Farzi Café, Dubai: 3.4 / 5
It’s not often that a review makes you struggle with the outcome. Farzi Café made this review tough; primarily because it’s hard not to draw parallels to TresInd — one of my favorite restaurants but I haven’t reviewed it yet (whops). Second, it didn’t help that Farzi has a few things really going for it and others that hold it back.
Let me table the suspense first up: the two restaurants don’t really fall in the same class, and you’d be disappointed if you, like me, compared your experiences. It also wouldn’t really be fair to Farzi Café, so we’ll endeavor to let it stand on its own.
Farzi truly represents Dubai’s unending obsession with the new & different. ‘Reservations are completely full until Sunday,’ we were informed the first weekend. The earliest weekend booking I could make on a Tuesday was for Saturday, and they weren’t kidding. The scene was crowded when we arrived.
Right away, we were introduce to Problem One: while their interiors are done up well, the tables are incredibly cramped. I believe our table would have served maybe three people at best (we were 5) and was incredibly narrow, making the person sitting along the edge (yours truly) struggling for space. Behind us were a family of 9; their table while longer was not any wider. We barely got over the grumbling when Problem Two was dumped on us: a humungous (in context of the table) menu.
Restaurants should really think this stuff through, and this turned out to be the most irritating thing about Farzi. Two people sitting across from each other couldn’t place their menu face down on the table without colliding, only made worse when you have 3 people sitting at one end. (Spoiler: we just shared our menus). This was made worse by the design of the menu itself; I have no problem with funky (there were cute quotes in each section too) but reading up dish names with four different font styles starts to get irritating while you elbow your dinner companions. All the while, I couldn’t help thinking that a smaller font would have lead to a smaller menu (most pages only had 4 items listed) and a significantly more comfortable reading experience. You essentially sit there hoping the food has some redeeming qualities.
Thankfully, there is hope. Their drinks menu — a welcome surprise of sanity-prevailing smaller fonts bound in a rather compact looking menu — is extensive, and concoctions likekadak chai soda and curry leaf mocktail turned out to be delicious even if a little too sweet. The waiter informed us the drinks were pre-made and there was no option to have a non-/less- sugar version. Tough.
The problem persisted with the Raj Kachori. While a delectable presentation with use of a chutney foam, spicy pumpkin mash on the inside and fried okra, the yogurt was far (far) too sweet for my taste buds, taking it almost into the dessert category. A little adjustment here would do wonders to the dish.
Farzi tries to be inventive with their food, which works in some cases, and isn’t a home run, but still good. The curry leaf mocktail was actually delicious, the okra-pumpkin touches in the Raj Kachori inspired, and the truffle sliders were heartwarming for a truffle/mushroom lover (and arrived in a US army truck of all things). There was also the aubergine steak (yes, aubergine), topped with babaganoush and a side of salan sauce, which was absolutely the highlight of the menu. The paneer tikka wasn’t the most inventive of dishes, but still cooked well although the presentation was a little messy.
I did however feel Farzi’s menu was also a tad limited. Not that they didn’t have enough options, but a case in point: the appetizers section had tandoori chili cheese kulchas, and also a paratha enchiladas. While technically different, it was two versions of the same thing. I trust they’ll expand as time goes on, but it took a bit of effort to try and find enough different styles or dishes to sample for a larger group.
There was another dish that was served up in a red telephone booth, and the bill & comment card arrived on a typewriter. It’s a cute idea no doubt, but again, perhaps a smaller typewriter that didn’t eat up most of the table would have been a cleaner touch.
Farzi’s outside seating only caters dessert, and you have to be seated inside for their full menu. We didn’t land up trying dessert; I didn’t mind since I had been downing the two rather sweet drinks all through dinner. I almost sound like a broken record now, but each time a dish was served up, something had to be moved around or taken off the table. Rarely were two dishes served at once, so the eating experience is a bit disconnected.
Bottom line, I see why Farzi Café is the current hotspot in the city. Good flavors coupled with interesting presentation and the ‘ooh shiny’ new factor work in its favor. Is that enough to take away from the negatives? Somewhat. It will be interesting to see how Farzi continues to draw in the crowds, particularly with newer inventive dishes.
It’s good, but not great. I felt Farzi fell slightly short of the finish line; I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for larger groups looking to sample everything, but it’s worth trying as a new experience.
But I genuinely hope their management reviews the seating arrangement; this is undoubtedly their weakest link.
Value for money: 3.5
(Ratings are explained here.)
Farzi Café • Zomato
City Walk Phase 2, Al Safa, Dubai