Patois: Beirut’s first taste of Jamaican flavor

Patois: Beirut’s first taste of Jamaican flavor
Jerk chicken was served with a side dish of sweet, pickled cucumber and acidic mango vinaigrette dipping sauce. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 May 2018

Patois: Beirut’s first taste of Jamaican flavor

Patois: Beirut’s first taste of Jamaican flavor

BEIRUT: After opening its doors almost five months ago, Patois holds its title as the first Jamaican restaurant in Beirut. Located on a solemn street in Saifi village, a residential upscale neighborhood on the outskirts of the city center, Patois reflects a serene island feel: blocking out the incessant car-honking of Lebanon’s ceaseless traffic jams.

Guests are welcomed by Patois’ contrasting interior: a ceiling striped in Rasta colors, a checkered black-and-white tile wall, a graffiti-sprayed mural, and a gleaming disco ball give the place a free and easy feel.

Patois – defined as informal speech influenced by multiple languages – is an experience that is true to its name. Jamaican food is a fusion in itself, and Patois takes a step further by blending in recipes unfamiliar to the historical culinary conquests of Jamaican food culture.

“We wouldn’t call the food at Patois authentic Jamaican food. We had to create a menu that accommodates Lebanese customers,” the manager explained as he introduced the menu.

The executive chef had carried out extensive research to create a “something-for-everybody” menu that meshes well with a culture that usually rejects the tendency to try novel dishes.

After we’d been welcomed by warm, house-made tortilla chips and a fresh pico-de-gallo dip, the meal began with the a jerk corn appetizer, a Jamaican-style grilled maize bowl mixed in rich and savory jerk-spiced mayonnaise, balanced with sweetened shredded coconut.

Next came the jerk-spiked hummus doused in a garlic, onion and coriander lime oil dressing, which confirmed Patois’ adaptation of Jamaican taste in recipes that boldly appeal to its audience’s taste buds.

More entrees were expected, but unfortunately some items were not available on the menu that day.

A starring section on the menu was the tacos of a variety of meats: chicken, beef, shrimp and lobster.

The shrimp tacos — looking mouthwatering with the combination of a soft shell with jerk-marinated shrimp lying on a bed of lettuce and avocado, drizzled with the homemade Caribbean-style mayonnaise — were served cool, which made them taste as though they never really reached their true potential.

The anticipated Jamaican dish was saved for last. Jerk chicken was served with a side dish of sweet, pickled cucumber and acidic mango vinaigrette dipping sauce. The chicken was cooked just right, but the smoky flavor of the charcoal grill masked the jerk marinade that did not come until several bites later.

For dessert, opt for the fried ice-cream, an impressive way to conclude, but for us the meal ended in disappointment.

After we’d waited a while for these crispy fried scoops, the waiter gave the second round of unfortunate news — no ice-cream owing to “a difficulty the chef faced in the kitchen.”

Overall, Patois presents a blend of food from different cultures with a tang of Jamaican flavor, best enjoyed for meal-sharing between friends.

But as it shares a wall with another popular nightlife establishment, Patois’ tranquil spot may turn into a rowdy street party late in the night. So maybe come for the drinks instead.


From Riyadh to Dubai, why is good coffee in the region so expensive?

A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/Instagram@nightjar.coffee
A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/[email protected]
Updated 19 April 2021

From Riyadh to Dubai, why is good coffee in the region so expensive?

A cup of coffee from Dubai-based Nightjar costs $5. File/Instagram@nightjar.coffee

DUBAI: Buying a cup of coffee in the Gulf can be quite expensive.

Coffee lovers often bemoan the fact that their latte costs double in Dubai or Riyadh what it does in other countries.

What we might not realize, however, is that we are paying for a lot more than milk and beans in that cup of coffee.

Last week, social media was set alight by a complaint over the price of a $7 flat white in Dubai. Coffee lovers from Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar chimed in on whether the cost was justified. It begs the question: Why is coffee so expensive in this region?

We spoke to cafe operators to find out.

Leon Surynt, owner of Nightjar Coffee, one of Dubai’s most popular coffee brands and cafes, said that it is “really hard” to keep his coffee affordable.

Nightjar imports its own beans directly from farms around the world, roasts them at its Alserkal Avenue roastery and sells to hotels and cafes across the country. 

“You need to have multiple avenues, which is a bit of online, a bit of wholesale and a bit of cafe, to make money here,” Surynt says. 

“We live in a society that has a low tax rate, but we also have many compliance costs.”

