Zou Good!

Shop 428, South 17,
La Mer,
Jumeirah 1,
United Arab Emirates

12th December, 2017

“And MacKenzie thought ‘This Old House’ was working on the same house every week.” – Will McAvoy
“That was reasonable.” – MacKenzie McHale
“It took them six months to build the city of Dubai. You think they were renovating the same mid-century colonial for 15 years?” – Will McAvoy
– The Newsroom (S01E05)

Well, to be fair, the blueprints state that the original plan was to build the city of Dubai in seven months. However, an argument was put forward, stating that if God could take off on the seventh day, surely it would make sense to not work on the seventh month. Logic, am I right?!

Jokes aside (and I mean that lightly), it is astonishing the rate at which Dubai has, and continues to grow. Having moved to the city when it was nothing more than a few skyscrapers, wide empty roads, and empty barren fields of sand, I continue to find myself in awe at the number of “new development projects” that Dubai finds itself under. If there is a perfect analogy of the city of Dubai, it would be that of an unsatisfied middle aged woman (or man!) seeking his/her tenth appointment in as many days at the plastic surgeon’s office.

So, it was to no one’s surprise – least mine – when I heard of Dubai’s plan to set up a Los Angeles inspired beachfront “development” – La Mer. Sigh! At this rate, finding an empty plot of land, in the near future, will be akin to finding a needle in the haystack. Getting back to what matters, it was on my annual Christmas trip back to the motherland when I had the opportunity to see for myself whether Dubai’s own L.A. lived up to its hype. Plus, it was also a chance to meet up with friends and grab a bite to eat. The latter being more important (obviously!).

If you ask me (or anyone else), December is one of the better months if you are planning a visit to this desert-turned-metropolis. This, in full, can be attributed to the weather. A welcome mix of sun and breeze, which makes a trip to the beach a worthwhile visit and not a constant reminder of the various potential skin hazards that you might encounter if you don’t immerse yourself in SPF 9000 and above. Trying to make the best out of a good situation, we decided to head out for dinner to La Mer.

We arrived at the beachfront at a quarter to eight in the evening. As we pulled up to the car park, we were greeted by an abnormally large sign – “LA MER” – hidden amongst the trees lining the middle of the road. While spectacular when lit, what was most amusing was the lack of spacing between the two words, which made it seem like ‘Lamer’ – surely not a sign for things to come (or was it?). The beachfront glowed a radiant yellow against the dark and dimly lit evening sky. As we gathered by the South Wing of La Mer, we decided to stroll around the area, picking a spot to rest our buttocks for a nice meal as we explored this beautiful, yet surprisingly eerie, beachfront.

I say surprisingly eerie because there weren’t many people about the area, nor, as we came to learn a little later, were there too many restaurants open on this side of the strip. Turns out the South Wing was still in development. So, we walked up to the information board to try and find a way to the North side (I bet you’re reading this in your best GoT voice). This led us on quite a bit of a walk, which was good in a way as it built up our appetite as we reached the more crowded, and the more popular North Wing. As we began to explore more of La Mer, our stomachs decided that it was time we found a place to eat. Unfortunately, the drawback of having too many restaurants (one of the 99 problems) is that it takes making a decision that much longer.

Thus, we resorted to the age-old restaurant game – ‘Yes or No!’. The rules of the game is simple really. As you pass a restaurant you look at your friends and give them the “questioning” look. If majority nods, then you go ahead and enter the restaurant, if they shake their heads, then you move ahead to the next restaurant. It took us a few tries and a few narrow votes before we all unanimously decided on ZouZou. Part of the decision to eat at ZouZou’s was because majority of the diners at the restaurant were locals. As they (yea, don’t ask me who) say, if you see Chinese people in a Chinese restaurant, you know the food is good. With that logic, we entered the restaurant and were given the choice of either being seated outside or inside. The weather, while quite pleasant, was not enough to tempt us to sit outside. The added bonus of watching the chefs prepare our food, given the open kitchen plan, pushed us further inside the restaurant. We did sit, however, by the window – a poor man’s attempt to feel like you were sitting outside!

We sat down and began to admire the interiors of the restaurant, and salivate over the plates of khubz and hummus flying out of the oven and kitchen. Before the drool could fall any further, we were each handed a Moroccan blue, Persian-influenced-designed menu ‘book’. Even before looking at the menu, I was aware that the restaurant specialised in Middle-Eastern cuisine. However, as I flipped over the gigantic menu, I was surprised (and taken aback) by the inclusion of burgers and pastas in the menu. You would think, surely no one would come to a restaurant such as this and order a pasta! Well, you would be mistaken! (and don’t call me Shirley!) As it turns out, half of the party seated at our table decided to be foodie pariahs and order off the pasta menu. It’s times like this when the ‘Yes or No’ game really fails!

