Wine Dine and Play: January 2017

Al Tawasol

The Place To Get Mandi
Dubai, UAE
Dined in November 2016

By Sean Overpeck (CFE)

Have you ever tried Yemeni food?

Some time ago while searching through Netflix, I ran across a documentary food television show called Girl Eat World, where the host traveled to ten cities worldwide, met up with a local food blogger, and explored the cities cuisine styles. In one episode, they visit Dubai. The city is known for its opulence and very expensive restaurants featuring cuisine from around the world. Even when you run across one that serves cuisine from the Middle East, it is typically in the style of Levant. From this show I learned about Al Tawasol, a restaurant featuring Emirati Cuisine. This was my experience...

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Main review:
The day in Dubai became known as the Deira hop, as I went to several places from the Girl Eat World show, essentially hopping around the Deira District of Dubai, an area where the working class of the city live. This area is close to the Dubai International airport and extends out to the docks. You can find several cheaper hotels in this area, and cheaper restaurants as well. With it you also see the side of Dubai that the tourism boards don’t want you to see, the slums. Dubai prides itself on being extremely clean and well manicured. In Deira the trash cans are over flowing, trash on the streets and sidewalks, and higher crime. This is the area that you would normally see in any major city in Europe or America, except in Dubai they try to pretend it doesn’t exist. 

The main group of people that live here are from Asia, with a large group being Indian. Local Emirati’s that don’t have influence with oil or Government also live in this area. The main road leading into downtown Dubai is Abu Baker Al Siddique Road. As you get closer to the creek, the opulence begins, and gets more grand the closer you get to the city center. Along this road is the iconic Deira Clock Tower, and Al Tawasol is just up the street. 

When you enter there are a few tables in the front for those that prefer the typical dining experience of most restaurants. The remainder of the restaurant is a carpeted area, where you remove your shoes and sit on a carpeted floor against a small wall with large pillows up against it to rest your back. Towards the back end of the restaurant is a family section where there are private rooms to seat up to twenty people each, with the same configuration of floor seating and pillows. The Server places a plastic sheet on the ground in front of you, then place a small salad, a homemade salsa, some Leema brand hot sauce. I chose water to drink, but without a preference they delver a soda to you.

Before beginning I went to use the bathroom, and nearly left the restaurant as it was nasty. Unfortunately one thing I have noticed from many restrooms throughout the Middle East, is the lack of cleanliness and personnel hygiene. I usually never go into the bathrooms at the airport unless I have to. the hotels and fine dining restaurants have immaculate bathrooms, but move away from the money and be around the culture, and you see for yourself.  The floor was wet as people throw water all over their faces and heads, splashing it everywhere. In the sink it was covered with snot from people blowing their nose into it, then not cleaning their mess. The floor was also dirty as well as wet, and had a bad smell. In Europe or the United states, I would have walked out and never been back, but again different cultures being taken into account, I stayed. 

A soup was delivered with the salad, and was very aromatic with a little spice, add a squeeze of juice from the lemon and it tasted even better. The two items recommended by the Girl Eat World documentary were the Harees and the Mandi. Since this is a place for locals to come and eat, no menus are provided. They expect you to know what you wanted. Seeing that I was Caucasian, they should have provided a menu with me asking, but again different culture. Across from where I sat on the wall stretching a good twenty feet was a large Emirate flag, and on the other opposite wall, a mural of a Beduin village.

The Harees is a dish of boiled, cracked, or coarsely-ground wheat, with the consistency as porridge, and is very popular during Ramadan. Unfortunately they were sold out. So instead I order the Mandi entree. Mandi is a traditional dish from Hadhramaut, It is also eaten in Aden. It is now very popular in other areas of the Arabian Peninsula, and it is also common in Egypt and Levant. The main thing which differentiates Mandi from other meat dishes is that it is cooked a tandoor, oven, which is usually a hole dug in the ground and covered inside by clay. To cook Mandi, dry wood is placed in the tandoor and burned to generate a lot of heat turning into charcoal. The meat is then suspended inside the tandoor without touching the charcoal. After that, the whole tandoor is closed but an air vent is given to remove excess smoke.

The Mandi served on this menu was chicken, but you can also get lamb Mandi also. It was not heavily seasoned, but a little dry in the center. It was served with a large portion of fluffy jasmine rice filling you up, before you can even finish the chicken. It tasted good with the Leema Hot sauce as well. Other items on their menu include Salona, Madfoon, Mazby, Bokhary, Makboos, and grilled. You could also order beef, sheep, and fish entrees as well.

After the entree I ordered some Arabic Tea. It was a mild green tea served with fresh mint leaves, and was a perfect finish to the Mandi dish. I did not order any dessert, if they had any since I didn’t see a menu until I was about to leave and took a menu to go. 

Other noteworthy Middle Eastern restaurant reviews:
Bourj Al Hamam in Amman, Jordan
Sufra Restaurant in Amman, Jordan
Isteqlal Restaurant in Herat, Afghanistan

Final notes and observations:
When the meal and tea was complete, no check presented, you just pay up front. The total bill was 29 AED which works out to $8 American Dollars, which by far is the cheapest meal I have ever had in that country. The same meal in a restaurant hotel downtown would have easily been 140 AED or $30 American Dollars. On a star rating between zero and five with five being the best I rate Al Tawasol food quality at about two, ambiance the same, and one on customer service and wow factor. The low ratings had a lot to do with the bathrooms being in such bad shape. I’d say give it a try so you can eat what the common folks eat, outside of that, you can pass it by. Listed below are other restaurants in Dubai that have been reviewed over the years.