If we were to break down the cost of a latte at Nightjar ($5), Surynt says, the ingredients — milk and coffee — and the cup only account for about $1 or 20 percent. He estimates that staff wages and expenses, on the other hand, make up a whopping 30 percent, while rent is another 15 percent. Other overheads, such as government fees, marketing, admin and logistics mean his profit from that one latte is about AED 4 (or $1). And that’s not accounting for the cost of delivery aggregators, his salary and kitchen operations.

“There are a lot of hidden costs here,” Surynt said. 

The story is the same for many others.

Samer Harkous, business development manager for Cypher Coffee, supplies hundreds of cafes in the UAE and overseas with green and roasted beans. 

Cypher does not operate a cafe but offers samples at its roastery.

When pricing Cypher’s products, Harkous said rent and municipality fees must be built into the price of beans, and a profit needs to be made on top of that. The cafe selling those beans must then add on its own costs.

And roasting beans is a costly — and difficult — process.

Equipment is imported from overseas. Each bean requires a different roasting method, which is meticulously recorded on charts by staff, from monitoring the necessary temperature and gas levels to listening for the “first crack.” 

Beans themselves command a range of prices. Cypher’s most expensive roast is from Yemen (up to $136 per kilogram) and its cheapest, and most popular, is from Brazil (between $16 to $82 per kilogram). 

Brazilian beans are therefore used by cafes wanting to keep costs down. More expensive beans, usually used by specialty coffee houses, will command a higher price.

Ali Al-Fahad, founder of Earth Roastery, which was established in Kuwait in 2014 and has spread across the region since, adjusts his coffee prices depending on the country he operates in. 

He said that Kuwait is the most expensive and logistically difficult location for a cafe business, while Dubai is the easiest and cheapest. That is why it took them until 2019 to open a café. Before that, he was solely selling wholesale coffee beans.

“Business here is very risky. Very few people can be successful,” he said. “When we opened the coffee shop, we understood that.”

Al-Fahad said their highest costs go on salaries and visa costs, followed by rent and logistics.

“Customers travel. They want the same quality and experience as they have in Europe. But to be on that level, you need to invest more.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by (@crustandcrema)

Cyrus Woo, deputy director at Bahrain’s Crust and Crema, said pricing was a “sensitive” subject when they opened.

“We had to be very careful. We only had other coffee shops to compare to, so we did market research and then did our own costing.”

Of the $4 it costs for an Americano or $5 for a latte, Woo agreed that what the customer is mostly paying for is staff salaries.

“If you factor in how much of the coffee and milk you’re going to use for one drink, those are the minimal costs involved,” Woo said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by (@crustandcrema)

“You’re paying for the atmosphere, overheads, marketing, utilities, rent, insurance, equipment and labor costs. The market is saturated, and baristas are in high demand, so you have to pay more for them.”

Woo said that while coffee makes more money than food at a cafe, for coffee to be profitable, a cafe has to “sell a lot.”

“We are a for-profit business. We need to be able to survive, but we don’t want to be greedy. 

“I hope that when people come in and have coffee, they appreciate there’s a lot more involved, that they’re paying for the experience.”

So, when you’re handing over $7 for your latte, lamenting the expense, remember: You’re not just buying a coffee. You’re paying for your surroundings and for your barista’s wages. And actually, for $7, that’s pretty reasonable.


Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.
Baked feta pasta.
Updated 18 April 2021

Ramadan recipes: An Arab take on TikTok’s famous baked feta pasta

Baked feta pasta.

DUBAI: If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve drooled over one of countless images of baked feta pasta — a dish that went viral this year for that holy grail combination of anyone-can-do-it easiness and blissful deliciousness.

The dish, which consists of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and pasta, has been blasted all over the For You pages of millennials and Gen Z’ers on TikTok, and as of April 18,  #bakedfetapasta has more than 111.4 million views on the social media platform.

For those looking to whip up the dish for iftar, we asked Iraqi-Canadian chef Faisal Hasoon to share a simple baked feta pasta recipe with an Arab twist. 

The chef incorporates a fresh Middle Eastern flavor by way of roasted red peppers, sliced kalamata olives, a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkling of zest.  

Baked Feta Pasta

(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

Olive oil 3tbsp

6 cloves garlic (minced)

60g kalamata olives (sliced thin)

250g roasted red peppers (diced)

6 fresh basil leaves (chiffonade)

350g pasta (rigatoni) 

200g feta cheese (Greek, sheep or goat)

1 lemon (zest and juice)

Chilli pepper oil 1tbsp

Dried chilli flakes 1tsp

Salt and pepper to taste 

Instructions: 

Step 1: In a medium sized pot bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta as per the instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain the remainder and set aside.