 ( From left to right ) - Penne Arrabbiata, Mix Grill, Fettuccine Alfredo, Beyti Kebab, Arayes
(From left to right) – Penne Arrabbiata, Mix Grill, Fettuccine Alfredo, Beyti Kebab, Arayes

The rest of the party (me included!) thought it would be best to try out Middle-Eastern food in a Middle-Eastern restaurant. Shocker! Given that we had walked a long way to get here (just like the bedouins of yore), our appetites were built as much as they could be. So, without any hesitation, we proceeded to order our dinner. It wasn’t long before the waiter arrived with my drink – a Virgin Apple Mojito – along with our plate of hummus and piping hot khubz. In an attempt to cool down the khubz, we began to burst open the “craters” and ‘Boomerang’ the smoke escaping the bread. Once it was cooled down, we divided the large piece of khubz into four almost equal pieces and began digging into the hummus. The texture of the hummus was exactly how it was meant to be – smooth, almost velvety – with just a slight hint of the chickpea grain. The only negative was the excess use of tahini during the mixing process, which rendered the hummus to be paler than it was meant to be. With the khubz plate empty and the hummus bowl nearly squeaky clean, it was time for our main course to arrive.

For a Middle-Eastern restaurant, it was slightly surprising to see the pasta dishes to be the first to arrive at the table. Surely, you would expect the local cuisine to be pumped out with ferocity by the kitchen! Instead, what arrived at our table were two abnormally large, upturned red ceramic Sombrero hats, the centre of which was filled to the brim with Penne pasta (for the Penne Arrabbiata) and creamy Fettuccine (for the Fettuccine Alfredo). In terms of looks and presentation, there was nothing special or different. They looked no different from the pastas in other restaurants. Unfortunately, for my friends, the same could be said about the taste. It was ordinary. There was nothing in the dish that persuaded my friends to try and tempt me to get a bite of the dish. Well…that’s what happens when you order a pasta in a restaurant like this.

Fortunately for the two of us, who had ordered the right cuisine (or so we thought at the time), the waiters arrived with the rest of our main course. As each of the plates were placed on the table, I began to regret having ordered so much food. There was simply one too many pieces of meat at the table (and I don’t mean us!). We began with the Beyti Kebab – spiced lamb meat wrapped inside oven-baked bread served on a bed of yogurt, tomato, garlic and parsley. It was certainly one of the most unique kebabs I have ever tried. The lamb inside was succulent and had the right amount of spice, the bread was baked to perfection, yet the yogurt and tomato provided a heavy hint of tanginess, which took me a while to get used to. Having popped in a few pieces of the Beyti kebab, we proceeded to the platter of grilled lamb and chicken kebabs lying on a wooden plate, topped with two thinly-cut strips of spiced Khubz, and served with a side of thinly-sliced spiced raw onions. The platter consisted of three lamb kebabs – the Adana kebab, the Urfa kebab, and the traditional Shish kebab; one chicken shish kebab; and one portion of lamb chops. As we began devouring the kebabs, we noticed the untouched plate of Arayes lying on the opposite side of the table, beside two empty pasta bowls. Realising that we had a tough job in trying to finish off our meal, we asked our friends to share the Arayes with us. Having been disappointed with their pasta dishes, they duly obliged, picking up a piece each of the Arayes – the Middle-Eastern quesadillas. Of the kebabs that were in the platter, it was probably the Adana and the shish kebabs that were the standout performers. That’s not to say that the lamb chops and the Urfa kebab were not any good! It surely re-affirmed our decision to stick with ordering Middle-Eastern food.

By the time our bellies had reached maximum capacity (without any buttons being undone!), we looked across the table to find the extent of the damage we had created. There was nothing on most of the plates/wooden boards, save for a couple of pieces of the Arayes. Deciding that our stomachs had had enough for the day, we asked the waiter to doggy pack the pieces, saving them for a rainy day (which would be the next day!). As our table was being cleared, and the plates were taken back to the kitchen, we tried our best to raise our arms and signal for the check. It was a good thing that the check to a while to arrive, because had we seen the bill on a full stomach, I’m sure we would have made every attempt to bring it all back to its original state. It was now time to play the second restaurant game – ‘Calculate’! The only rule: Make sure no one overpays (or at least you don’t!). We made our way out of the restaurant, ready to burn off our calories as we made our way back to the South Wing where the cars were parked. I wasn’t sure whether I would be back soon to ZouZou. While the food was certainly delicious (if you order the right cuisine!), the price did seem a little over the odds for a local meal. Tell you what…knock off 50 bucks off that meal and just like the Terminator…I’ll be back!

On a completely unrelated side-note: As we made our way back towards the car, we stopped by a Turkish ice-cream stalled and two of us got utterly humiliated (on video!) in the cone grabbing spectacle of 2017! Guess there’s always room for dessert!

Zouzou Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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