Unsociable Socialites

Social House
Between Star Atrium and Dubai Fountain,
Lower Ground Level, Dubai Mall, 
Downtown Dubai, Dubai

16th January, 2017


What happened? Who? Who’s here? Where’s here? Dammit! Tell me WHO and WHERE and WHAT!!


First ‘The Who’ (not the band!) – An old friend, one whom I have not met for a long time (and coincidentally lives in a galaxy far far away!)

Second ‘The Where’ – Social House, Dubai Mall

Third ‘The What’ – To tell you the what happened on the afternoon of 16th of January, 2017, I have to take you back to the events that aspired over a week ago, on the 8th of January, 2017.

8th January, 2017 – A day at the doctors. Not the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I entered the hospital, along with my mum (I’m not what you’d call a hospital-lover), just in time for my appointment. An hour and a half later, we were done. We paid the bill, bought some chocolates from the hospital vending machine, and made our way towards the exit. However, before we could step out, I asked my mum if we could pay a small visit to my friend’s parents who worked in the same hospital. Upon enquiring with the receptionist, we learned that it would be possible to only meet my friend’s father, however we’d have to wait for another half hour before he comes in for the evening shift. “We come all the way here, might as well stay another half hour and meet him” was the general consensus.

And so the next half hour was spent sitting on those God awful hospital chairs, staring at the fish tank across us or at any incoming patients or as most of us do – at our mobile phones. It was 10 minutes past five o’clock when we saw the doc walking in the corridor. He greeted us with a smile, and then led us to his room, where the next 10-15 minutes were spent on the usual topics – “How are you?”; “How is the family?”; and “What are you doing now?”. It was in the midst of the discussion, when he mentioned that Arun (my friend) was going to visit Dubai for a short break (emphasis on short). Not wanting to waste anymore of the doc’s time, mum and I said our byes and made our way towards the exit (this time we went through!)

15th January, 2017 – On the road to meet a friend for lunch. A better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Ring! A message alert. I took out my phone and opened the message that I had received. It was from Arun. In response to my question regarding his availability for Monday brunch, he replied in the affirmative. So it was set. Brunch. Monday Afternoon. Where? Well that was the tricky bit. Back home after lunch, I immediately logged into my laptop and began a search of restaurants with various filters – ratings, breakfast and lunch menus, and somewhere close to the metro line. It took me about 15 minutes to arrive at a restaurant that successfully ticked all the boxes, only to be told by Google Maps and reiterated by my mum that it was not close enough to the metro station. Another 10 minutes in, and I was ready to throw in the towel, however it was then when we (and by we I mean mum…thanks!) finally found the perfect restaurant in the perfect location – Social House in Dubai Mall. I checked with Arun to see if he was comfortable with brunch at Dubai Mall, given the distance he has to travel. “OK. Looks Good.” came the response. Now it was set. Brunch. Monday Afternoon. Social House.

16th January, 2017 – Another day at the doctors. Just a check-up. The plan was to finish at the doctor’s at half-past ten, meet Arun at the metro station, travel to Dubai Mall, and have brunch. But rarely do plans work out this well. Mum and I entered the hospital at 10 a.m., hoping to be the doc’s first patient. Unfortunately we weren’t, and as a result we had to wait for another hour before we could see the doctor. By the time we were done at the hospital, it was half-past 11, and any hopes of getting to the restaurant in time to try out their breakfast items had completely vanished. No matter, we took a cab to the metro station, where we were met by the doctor-to-be Arun! Now, as the title of the article suggests, we are not really what you’d call the talkative sort, but if you were a passenger on the Dubai Metro or happened to walk beside us on the Dubai Mall metro link you’d beg to differ. The entire journey was spent on nostalgic discussions about our early years in school, especially our mutual class-mates and gaming sessions (The Phantom Menace…WooHoo!). By the time we reached inside Dubai Mall, it was 12 noon, and I could feel the hunger rise inside of me.

Describing Dubai Mall as ‘Huge’ would be an understatement. Over 13 million square feet in size, Dubai Mall, with its numerous escalators and elevators, is like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; in that it is as confusing to first timers as it is to regular visitors. Identical shops (much like the identical staircases as Hogwarts) line the walkways and each escalator takes you to different parts of the mall. It is, thus, fortunate that there exists information booths across the mall to help navigation-retarded customers, like myself, reach Point B from Point A with minimal difficulty. It was no different on that day. With no particular thanks to a faulty information board, we landed up at the parking lot. It took us a few minutes to find the right signs to get us to the restaurant.

Located on the lower ground floor of Dubai Mall, Social House is the what I imagine restaurants in vineyards would look like. Picture perfect in every way. From the American cabin-in-the-wood like structure to the French market-like environment to the African cluster of trees growing in between tables. The restaurant provides diners three seating options – outdoor seating with a clear view of the Dubai Fountains and the pristine Burj Khalifa; indoor seating located near the kitchen and away from the noise; and an open seating arrangement at the mouth of the restaurant that provides diners the opportunity to eat while watching as passersby look in envy at your plate. As much as I wanted to choose the latter, especially for the envy part, we decided to choose the second option.

