Tuesday, 15 November 2016

UAE: Miss Lily’s Restaurant

Dubai has had something of a mini Jamaican invasion this yea, with the openings of Ting Irie in Downtown, and Miss Lily’s in the Sheraton Grand Hotel on Shaikh Zayed Road. The former is an operation by Canadian-Jamaican-Chinese chef Craig Wong; the latter, which quickly picked up a reputation as a overbooked party spot, is an outpost of an existing New York City restaurant.

Does Miss Lily’s live up to its rep for good times? Most definitely.

There’s as much a New York vibe as there is a Jamaican one (full disclosure: I haven’t been to the Caribbean, so I can only judge it by just how relevant the reggae artists pictured on the walls are). Tables are packed in tightly in a darkened maze of rooms, with a green, gold and black colour scheme, drink-packing crates lining the walls and posters and black-and-white check filling in the spaces in-between. With every seat booked on the night I went, it had the feel of a very cool, but casual, downtown New York restaurant.

The dishes were — for the most part — delicious, as well as fun to eat. That’s especially true of one of the starters, the jerk corn, a chunk of grilled cob impaled in slightly wobbly fashion on a stick. It’s grilled, then dipped in spicy, creamy jerk mayo — then coated in sweet fragrant shredded coconut. Oh boy, is that a great dish.

The ackee hummous, another starter, didn’t knock my socks off, however — ackee is a scrambled-egg texture fruit of the islands but didn’t change the dish too much from a regular hummous. Which is great if you love hummous, I guess.

But with a great drinks menu, strains of reggae through the nearby chatter of some of the coolest people in town around you, your senses will be suitably teased. The jerk chicken roti (jerk, a spice blend in which meat and fish are marinated, then grilled, is the star of the show at this restaurant) gave a crash course in the Jamaican speciality — but next time I would chose a portion of jerk chicken or lobster with sides, as my main. The goat curry (Dh160) comes recommended, but it don’t go expecting a spicy tikka masala — this meat, potatoes and pea dish reminded me of an English stew. The jerk ramen, on the other hand, is a bowlful of spice, noodles and meat (Dh134).

The food, although on the expensive side, is filling, with sides of bread and rice. For a light dessert, we chose the banana mousse; I enjoyed its lack of sweetness, its almost salty edge, with meringue, the ever-present Lotus biscuits and cashews.

While for me the meal ended there, the night did not: The bar turns into a great place to have a drink, and later, a dance — in the trend of Dubai restaurants that are doing everything they can to keep customers all night long (see: Ramusake).

Miss Lily’s is open 7pm-2am daily, with a Friday and Saturday brunch serving an expanded menu (think fried chicken and waffles, and coconut pancakes) from noon.