Dubai

Jun 272015
 

Iftar at 3in1, Vida Downtown Dubai

 


Total Salads’ Verdict: VIDA Downtown’s Iftar at their restaurant 3in1 makes eating healthy easy. They have taken a socially responsible approach to their Iftar buffet in an effort to avoid the large amount of food which gets wasted at traditional buffets. Starters and desserts are buffet-style while the main course is a set menu brought to your table. Starters consist of soups, a good variety of salads, and freshly baked savoury pastries. The main course consists of four traditional slow-cooked nourishing Middle Eastern dishes. Desserts include fresh and dried fruits, baklava, pastries and puddings. This is a great place for Iftar if you are looking for a serene unhurried atmosphere, understated decor, and a well-planned healthy menu.

 

Restaurant: 3in1 at VIDA Downtown Dubai

 

Location: Vida Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, The Old Town, Downtown Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Price Range: AED170 for adults, AED85 for children over age 6-12, free for children aged 5 and under. Iftar is served every day during Ramadan from sunset until 10pm


 

VENUE

 

Iftar at 3in1, Vida Downtown Dubai

 

If I have to describe VIDA Downtown’s restaurant 3in1 in three words, it would be ‘less is more.’ The decor is chic and understated, with draped white curtains, sprays of gypsophila flowers (that’s baby’s breath to you and me), and soft lighting which is accented with candles and lanterns. Tables are not crammed together but are well spaced apart, waiting staff is discreet and efficient, and the whole ambience is serene and calm. In keeping with its name, 3in1 gives you three options of where to sit: indoors, outdoors on the terrace, or outdoors in cabanas around the pool.

 

In an effort to cut down on the common problem of food wastage which is a casualty of the big buffets that are so popular in the UAE, VIDA Downtown’s Iftar offers diners a set menu of four traditional Middle Eastern main course dishes brought to your table, along with a well-edited and cohesive buffet for starters and desserts. ‘Well-edited’ is not a euphemism for ‘lacking in variety’ – there is plenty to choose between, but not so much that your head spins. Their carefully planned menu makes eating healthy easy.

 

 

STARTERS AND DRINKS

 

Iftar at 3in1, Vida Downtown Dubai

 

The hand-crafted drinks at 3in1 are beautifully presented in a large wooden ice-filled crate. They look like a rainbow of colours captured in glass bottles. There is fresh green apple juice and fresh orange juice, still and sparkling water, laban (yogurt drink), and a variety of thirst-quenching fragrant cordials including karkade (hibiscus), kamardine (apricot), tamarind, and jallab with pine nuts. I tried the kamardine, tamarind and jallab, and they were all refreshing, well-balanced and not too sweet. If you prefer something warm, you’ll be glad to know that tea, coffee and Arabic coffee are also included in the price of the Iftar.

 

The starters are all healthy so you really can’t make a wrong choice.

 

There are two hearty soups, lentil and harira. I enjoyed the earthy lentil soup with a squeeze of lemon and tranche of brown bread.

 

There are at least 20 prepared salads, mostly Middle Eastern. I tried most of them and they were all very good, especially the Beetroot Moutabel, Okra and Tomato Salad, Mujadara (rice and lentil salad), and Beef Salad. You can also build your own salad with a variety of fresh vegetables, cold cuts and salad dressings presented in mason jars. I often judge a restaurant by the quality of their olives, and the green and black olives here were the real deal. Bitter and properly cured, not simply decanted from a supermarket jar (unfortunately salad bars are notorious for going cheap on the olives, but this is not a problem at 3in1).

 

Iftar at 3in1, Vida Downtown Dubai

 

If you need something more solid to accompany your soups and salads, fear not. Freshly baked savoury pastries regularly emerge from the fired oven where a baker is producing small batches of fatayer, sambousek, manakeesh and saj filled with cheese, zataar, spinach and minced lamb.

 

 

MAIN COURSE

 

Iftar at 3in1, Vida Downtown Dubai

 

Once you are finished with your starters, you simply need to inform your waiter that you are ready for the main course and he will serve it at your table. There are four traditional Middle Eastern main course dishes, slow-cooked and nourishing. I have always appreciated a restaurant which makes fewer dishes very well as opposed to a restaurant which offers a frightening number of disjointed dishes, so I absolutely love this approach to the main course. This is what was brought to our table:

 

Lamb Ouzi – a traditional Emirati dish of slow-cooked lamb and rice studded with peas, sultanas and cashews. The dish is well-seasoned and fragrant with soft melt-in-your-mouth lamb and perfectly cooked rice. Both my husband and I agreed that it was the best dish on the table. My husband is not a fan of lamb so he tried this dish with trepidation, but he really enjoyed it. And as for me, it was the dish which I kept diving into even after we were finished eating, just for ‘one last taste.’

 

Chicken Molokhia – a flavourful slow cooked soup made with molokhia leaves (which are similar to spinach) and tender chicken. Very healing and nourishing.

 

Mixed Grill – a platter of well-grilled succulent lamb chops, minced lamb kebabs, and marinated chicken on skewers.

 

Vegetable Salona – mixed vegetables stewed in tomatoes and mild spices. A good dish but my least favourite of the four main dishes. I believe the chef was keeping true to the original traditional recipe, but I would have liked the vibrancy of some fresh coriander on it.

