If you have been in Dubai as long as I have and have suddenly noticed a strip of cargo containers converted into outlets, that is now known as Box Park, replacing the once heavily desired Al Wasl Road villas, you are probably in the same conundrum as I was.
Amidst the attractiveness of the colorful box containers, the quirky indoor set up of FILFUL stands out, boasting Beirut’s street food that has now made an appearance in Dubai.
For long as I can remember, Arabic cuisine in Dubai prominently meant restaurants catering Lebanese cuisine, due to the popularity and majority as compared to the neighboring Arab regions or even traditional Emirati cuisine. Although preference towards Lebanese restaurants still remains constant, various options for regional Arabic eats are abundantly available these days, hooray!
Entering FILFUL, I am serenaded with what I can only relate to as pop cultural Arabic music that grows on me and fits the set ambiance. The quaint set up is inviting, keeping in tune and capturing the street-style aspect of the small alleyways of Beirut where restaurants still thrive, despite the lack of passageway.
I am seated next to wall stacked high with boxes of ‘Pepsi-Cola’ that have been imported from Lebanon, whilst the server pours water imported from Lebanon as well. I could then sense that FILFUL strictly keeps it Lebanese, as much as possible.
The menu is presented as a newspaper with tidbits of valuable and humorous information about Beirut’s streets, an entertaining read of a menu, that’s for sure.
Ordering is easy, as most of the well-known Arabic dishes adorn the menu that tickle the taste buds, from cold to hot mezzes, with a few items strict to Beirut’s street style stand out.
The mezzes were well plated sizeable portions served alongside pre-packaged Arabic bread. Hummus with meat and pine nuts, Raheb – roasted eggplants complimented with pomegranate seeds, lemon and garlic sauce along with garlic lebneh and batata harra kick started the FILFUL on a high. The pre-packaged bread was a downer, considering that most Arabic restaurants offer fresh-out of the oven bread. As well as the falafel, perfectly crisp on the outside but remained pasty on the inside.
On to the mains, the lamb was moist, flavorsome and grilled to perfection as well as the thick chunks of chicken. I have grown tired of the having chicken that has been charred dry, glad that was not the case at FILFUL. A plate of arayees, essentially lamb kofta grilled between Arabic bread to resemble a size of pizza lacked the robust flavors and the limited meat filling did not do justice to the dish as well.
Halawet el Jeben, a cheese dough filled with ashta (pastry cream) and sugar syrup with the layali Lebnan was gulped with a piping hot Lebanese coffee ended a satisfactory and introductory meal at FILFUL.
I order a lot.
I ate a lot.
And it was a ful-fil-ing experience. 🙂
BOXPARK, Al Wasl Road