Step 2: Starting with a cold pan, cook garlic on low heat in olive oil. Allow it to simmer just before turning golden brown. Be sure not to overcook it as it will become bitter.  Add red chilli flakes and roasted red peppers, let it simmer for a few minutes then add sliced olives. Maintaining low heat and turning with a spatula frequently.

Step 3: Place the whole block of feta into the center of the pan and into the oven at 375 Celsius for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts. 

Step 4: Place the pasta into the pan and mix well until all ingredients are well incorporated, adding reserved pasta water as needed.

Step 5: Finish with the zest and juice of one lemon, fresh cracked black pepper and thinly sliced basil. For an extra kick, drizzle over chilli oil and enjoy!

 

 


What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution

What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution
Photo/Supplied
Updated 17 April 2021

What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution

What We Are Drinking Today: Gut Revolution
  • One of the most popular items is Kefir milk because it contains the largest variety of healthy bacteria

The human gut is more complex than previously thought and has a huge impact on the whole body. A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system, heart and brain. It also helps improve your mood, sleep and digestion while preventing some cancers and autoimmune diseases.
“Gut Revolution” is a unique Saudi brand that offers everything from sourdough bread to kombucha tea while keeping a healthy digestive system in mind. It aims to help those on their quest for optimal health by offering a wide range of gut-healing products.
Their selection caters to different palates as everything on the menu is made of 100 percent natural ingredients and flavors. If you are sensitive to a certain ingredient in a product, they will find a healthy alternative.
One of the most popular items is Kefir milk because it contains the largest variety of healthy bacteria. And for those who are sensitive to dairy products, try the fermented Kefir, which has been altered to make it gentler and more digestible.
Gut Revolution also offers eight flavors of kombucha tea, which is a perfect substitute for sugary drinks and juices during Ramadan. It is a reasonable swap with great benefits. There are also three types of sourdough bread, three types of sauerkraut, ginger beer, kimchi and broths.
For more information, visit them on Instagram @gut_revolution.


Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere
Updated 16 April 2021

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere

Dubai’s LPM: Great food in a relaxed atmosphere
  • Sampling some simple French classics at the award-winning Dubai restaurant

DUBAI: The best way to describe eating at Dubai’s LPM — the restaurant formerly known as La Petite Maison — is to compare it to having a meal inside an exquisite art gallery.

The interiors are washed in light, natural colors, with beige leather seats and white linen tablecloths, giving it an elegant and sophisticated vibe. In fact, it felt as if we had been transported to a café in France.

The interiors are washed in light, natural colors, with beige leather seats and white linen tablecloths. (Supplied)

The white walls are bathed in warm lighting and adorned with original artworks. Wooden boxes and modernist sculptures are dotted throughout the whole area. It truly felt like we were eating at a gallery or an swanky house. But while LPM is definitely high-end and refined, it’s also cozy and welcoming.

As you approach your table, you’ll notice that it’s not empty. A pair of juicy tomatoes and zesty lemons are waiting for you. To be honest, we thought it was part of the decor until one of the waiters explained that guests can cut up the tomatoes, squeeze some lemons on top and season with salt and pepper as an appetizer as they wait for their food. Staff regularly circulate with a large basket of bread, baked in-house, too.

The roast baby chicken is marinated in lemon and cooked to perfection. (Supplied)

Even these little touches are delicious — fresh and of high quality. So it’s no surprise that the venue was recognized as the best French restaurant in Dubai by Time Out in its latest awards.

One of the simplest but most delectable dishes we had was the poivrons marinés à l’huile d’olive. The sweet red peppers marinated in olive oil were seasoned with garlic and paprika, translating all the vegetable’s natural flavors while adding a hint of sourness and smokiness.

This dish is snails with garlic butter and parsley. (Supplied)

The next dish we selected is not for the squeamish — and I speak as one who’s been terrified by bugs and creepy-crawlies since childhood. You might have guessed, it’s the escargots de Bourgogne (snails with garlic butter and parsley), and I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite my misgivings.

The texture of this protein-rich dish is unlike anything else. It could be described as akin to mushrooms, but the snails are meatier and tenderer. There is a hint of saltiness mixed with the creaminess of butter. This dish is definitely a must-try at LPM — a French classic beautifully done.

