Good old southern comfort food: The Creole Restaurant and Café

Good old southern comfort food: The Creole Restaurant and Café
Updated 13 April 2017

Good old southern comfort food: The Creole Restaurant and Café

Good old southern comfort food: The Creole Restaurant and Café

Inspired by Louisiana-style Creole (kree-ohl) cuisine, the recently-opened Creole Restaurant and Café in Alkhobar offers a taste of New Orleans, a city in the US, and of its rich heritage.
Creole culture and cuisine is known for its immigrant and colonial influences, from Native Americans, French and Spanish immigrants, African slaves and Caribbean people. Central to Creole cuisine is the use of herbs, spices, seafood, rice, bread, corn and gravy, which, in some ways, is very similar to Saudi cuisine.
Ahmed Al-Omair, managing partner of the restaurant, was inspired by Creole and Cajun (the name for French settlers who originally came from Acadia in Canada) cooking while pursuing higher education in Lafayette, Louisiana. His host family welcomed him into their kitchen, and taught him the essentials of Creole cooking techniques. Al-Omair experimented with various recipes and developed a taste for well-known Creole dishes such as jambalaya (a spicy dish of rice, vegetables, and meat) and gumbo (a thick stew flavored with meat or seafood broth and okra).
Fueled by a new-found passion for Cajun food, and the similarities between the food of New Orleans and Saudi Arabia, Al-Omair partnered with four of his friends to open The Creole Restaurant and Café in November of last year. The décor uses elements typical to French Creole mansions — high ceilings, plush furniture and tall windows.
Working with an international chef to develop recipes, Al-Omair put together an authentic Louisiana-style menu that has found appeal with Americans and other residents in the Eastern Province. As an entrée, we tried the French onion soup (a caramelized onion soup served with cheese bread) and a typical Southern comfort food — macaroni and cheese — served as bite-sized fried balls. The entrées are priced at SR31 and SR29, respectively.
The summer melon salad, with its unique presentation and combination of watermelon, cantaloupe, feta cheese and pomegranate dressing is a sweet and tart appetizer, priced at SR36. The quinoa salad, priced at SR39, is served with beetroot, pomegranate and balsamic vinegar.
Some of the popular main courses at The Creole Restaurant and Café include: The dark roux gumbo, priced at SR50 that uses a mixture of flour and oil with the addition of beans and Cajun seasoning. The blackened shrimp risotto uses a special spice mix and spinach to give it a distinct appearance and is priced at SR52. The etouffee (ay-too-fay), priced at SR55, is a seafood gravy-like sauce served over a bed of rice.
Beverage options are varied and include innovative mocktails, like the lemongrass breezer and ginger apple (SR20) and mojitos, as well as the passion fruit mojito and lychee mojito (SR23).
Coffee and dessert options range from the traditional caramel date cake (SR35) and Turkish coffee (SR16) to a distinctive velvet marshmallow fondant (SR40) and iced latte (SR16).

[email protected]


Roka rocks: Dubai’s new Japanese restaurant

Roka rocks: Dubai’s new Japanese restaurant
Updated 23 April 2021

Roka rocks: Dubai’s new Japanese restaurant

Roka rocks: Dubai’s new Japanese restaurant
  • Famed London eatery opens its doors in the Middle East

DUBAI: Roka is the smaller, slightly more casual, sister of renowned Japanese restaurant Zuma. It’s branch in Dubai — housed in a building designed by the acclaimed late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid — is its first in the region, but another is scheduled to open soon in Riyadh.

Its entrance is marked by a white light sign on the gray floor spelling out the restaurant’s name. Simple and stylish. That’s a theme continued inside, where the cold concrete walls and pillars are warmed up by wooden accents and plenty of greenery. The mellow electro beats in the background and the dim lighting all add to the ‘contemporary jungle’ feel of the place — although the stunning views of the downtown skyline are a reminder that you’re in the heart of a city.

