ reincarnation having literally fallen in love over and over again with a sweet shop version – but it did not impress. I was slightly disappointed to see that vermicelli covered the top layer, though in all honesty, I can’t fault them given the menu clearly describes dishes as “Emirati with a contemporary twist”. Sad to say that it tasted very heavy and similar to kanafeh.
Expect to pay around AED 160 per head for three courses which is reasonable taking into consideration the extremely generous portions, and the fact that even though we have a handful of dedicated Emirati restaurants in Dubai, we don’t have many modern interpretations. The rather clean, clinical venue however requires some life and spice. Perhaps a local Oud player in the background? And an Emirati welcoming you to explain the concept behind Seven Sands, and the seven emirates? On the other hand, as we squiggled our way to the front door, we were offered a complimentary local coffee with cardamom to cleanse our palate, and a splash of cool rose water to wash our hands. A beautiful gesture to end our dinner. Service was immaculate and very friendly, without being overbearing and intrusive. The manager even stepped out to quickly introduce himself and to ask how we enjoyed our meal. Seven Sands clearly delivered a local experience with a contemporary twist – perfect for residents and tourists who are hesitant on sampling the true, authentic, local cuisine, yet curious to discover.
Would you prefer to dine at a local Emirati restaurant with a modern twist? Or are you a purist who would love to try traditional, local fare?
Who is FooDiva’s new guest reviewer Noura? Born and raised in the UAE, she is an adventurous foodie. She offers her signature outdoor fusion yogalates classes over a therapeutic ocean view while hosting internationally-led yoga teacher training programmes in Dubai. Check out her wellness action here, or follow her on Instagram @yogalatesblissindubai