Other Dubai restaurant reviews on Wine, Dine, and Play:

A Top 100 on Wine, Dine, and Play
Posh French Cuisine
A Top 100 on Wine, Dine, and Play
High Rise Fine Dining 
 A Top 100 on Wine, Dine, and Play
“Mastic” ice-cream
Brazilian Churrascaria
Contemporary Middle Eastern Eatery 
Eclectic Turkish Cuisine
Walk Into The Piemonte
South American Cuisine
Traditional English Dishes
Table 9
Modern European and Global dining
International cuisine at the DXB
International Buffet Al Fresco
Sleek Japanese Eatery in the Grand Hyatt
Yemeni Cuisine w/Mandi
Atlantis At The Palm   
 (Now Bread Street Kitchen and Bar)
BiCE Restaurant, Dubai Marina
Innovative Italian Dishes
Zimbabwe Cuisine with Drum show
Pizza Restaurant
Kunāfah and Restaurant 
French-Italian Restaurant
Now renamed the AOC French Brasserie

Food Prices 
(excluding, alcohol, taxes & gratuity)

$£€¥ -                Under 50.00 
$£€¥ x 2 -          51.00- 99.00 
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 

**Currencies chosen reflect the world’s major travelers and restaurant connoisseur’s**

My food bill:
Price chart:
Emirati Dirham (AED)
United States Dollar (USD)
Australian Dollar (AUS)
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
European Union (EUR)

Currency rates as of January 2017

Al Tawasol:
Clock Tower Round About
Abu Baker Al Siddique Rd 
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Contact Information: 

Maître d or host:
+971 (4) 295-9797
Trip Advisor: Al Tawasol
email: Contact Al Tawasol
Social Media: Facebook

Serving hours:

Daily: Mon-Sun
11:00 am - 1:00 am

Review basics:

5 stars
 is Extraordinary
4 Stars
 is Outstanding
3 Stars
Exceeded Expectations
2 Stars
is Above the Average
1 Star
is an Average Dining Experience
No Star Rating
The Restaurant is Basic, Poor, or Appalling

Overall Star Rating:
1 of 5 Stars:
Is an Average Dining Experience 
Restaurant style:
Casual or Conservative
Not Required
Child policy:

The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a child’s menu or cater to them; however for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended for children not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette
Hire a Babysitter! 
Dress code:
Casual, or Conservative attire
Cuisine style:
Contemporary, Modern, Arabian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, & Vegetarian
Place for foodies, Beautiful décor, Rustic, Hole-in-the-wall, Tourist grabber, and a Neighborhood gem.
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Street Parking
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Low to Medium
Nonsmoking restaurant

The worlds best restaurants, based on the  
That have been visited and reviewed on this site…

Chicago, Illinois, USA
Sydney, Australia
Woodstock, Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa
Austin, Texas, USA
Bordeaux, France
Melbourne, Australia
 Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Constantia, Cape Town, South Africa
Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
Paris, France
Saint Petersburg, Florida USA
Sydney, Australia
Dublin, Ireland
Yountville, Napa, California, USA
Dubai, UAE
Franschhoek, South Africa
New Orlean’s, Louisiana, USA
Ripponlea, Melbourne, Australia
San Francisco, California, USA
Denver, Colorado, USA
London, United Kingdom
Dubai, UAE
Festival City, Dubai, UAE
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Christchurch, New Zealand

Reviewed by:
Sean Overpeck (CFE)
Picture below was taken outside of Dubai, UAE
On a desert sand dune ride in 2010

About Sean:

I am based out of St. Petersburg, Florida working in the food service industry for the past twenty years, and am currently with the American Embassy as the Executive Chef in Basra, Iraq. Formally I have worked with groups contracting in Afghanistan, and Antarctica, also working in restaurants in and around Atlanta, Georgia prior to the wars. I have also owned a catering company and served proudly in the United States Army Food Service Program. The idea for Wine, Dine, and Play started in late 2012 after a trip to Jordan, when I was asked by friends to write down the experiences from a few Jordanian restaurants, wine from the region that I tasted, and locations of interest such as Petra. Since that time, over 250 articles have been written on restaurants, including fifteen from the worlds top 100 lists of San Pellegrino and the Elite Travelers Guide. There are articles on exotic world locations such as Victoria Falls, and South African Safari’s; food recipes & Grand Food Dictionaries; ethnic country cuisines such as Afghan, and Peruvian; tasting tours of world cities like Charleston, Cape Town, and Dubai; and of course wine from vineyards in California, Oregon, the Carolina’s, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, with much more to see and write about.

Who is John Galt?

“Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, 
But in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
-Angelique Arnauld (1591-1661)

Other articles of interest on Wine, Dine, and Play:

Shark Cage Diving in South Africa
Thanksgiving in Antarctica, McMurdo, Ross Island
Fugitives Drift Lodge in Kwa-Zulu-Natal
Afghan Cuisine, Herat to Kabul
Peruvian Cuisine Andes to Lima
United States Marine Corps Birthday 2013 in Herat, Afghanistan
A Taste of McMurdo, Antarctica
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Red Hills Market in Willamette, Oregon

(coming soon) 
Petra, Jordan
A Taste of Dubai 
A Taste of South Africa vol 1 & 2
Wine, Dine, And Play’s “best of” List
FOB Shank - Cooking with Incoming


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