The mellow electro beats in the background and the dim lighting all add to the ‘contemporary jungle’ feel of the place. (Supplied)

There are a number of great dishes at Roka, but if you’re only going to order one thing, we would recommend the rosuto bone marrow; combined with the venue’s jungle vibes, you’ll feel like an ancient hunter-gatherer as you feast on this charred, cut bone served with garlic confit, mini miso buns and pickled shallots (admittedly, an upmarket hunter-gatherer). The smoky fattiness of the bone marrow combines perfectly with the creamy subtlety of the confit garlic, complemented by the fresh tang of the shallots. It’s a rare treat.

The age nasu no goma-ae (eggplant with sesame miso) is also excellent — and I speak as someone who doesn’t generally enjoy eggplant. This decadent dish offers a deep palette of flavors, balancing the strong hit of the warm eggplants with the faint sweetness of sesame and savory bonito fish flakes, which also add a welcome crunch to the juicy, tender aubergine.

Roka’s branch in Dubai is housed in a building designed by the acclaimed late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. (Supplied)

One of Roka’s signature dishes — made famous in its London branch — is the kampashi sashimi no salada. And it deserves its reputation: the thin, supple slices of yellowtail sashimi are drenched in a delicious yuzu truffle dressing and garnished with some fresh greens, creating a perfect marriage of raw fish and earthy umami flavor.

The presentation is simple and immaculate. (Supplied)

Roka is a Japanese restaurant, so of course we have to sample the sushi. We opt for the deluxe sashimi platter with tuna, yellowtail shashimi, scallop with green tea and sansho, and torched o-toro nigiri with caviar. The presentation is, once again, simple and immaculate — served up on a big slab of ice on bamboo and wooden plates and accompanied by several palette cleansers. Some of the sushi is stacked on the ice to remain cold, while the rest is presented in a beautiful shell. It is all delicious. Roka also serves fresh wasabi with its sushi, which tastes very different from the store-bought version. It has a mild earthy flavor, with a fleeting hot spicy aftertaste.

One of Roka’s signature dishes — made famous in its London branch — is the kampashi sashimi no salada. (Supplied)

All in all, our meal was superb, including the side dishes. Roka has quickly become one of our favorite spots in Dubai. The laidback, welcoming vibe certainly helps and, considering the top-notch quality of the food, the prices (somewhere between a casual family restaurant and a high-end venue) are reasonable overall.

If you’re in Dubai and fancy a Japanese meal, then Roka would be our number-one recommendation.


Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
Updated 21 April 2021

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots

Chips with everything: Saudi restaurant where waiters are robots
  • Room is fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the machines to move about and take food to customers

MAKKAH: We’ve all been there … you order a meal in a restaurant, and the waiter arrives with a pasta salad instead of a chicken biryani.
There are no such issues at Restaurant Robot in Jazan. As the name suggests, the waiters are not fallible human beings, but robots powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence.
Six robot assistants are operating in the city center restaurant to deliver trays of Asian dishes to patrons. The system was originally set up as a precaution to reduce human contact during the coronavirus pandemic, but it has proved a hit with visitors.
In a system designed by young Saudi engineer Reham Omar, the restaurant interior has been fitted with strategically placed sensors that allow the robots to move about and take food to customers.
“Thanks to the sensors, the robots can sense anything standing near them, allowing them to stop walking or change their routes accordingly,” she told Arab News
“Each robot has had a map of the restaurant interior and the location of each table programmed into their memory. When the robot gets to the targeted table, customers can pick up their food and order the robot to leave.”
Omar said the idea had been developed by drawing on the experiences of other countries, and with support from the Saudi government for the food industry.
“We are proud of our project, as small as it is,” she said. “Customers are loving the robots and are impressed with the idea.
“Cultures are changing, and people are now eager to discover new technologies that can improve their quality of life.”


Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign encouraging people to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan. (SPA)
Updated 20 April 2021

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness

Experts say Ramadan is the best time to shape up and gain fitness
  • The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched ‘Step Together’ campaign to help people stay active during the holy month

JEDDAH: While consuming excessive food during the month of Ramadan goes against the purpose of the holy month, for many Saudis and people of the region, it is a time to indulge in special foods, which often leads to overeating.

For years, Saudis have been facing problems with obesity, with unhealthy diets leading to a variety of poor health conditions. While numerous campaigns have been launched to combat this issue, including by the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), their advice seems to fall on deaf ears during Ramadan.
Arab News spoke to experts — nutritionists and fitness trainers — who discussed their tips to help curb hunger and maintain a healthy weight.
Saudi fitness trainer Nouf Hamadallah, 37, explained that there is no best time to exercise during Ramadan; rather, the time and intensity of the workout can vary from person to person.
“Exercising during Ramadan depends on the flexibility of one’s schedule. There’s no specific time to work out. Most people who believe this are misinformed by what they read,” she told Arab News.

FASTFACTS

• A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions of the Kingdom in June 2020 showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.

• It highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.

“One common bit of advice in popular articles says that if people work out before iftar, they will burn calories and lose weight. But this depends on their goals and calorie
intake. Some people cannot work out while fasting because they feel sick and nauseous, and their blood sugar drops. Then they become discouraged from exercising, not knowing that all they have to do is change the timing and nature of their workout. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
She added that it is easy to lose muscle mass if people do not choose the right foods for iftar and sahoor, also stressing that it is essential to hydrate during breakfast. Should one choose to work out right before iftar, a protein shake and a nutrient-dense meal with few carbs are advised in breaking fast.

If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

Arwa Bajkhaif, Dietician

“What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day, too. It should be a meal with a good amount of protein and vegetables,” said Hamadallah. “When your body is depleted of energy, the first thing you look for is sugar, and that’s what we want to avoid.”
Digestive problems such as acid reflux also occur due to poor eating habits in Ramadan, she added, and people with such digestive issues need to take note of the specific foods that irritate their stomachs.
She recommended that they avoid these foods if they are planning to exercise and instead have a few dates, soup and maybe a cup of coffee before beginning their workout, saving a full meal for afterward.
Iftar and sahoor also need to be divided into portions to avoid digestive problems, she added.
Saudi clinical and sports dietitian Arwa Bajkhaif, 29, said Ramadan is a “golden opportunity” to fast and practice self-control. If anyone wants to adopt healthy habits or break bad ones, Ramadan is an excellent chance to do so.

What you eat for sahoor will determine your energy levels for the next day.

Nouf Hamadallah, Fitness trainer

“People should know their dietary requirements and follow a suitable diet for their particular health situation during the holy month of Ramadan,” Bajkaif told Arab News
“For individuals with chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend seeing an endocrinologist for insulin and medication adjustments and a clinical dietitian for follow-ups to adjust the amount and type of carbohydrates accordingly.”
As for changing one’s eating habits, she suggested that people should not adopt more than three easy and healthy habits. “Being realistic and specific is key to achieving health goals.”
Saudi dietitian Alaa Gotah advised people to drink plenty of water between iftar and sahoor, avoid sugary drinks especially during iftar to maintain insulin levels, and eat plenty of hydrating food such as salads while limiting the intake of carbohydrates and sweets.
She stressed that fasting cleanses the body of toxins and forces cells into processes that are not usually stimulated when a steady stream of fuel from food is always present.
“Sahoor should include a healthy amount of fiber, which stays for a long time in the intestines. To reduce the feeling of thirst and hunger, it’s recommended to eat fruits that contain dietary fiber and magnesium, such as bananas, dates and watermelon,” Gotah told Arab News.  
A nationwide cross-sectional survey conducted over phone interviews across 13 regions in June 2020 titled “Obesity in Saudi Arabia in 2020: Prevalence, Distribution, and its Current Association with Various Health Conditions” showed that the national weighted prevalence of obesity was 24.7 percent.
The study highlighted that obesity was significantly associated with type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, among other diseases.
The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched a campaign to help people stay active during the holy month, presenting the Ramadan edition of “Step Together,” where people are encouraged to walk or run 20 kilometers for 20 days during Ramadan.


Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal
The BTS meal is coming to McDonald's in May. File/AFP
Updated 20 April 2021

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

Happy meal: Arab K-Pop fans share excitement over McDonald’s new BTS deal

DUBAI: US fast food giant McDonald’s has tapped Korean pop sensation BTS to promote a new meal, and Arab fans of the boy band can hardly contain their excitement.

Many supporters of the seven member group took to their social media to express their anticipation for the Grammy-nominated boy band's meal that will be launching starting next month in nearly 50 countries, including Oman, Bahrain, UAE, Qatar and Morocco in addition to the US, India, Singapore and more.

“From today, I will just eat at McDonalds,” wrote one Twitter user in Arabic.

Another user from Saudi Arabia mentioned McDonalds in their Tweet, urging them to make the meal available in the Kingdom.

“I am not a fan of McDonald’s, but I changed my mind because of this meal. Provide it to us like you did for the Arab countries on the list,” the user wrote.

Another Twitter user wrote in Arabic: “Wait a minute, I discovered something. A few days back, Suga said he is hungry and a few days later, they collaborated with McDonald’s. He was probably giving us a hint, but we were clowns. WE WANT THE BTS MEAL IN EGYPT (sic).”

Dubbed the “BTS meal,” it will include chicken McNuggets, fries and two dips.

The burger chain has seen its revenue outside the United States drop during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is tapping on promotional campaigns through celebrity endorsements and limited-time menu items to get customers back into restaurants as economies reopen with the roll-out of vaccines.

The BTS meal follows similar US-only deals with singers J Balvin and Travis Scott, which McDonald’s says boosted sales in the later half of last year.

The spike in demand during the Travis Scott promotion caused the company to temporarily run short of ingredients to assemble its signature Quarter Pounder burgers at some restaurants.


Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk

Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk
Updated 21 April 2021

Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk

Too little sleep in middle age linked to raised dementia risk
  • Nearly ten million new cases of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are counted each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and disrupted sleep is a common symptom

PARIS: Sleeping six hours or less per night in your 50s and 60s is associated with an increased risk of dementia, according to a new study of nearly 8,000 British adults followed for more than 25 years.
Scientists said that while the research, which was based on data from a long-running survey, could not prove cause and effect, it did draw a link between sleep and dementia as people age.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, showed a higher risk of dementia in those sleeping six or fewer hours per night at the ages of 50 or 60, compared to those who have a “normal” seven hours in bed.
There was also a 30 percent increased dementia risk in those with consistently short sleeping patterns from the age of 50 to 70, irrespective of cardiometabolic or mental health issues, which are known risk factors for dementia.
The study authors from the French national health-research institute INSERM analyzed data from a long term study by University College London, which has followed the health of 7,959 British individuals since 1985.
Participants self-reported their sleep duration, while about 3,900 of them also wore watch devices overnight to confirm their estimates.
Nearly ten million new cases of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, are counted each year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and disrupted sleep is a common symptom.
But a growing body of research suggests sleep patterns before the onset of dementia could also contribute to the development of the disease.
Time spent sleeping is linked to dementia risk in older adults — 65 years and older — but it is unclear whether this association is also true for younger age groups, according to the authors.
They said future research may be able to determine whether improving sleep patterns can help prevent dementia.
“Many of us have experienced a bad night’s sleep and probably know that it can have an impact on our memory and thinking in the short term, but an intriguing question is whether long-term sleep patterns can affect our risk of dementia,” Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK told Science Media Center.
She said that while there is no magic bullet to prevent dementia, evidence suggests that not smoking, drinking in moderation, staying mentally and physically active and eating well are among the things that can “help to keep our brains healthy as we age.”