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
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
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).
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.
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.
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.