 

 

DESSERTS

 

Iftar at 3in1, Vida Downtown Dubai

 

There are lots of desserts to choose from, definitely something for everybody.

The healthier desserts include dried fruit, freshly cut fruit, and pretty white colanders of uncut whole fruit. I tried my first ever slice of yellow watermelon that evening and the sliced mango was sweet and juicy. My only real criticism is that some of the cut fruit could have been riper, and the plum which I tried from one of the white colanders was not as yieldingly ripe as I like my fruit to be.

There is also a beautifully arranged table of Middle Eastern desserts including baklava, warm date pudding and creamy thick warm Umm Ali. There are some European pastries, soft puddings, and a selection of mason jars filled with chocolate mousse, panna cotta and jelly.

 

 

 

TOTAL SALADS’ FINAL VERDICT:

 

VIDA Downtown’s Iftar at their restaurant 3in1 makes eating healthy easy. They have taken a socially responsible approach to their Iftar buffet in an effort to avoid the large amount of food which gets wasted at traditional buffets. Starters and desserts are buffet-style while the main course is a set menu brought to your table. Starters consist of soups, a good variety of salads, and freshly baked savoury pastries. The main course consists of four traditional slow-cooked nourishing Middle Eastern dishes. Desserts include fresh and dried fruits, baklava, pastries and puddings. This is a great place for Iftar if you are looking for a serene unhurried atmosphere, understated decor, and a well-planned healthy menu.

 

 

 

Full Disclosure: My family of three was invited as guests to try Iftar at 3in1, Vida Downtown. All content reflects my honest opinion.

 

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Mar 152015
 

Nabali Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

 

I have lived in Dubai (UAE) for several years and most of the extra virgin olive oil I have bought here has been from Italy or Greece. Once in a while, a bottle of Tunisian oil makes its way into my kitchen, but by and large I have not been very experimental with olive oils from different regions.

 

About a month ago, I made a conscious decision to seek out good quality extra virgin olive oils from different countries. There are lots of regions in the world which have excellent climates for producing olive oil and many of them are not very far from the UAE.

 

But where to start? I had heard about a place in Dubai called The Change Initiative. It is more than simply a shop which sells things, it is an entire concept. The Change Initiative promotes environmentally and socially responsible living in all aspects of our life whether it is the furniture or clothes that we use, the toys our children play with, or the food we give to our families. All the items on their shelves have been carefully selected after passing a stringent set of requirements which ensures they fit with The Change Initiative’s overall ethos of sustainability and responsibility.

 

When a brand like The Change Initiative takes so much care to hand-pick the items it sells, each item has a special story to tell. The one which captured my attention was the Nabali Tree Olive Oil, an organic extra virgin olive oil made from fair trade Nabali olive tree orchards in the West Bank in Palestine.

 

Nabali Tree Olive Oil is produced by a Palestinian company called Canaan Fair Trade which brings together smallholder agricultural groups (over 1700 farm families and 43 cooperatives) to produce a range of products.

 

When you buy one of Canaan Fair Trade’s products, such as the Nabali Tree Olive Oil, a portion of the profits goes towards projects and programs which support the rural Palestinian community. These include:

  • ‘Trees for Life’ which plants olive trees for farmers just starting out or those who have lost their trees
  • ‘The Canaan Scholarship Fund’ which funds students to study for 4 years at a Palestinian university
  • ‘Green Track Palestine’ which converts tractors so that they can run on used vegetable oil, making running the tractors more environmentally responsible but also freeing farmers from relying on expensive fuel.
  • Micro-loans for small producers, with a particular focus on women

 

Nabali Tree Olive Oil certainly seems to embody the concepts of social and environmental responsibility, but how does it taste?

 

Canaan Fair Trade’s website describes their Nabali Tree Olive Oil as ‘fruity with medium body and fresh tones’ with an acidity level of less than 0.7% and a peroxide level of less than 10 meq/kg (extra virgin olive oil should have acidity of less than 0.8% and peroxide of less than 20 meq/kg).

 

I poured about a tablespoon of the oil into a small cup and warmed it between my hands to help release the flavors and aromas. It was a rich gold color with a slight tinge of green (please note that color is not an indicator of quality). The aroma was very fruity with the distinct smell of olives. Taking a sip of the oil, it was buttery on my tongue with a clean, green, fresh hay flavor. There was some bitterness on my tongue right at the end as well as some pepperiness at the back of my throat. I think it would be delicious drizzled on lightly roasted green vegetables like courgettes/zucchini, asparagus or green beans. For more details on how to taste olive oil, see my Tutorial: How To Buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

 

The Change Initiative sells Nabali extra virgin olive oil in several sizes to suit various needs.

  • 330mL bottle for AED30
  • 660mL bottle for AED60
  • 1L tin for AED73
  • 5L tin for AED332

 

Share your thoughts: If you have tried Nabali Tree Olive Oil, share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

Nabali Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

In Dubai, Nabali Tree Olive Oil is available at The Change Initiative. It is also sold internationally in Europe, North American, Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

 

You can get more information at The Change Initiative or Canaan Fair Trade.

 

 

 

Full Disclosure:

  • The Change Initiative gave me a 330mL bottle of Nabali Tree Olive Oil to try at home. All opinions are honest and my own.
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