First of all, a very happy Ramadan to you! Today is the seventh day of fasting here in the U.A.E. and the shorter working hours is a blessing. However, time is flying by so swiftly that there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to complete all tasks and obligations. This is my sixth Ramadan here in the U.A.E. and it’s always a beautiful experience each year. One thing that I had wanted to try since my first year here is to dine in a tent, so when Alison from Atlantis invites me over to the preview of Asateer Tent a couple of days before Ramadan, I had to say yes!
Asateer means myths. Overlooking the Arabian Sea and accommodating up to 830 guests, Asateer is a spectacular tent named after the wise words and stories told inside Ramadan tents for centuries, where people sat together and socialize over good food. Masood and I are blown away by the size and beauty of the tent, and know that this is a good place to experience the nomadic traditions of eating in a tent, albeit in a much modern and regal manner.
I somehow associate Ramadan with twinkling, sparkly lights. Even back home in Karachi, the city is dressed up with pretty lights. Here in the U.A.E. you’ll see masjids, homes, restaurants, malls, streets, and even trees all lit up during Ramadan. That is why I am impressed with the display of lights in the Asateer tent, from the candles gently flickering around pools filled with rose petals to the gorgeous egg-shaped chandeliers in main dining area.
Oh, but let’s talk about the food!
There is a wide selection of cold mezzeh, with about 25-30 different choices. Love the hummus, the fattoush, chicken salad, shrimp with pineapple, the kibbeh, the steamed veggies, the rolls…
You will get so full with just the starters. It’s so hard to decide what to sample!
Masood and I are absolutely fascinated with the ouzi stand that contains the juiciest of lamb meat slow roasted from the day before. There is also the beef steamship, as the chef calls it, which is a whole beef leg infused with Arabic spices and gently roasted to perfection. I also particularly like the grilled fish on a bed of brown rice. Yum!
There is also pasta, an eggplant dish, biryani, kofta, and several other dishes whose names I don’t remember. It’s really not possible to try them all!
A team of 34 very talented chefs work at Asateer to create this feast fit for a king. This year, all dishes are prepared by chefs who specialize in their particular cuisine or region. For example, Lebanese dishes are prepared by Lebanese chefs, Moroccan dishes by Moroccan chefs and so on. The food is really, really good.
Dates are essential when breaking fast. Topiary of fifteen different types of the best dates from all Arab countries sits near the entrance. The dates are melt-in-your-mouth good! The juice stand serves jallab (grape molasses, dates, and rose water), laban (yogurt, salt, and water), ayran (almost same as laban), karkadeh (dried red hibiscus flowers, water, and sugar), orange juice, etc … all very good, but I enjoy the mint lemonade the most.
Just as we are finishing dinner, we see people gathering at the entrance of the tent. Men and women in long, golden robes appear and perform what seem to be an act out of an Arabian Nights movie. I name the main character as Aladdin and the lady as princess Jasmine.
Then we walk towards the dessert table. It is such a daunting task deciding what to eat! Did you know there is a macaroon tree in the middle of the dessert table? There is also a live ice cream station that serves rose water and pistachio flavored ice cream. My absolute favorite is Umm Ali. Our traditional kheer pales in comparison to Asateer’s Umm Ali!
I have also heard a lot about Asateer’s tahini fountain. Tahini is basically a paste made of sesame seeds and olive oil. What you do is grab a falafel ball or za’atar straw and dip than into the tahini fountain. Really good!
Despite the temptation to try all the dessert items, we end up taking just a few so that we don’t waste anything.
Did I tell you how good their Umm Ali is?
Isha prayer is offered in this prayer room…
Once we are back at our table (that we are sharing with Virgin Radio’s Kris Fade, but of course we don’t know who he is until I see a video of Asateer the next day) we are offered cappuccino.
We have a really nice time in Asateer. I tell Masood at some point during our dinner that it feels like being invited to some Sheikh’s royal wedding banquet. There’s free Wi-Fi connection so we even have a brief Skype session with my in-laws to show them the place. If you specially have guests over that are visiting the UAE for the first time, this is a good place to make them experience dining in a very unique way. This is also a excellent place to sample really good Middle Eastern food.
For more information and reservations, you can e-mail email@example.com or call +971 4 426 0800. Buffet will cost you AED 175 per person, AED 85 for children between 3-12 years old, and free for children below the age of 3.