The gâteau au fromage frais (cheesecake) with berry compote is light and flavorful. (Supplied)

Another highly recommended option is the coquelet au citron confît — one of the best chicken dishes I have ever had in Dubai. The roast baby chicken is marinated in lemon and cooked to perfection; the meat itself is so juicy and tender it feels like you are eating pâté or chicken purée. The delicate flavor of the chicken is perfectly complemented by the smokiness of the roast.

For a perfect finish to your meal, we would definitely recommend the gâteau au fromage frais (cheesecake) with berry compote. It is light and flavorful and the pronounced vanilla flavor of the creamy, silky cheese contrasts with the fruitiness and sour tang of the berry compote.

The sweet red peppers marinated in olive oil were seasoned with garlic and paprika, translating all the vegetable’s natural flavors while adding a hint of sourness and smokiness. (Supplied)

LPM uses simple ingredients including salt, pepper, lemon, parsley, olive oil and butter to elevate its mix of southern French and Italian cuisine — emphasizing their intrinsic flavors. But what really sold us on the place, apart from the great food, is the casual atmosphere. It’s homey, welcoming and artistic, and a real change from many of Dubai’s other high-end restaurants. And while several of the dishes are expensive, there is plenty on offer at a cost that won’t leave your wallet empty.


Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women
Zahra Khan was recently listed on the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list. (Supplied)
Updated 16 April 2021

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women

Forbes recognizes young Pakistani chef focused on empowering women
  • Zahra Khan is a mother of two who runs Feya cafes and shops in London, employs 30 full-time staff and donates 10% of profits to coaching for women
  • Khan launched Feya Cares at start of pandemic in collaboration with Young Women’s Trust, which works to achieve economic justice for young women

RAWALPINDI: A Pakistani chef and entrepreneur who runs her own cafe and shop in London has been recognized for her achievements in retail and e-commerce by Forbes, which put her on its prestigious “30 under 30” list this month.

Zahra Khan, who is 30 years old and the mother of two girls, is the founder of two of London’s culinary hotspots — Feya Cafe and DYCE. She is a graduate of the Tante Marie Culinary Academy and is committed to encouraging female equality in business.

Khan opened Feya Cafe on Bond Street just months after the birth of her first daughter in 2018. The award-winning dessert parlor DYCE opened soon after, followed by the flagship Feya Knightsbridge in December 2019.

Speaking to Arab News, Khan said she was nominated for the Forbes list by her team and did not expect to be recognized.

“I had just woken up and I knew the list was going to be released [on April 9], but they were meant to send an email as well and my inbox was empty, so I was a bit disappointed,” Khan said in a phone interview. “But then I pulled up the list anyway to see. As I started scrolling down, I saw my name. It was an amazing feeling!”
 

Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honoree Zahra Khan at her office desk in London. (Supplied)

This is how the Forbes listing describes Khan:

“Immigrant Zahra Khan defied Pakistani cultural stereotypes and launched a career in the UK focused on empowering women. The chef and mother of two runs Feya cafes and shops. She employs 30 full-time staff, hires female illustrators to design packaging and donates 10 percent of retail profits toward professional coaching for women.”

Khan said she initially went to university to study medicine but then turned towards the culinary world, graduating from the Tante Marie Culinary Academy in Woking, England, before launching Feya, whose wares include chocolates, specialty spices and jams.

Khan has been nominated for the NatWest Everywomen Awards 2020 (The Artemis Award), London Business Mother of the Year 2020 (Venus Awards), Business Owner of the Year and Businesswoman of the Year (National Women’s Business Awards 2020) and Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 (Federation of Small Businesses UK).

“In Pakistan, we don’t have as many opportunities for women as men. I recognize that and I also realize that I’m lucky that I’ve got the opportunity to actually move and experience living in different countries,” said Khan, who studied at Ryerson University in Toronto before going to culinary school in the UK.

“It was an eye opener, I learned so much and I wanted to bring about change when I was in the position to give back.”

 

Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honouree Khan tackles a recipe in her kitchen in London. (Supplied)

Khan launched Feya Cares at the start of the pandemic in collaboration with the Young Women’s Trust, a feminist organization in London working to achieve economic justice for young women.

Feya Cares tackles issues faced by women within the professional space, such as racial and gender inequality; 10 percent of the profits from the sale of Feya Retail products are donated to the Young Women’s Trust. Feya Retail is the line she launched around the same time that features various luxury products such as teas, jams and chocolates.

“Every woman can run her own business, even if it is a small-scale, home-based venture,” said Khan. “I want to show that it can be done.”