How popular is Middle Eastern cuisine is in the region?
Mohanad Alshamali: It is very popular, everyone is always looking for a local experience and one of the best ways to discover a place is through food. You have all kinds of Middle Eastern food here, from five-star to street eats, but it all originates from the same roots.
El Bourji: Middle Eastern cuisine is extremely popular, simply because we are in the Middle East. However, as Dubai is such a melting pot of expats from all over the region, this means we have an amazing plethora of styles of authentic cuisine to choose from. In recent years, I have noticed a real resurgence due to many chefs contemporising Middle Eastern cuisine, which has also been boosted by celebrities and influencers across the region.
Ibrahim Osseiran: Middle Eastern cuisine has been continuously growing for many years, I believe it’s up there with the top cuisines already. It seems like 2018 is the year for Middle Eastern cuisine, which is very exciting.
Gilles Bosquet: Middle Eastern cuisine is very popular in the region, and Dubai is home to many great restaurants, with many of them focusing on a specific country of origin. I think that this is one of the interesting elements of Ninive, the fact that we offer a melting pot of recipes from all around the Middle East and North Africa.
Ahmad Al Alami: Middle Eastern food is very popular not only in the region but globally, where it is becoming one of the most popular and fastest-growing cuisines. With increasing familiarisation of the cooking style, spices and dishes, it is enjoyed by a cosmopolitan clientele from both the Arab world and the expatriate community.
Have you noticed any trends in Middle Eastern cuisine?
Alshamali: Middle Eastern food is traditionally very home-orientated, so now we’re starting to see more commercial opportunities for the cuisine — such as falafel shops, kaak carts, and late-night shawarma stands — in places where they might not have been before.
El Bourji: I honestly think that 2018 is going to be the year for Middle Eastern cuisine globally. One of the main reasons is due to the rise of the heathy eating trend, an increase of the vegan lifestyle, with less meat being consumed. Middle Eastern food works perfectly due its strong thread of vegetarianism and ways of cooking. Many cultures are also a lot more familiar with the cuisine now, and due to an influx of tourism in many Middle Eastern countries, people are a lot more open to trying it. Traditional Middle Eastern ingredients such as pomegranate, eggplant, parsley, mint, tahini, tomato jam, and dried fruits are also being used more across a variety of cuisines, which is in turn opening up our own.
Osseiran: The new trend is our type of food, which is the seafood mezze style, as it is very healthy. For example, the fish shawarma is trending and popular amongst our guests. The menu at Flooka has been designed to offer quality Middle Eastern food with high-class service that caters to the target customer.
Bosquet: Lebanese cuisine has been popular for years. But recently, we’ve witnessed a craze for Turkish cuisine. Actually, one of our ‘must try’ dishes at Ninive has Turkish origins: it’s the ‘manti’, a delicious dish featuring small raviolis served with mint yoghurt and tomato sauce.
Al Alami: Middle Eastern cuisine is moving from its much-loved traditional dishes to a more innovative style with new blends of ingredients and spices. A new generation of chefs is integrating cooking styles and approaches, incorporating influences from other regions and cultures to create something that is truly different. However, Leila is famous for fusing traditional authentic tastes of Lebanese cuisine with a modern touch. Leila creates a homely ambiance, with dishes that transport you to back to historical Lebanon.