We were led in by our waiter, and seeing the vast number of empty seats that were there for the taking, it took us a couple of head-turns to decide where we were going to sit. Given that it was mum that chose the place, we let her decide, and she could not have selected a better place to dine. We sat by the window, which gave us the best of outdoor and indoor seating – serenity, a view of the kitchen, free access to the Dubai Fountain Show (which happened twice during our meal), occasional sunlight, and probably the first 30-40 floors of the Burj Khalifa. While we soaked in the delightful view outside, our waiter walked up to a stand nearby and picked up three items that hung on clothes hangers. Only when she placed them in front of us did I realize that those were our menu cards. Ingenious or Waste of resources? I’ll let you decide that. But then again what sort of reviewer would I be if I let readers decide for themselves. So, if you asked me this question, I would have to say it was a bit of both. While the idea is certainly unique in terms of presentation and convenient for waiters (a benefit that was on show when I saw another waiter seamlessly pick up the menu cards as he walked his guests to their seats), it’s use, particularly the hanger, is highly questionable. Unless you have someone (or something) holding up the menu as you read through it, the hanger becomes an extra item on the table and is ultimately redundant.

Browsing through the menu, we found the restaurant to have a wide array of choices – from Indian and Oriental (East) to American and Italian (West). While my mum knew exactly what she wanted, Arun and I were left stranding, our mouths drooling (at least mine was!) over the various dishes on the menu, trying to find a dish worthy of our stomachs. Personally, I had a tough time deciding whether to go for Italian or Indonesian cuisine, but since I had had Chinese food the previous day (yes, I know they are not the same but it’s all from the same family!), I thought it best to stick to the former. When the waiter arrived at our table, we placed our order – 1 Mie Goreng (extra spicy!), 1 Quinoa Biryani, 1 Spaghetti Prawns (not too spicy!). To accompany our main course, we ordered 1 Lemonade, 1 GingerAle, and 1 Lychee Iced Tea.

Just as the waiter left our table, a familiar tune caught my ear – ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ (a tune familiar to Coldplay concert goers and those who have watched Mr. Bean’s Holiday!). As I looked outside the window to identify the source of the music, I noticed that it was coming from the speakers outside. On cue, the Dubai Fountain Show began, and streaks of water sprayed and danced to the Italian operatic tune. Personally I feel that the spectacle is at its best after sundown. Anyway, no sooner had the show concluded than our order arrived.

 ( From top to bottom ): The Spaghetti Prawns; Mie Goreng; Quinoa Biryani
(From top to bottom): The Spaghetti Prawns; Mie Goreng; Quinoa Biryani

Just by looking at the size of the plates on the tray, I knew we were going to get our money’s worth. The Quinoa Biryani was ordered from the “small plates” section, but apart from the marble plate that it was served on, there was nothing small about the dish. It was almost American size, and probably the largest of the three dishes. Whether or not taste was directly proportional to the size of the dishes (larger the plates, tastier the dish!), that remained to be seen.

Before I can answer that question, I think it best to first commend the Social House Chef for his brilliant plating and presentation skills. “You eat with your eyes first” is a commonly heard phrase, and I would not have been surprised had my eyeballs popped out from my eye-sockets, picked up a fork, and started guzzling down the food in front of me (though I would not have been able to see such a spectacle!). The Quinoa Biryani, hidden under a cover of puff pastry and served in a black pot placed on a flat, brown marble plate, was the highlight of the presentation. The Mie Goreng and the Spaghetti Prawns were not short of brilliance themselves. Though not as extravagantly plated as the Biryani, the dishes did not disappoint in setting our mouths on ‘drool’ mode. Served in an Oriental-inspired rusty bowl, the Goreng had all the markings of a spicy dish – from the spice-infused noodles to the topping of thinly sliced red chilis. The mountain of Spaghetti, drowned in pesto sauce, surrounded by freshly peeled shrimps, and topped with grated cheese was enough to make me want to drive my work through the centre and start twirling.

And now we come to the tasting! Having tasted all three dishes, I think it would serve me and you, readers, well if I were to rate each dish separately. Since I had the Spaghetti Prawns, I think I shall start there. The spaghetti, in itself, was wholesome, filling, and drowned in enough pesto to make any basil lover weak in the knees. The prawns, surrounding the mountain of spaghetti, were extremely fresh (just off the boat fresh). I, personally, struggled to finish off the dish despite it being the smallest of three dishes on the table. If there was a complaint to be made, it was that the dish, overall, was devoid of any spice (reminder: I had asked for ‘mild’ spice not ‘no’ spice!). The next comes the Mie Goreng. Though I had only a bite of the dish, I thought it ticked all the right boxes – flavourful; spicy; and definitely Indonesian. It was so good that it made me rethink my decision to go Italian. Lastly, the Quinoa Biryani. Now, I maybe the last person to whole-heartedly embrace the “healthy” trend in food, but if I were served this dish again, I would not think twice before gulping it down. Modernising the traditional vegetarian biryani (or veg pulao to any irate biryani lovers), the dish was indeed extremely flavourful and the quinoa successfully infused in itself the masala from the various vegetables. One note of complaint that I had with the dish was the existence of numerous bay leaves, cinnamon barks, and cardamom cockroaches. Though I do agree these spices give off a flavour that a dish like biryani would otherwise sorely miss, a bite into any one of these and I often find my stomach to lose its appetite (no matter how hungry I may be!). It’s surprising that in today’s invention-obsessed world, no one has been able to solve this ‘spice’ problem.

Satisfied with our meal, and absolutely no room in our stomachs for dessert, we decided to call it a day. We asked the waiter for our check. The moment the bill touched the table, there was a moment of tug-of-war as Arun and my mum tussled for the bill each claiming their right over it. Yes, I was just watching. Anyway, my mum pulled out the “You’re like my son” card and that was the end of the discussion. We paid the bill and made our way towards the exit, sure that it would not be too long before we stepped back into the restaurant to try out their other dishes (and hopefully dessert!). And next time we will be ready for a heavy meal!

Social House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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