Food & Drinks

Local legend: Al Ustad Special Kabab

The Al Ustad Special Kabab doesn’t require your attention. To start with, the whole kebab conjunction menu at an Iranian restaurant fits on a single laminated page of paper. There’s only enough room in the little eatery for six tables stacked like Tetris and a single toilet.

However, its simplicity is part of its interest.

It’s a natural beauty that flows through the veins of this small, family-run firm. A certain rawness that you won’t find in a fine-dining, fork-and-knife restaurant.

Haji Mohammed Ali Ansari, an Iranian expat who arrived to Dubai, made it his home, and gave it this hidden gem in 1978, created Al Ustad Special Kabab. Except for the people in charge and the global famous not much has changed since then. Al Ustad is a culinary treasure passed down from one generation to the next, right now kept by Ali Ansari’s sons.

Decorating includes scattered homey artwork, objects transferring tales of the old country, and faded cuttings celebrating the eatery’s ascent to fame. What draws your interest are the many pictures attached to the walls, photographs of every prominent person who has dined here, and there are quite a number of them. The UAE royal family is displayed.

I take a seat in the back and watch the waiters get by with teetering dishes of perfumed kebabs and hot white rice dripping with butter. Because it’s a Saturday evening, business is brisk. We get a mixed dish for three people. Now that the deliberation is over, we must wait.

The kebabs arrive with a side of fries, a big, freshly baked tandoori naan, and a dish of hummus. They come in an array of tastes and marinades, including lemon, sumac, cumin, and a distinctive smokiness, and are produced with chicken, lamb, and beef. Every meaty bite is melt-in-your-mouth tender, expertly grilled, and delicious.

As is usual of Iranian food, there are no sharp shocks, not a lot of spice, salt, or anything else. Everything is subtle, allowing the real flavour of the product to show through. The yoghurt kebabs have the most intense kebabing, with a tartness that complements the meat. The dish is important still upgraded when served with plain rice and salted butter.

That’s all there is to Al Ustad. That is why it is honoured. Every every day, it does just that – nothing more, nothing less.

Verdict: There are no lavish spreads or mind-numbing variety. Simply vibes and tasty, meaty bliss.

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