The Barrio Fiesta at BurJuman Center

Filipinos always look out for an excuse to celebrate, hence the annual Barrio Fiestas. Barrio refers to a place, more specifically a village, and fiestas are the annual celebration in a particular barrio. There must be thousands of barrios in the Phillipines, and with each of them celebrating a fiesta at least once each year, I suppose there’s almost always a fiesta going on at any day of the year!

One restaurant that’s hugely popular in the Philippines since it was established in 1952 is called Barrio Fiesta. In late 2009, the restaurant opened up its doors for the first time at the BurJuman center in Dubai. And this is where Masood and I are having our dinner with mom, Sophia (my sister) and Saima (a close family friend).

The Location and First Impressions:

We arrive at BurJuman Center at 9:30 PM, a weeknight. There’s ample parking space. We ask the lady at the information desk about the restaurant’s location. “Go left,” she says, “walk straight then go one level up.” We get lost and end up in the food court. We ask for directions one more time, and after some more walking, finally find the Barrio Fiesta.

The place is tastefully decorated. I love the bamboo, the clay pots, the masks, the very colorful framed pictures on the walls, there’s a guitar in a corner…they certainly do give a fiesta vibe!

We are immediately shown to a table (we went without making reservations). Besides us, there are twelve more people in the restaurant. It’s Saima and Masood’s first time in a Filipino restaurant, so they’re clueless on what to order. It doesn’t help that the menu came with description of the food; they are still nervous to decide for themselves. And although Saima and Sophia take forever taking pictures of the menu card, the staff is prompt to take our orders.

The Food and Drinks

The Barrio Fiesta offers traditional Filipino cuisine—a fusion of native flavours with dashes of Spanish, Chinese, and Malay influences. Now, taking into consideration our Indian/Pakistani taste buds, we steer clear from dishes that contain shrimp paste. Here’s what we order:

Gulaman at sago. Gelatin and tapioca in brown sugar syrup flavored with pandan leaves and topped with crushed ice. It has just the right amount of sweetness and the pandan flavor is nicely infused. Yummy! Must-try. AED 15.

Adobo flakes. This is our appetizer. Chicken that has been cooked in adobo sauce—soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic—then shredded and fried to crispy perfection. Love the crunch. AED 24.

Bakang maanghang. Chunks of beef cooked with pepper and chilies until tender. We order this because the menu says it’s spicy. However, it isn’t hot. My mother, who can’t tolerate spicy food, is able to eat it this without issues. Besides this, the taste of this dish doesn’t really tickle and excite the taste buds. AED 32.

Sinigang na hipon. A tamarind-flavored soup served with shrimps and vegetables (string beans, okra, green chilies, radish, and pechay. This came piping hot and the vegetables are fresh and firm. Mom, Sophia and myself enjoy this soup, while Saima and Masood eye the shrimp with suspicion—the feet and tail attached to the shrimp discourages them to try this dish. AED 35.

Bangus sa bawang. Boneless milk fish pan fried in garlic. The fish is nicely seasoned and fried, and we enjoy eating this. The sauce that comes with it is bland, so we ask for a vinegar with chilies dip. AED 40.

Inihaw na manok. My favorite dish of the evening. Chicken grilled with Filipino barbecue sauce. The chicken is cooked to perfection, meat comes effortlessly off the bones, and the sauce is finger-licking good. Highly recommended. AED 28.

All these dishes are served with steamed or garlic/fried rice, depending on your preference.

Overall Experience:

I’ve read some negative reviews about the place, particularly with regards to their slow service. But the service has been excellent for us, perhaps because it was an hour before closing time and there aren’t many customers? The staff is attentive, the food arrives promptly and hot, and even though it’s close to their closing time (10:30 PM), they don’t make us feel rushed. However, I feel like they should increase the serving size/portions.

Will I return to dine in Barrio Fiesta? Absolutely.

We had halo-halo for dessert at Chowking.

Barrio Fiesta Restaurant
Burjuman Center, Dubai
Phone No : +971-4-3594158

Barrio Fiesta Restaurant
Lamcy Plaza, Dubai
Phone No : +971-4-3345742

Barrio Fiesta Restaurant
Abudhabi Mall, Abu Dhabi
Phone No : +971-2-6719910

22 comments

    1. I was a little nervous about bringing Masood to try Filipino cuisine, but he loved the experience! But of course, we ordered the dishes that I thought would appeal to his (and Saima’s) taste buds. However, I think you’d love this cuisine. Give it a try and let me know, Tien!

    1. Hi, Mica! We went there pretty late and that too on a weeknight, so there wasn’t much crowd. But yeah, I assume the place must be crowded during lunch times or weekends. Not sure about Heart, but the Consul General was there during the opening 🙂

  1. Ok its hard to decide which one is better than other in terms of looks. Coz all of them score high. I guess the chicken dish you mentioned as ur favt does seem very tasty.

    I have never heard of these dishes before. I guess i will try to research more about that tapocia gelatin thing. That’s sago dana. So, it seems weird, interesting.
    aiman recently posted..Basi Qorma……..

  2. It’s a love-hate relationship with me and Barrio Fiesta. Sometimes the service and food is good, sometimes it’s not. I have taken a few of my Japanese friends there and they love the food, I just wish there would be consistency. It has great potential to finally carry that Philippine cuisine flag in Dubai…
    Grace @ Sandier Pastures recently posted..Giveaway: Kenwood True Blender

    1. I know what you mean, Grace; consistency is the key, specially that they are carrying that famous brand name that’s synonymous with Filipino cuisine. Perhaps it’s a good idea to dine there during the off-peak timings only?

  3. hello, nadia…

    isa ka na ngang Pinay, di maikakaila. alam mo na ang mga dapat i-order na pagkain. maigi naman at nagustuhan ng pamilya mo ang mga pagkain at ang Filipino dining experience.

    ang gaganda ng kuha mo ng litrato rito. and i also think you did justice sa narration. salamat sa pagtataguyod mo ng mga bagay na may kaugnayan sa Pilipinas. mabuhay ka, kapatid! 🙂
    doon po sa amin recently posted..Close na ba tayo?

    1. Thank you so much, San! Had I been dining alone, I would’ve ordered kare-kare and Bicol express (although I don’t remember this place having Bicol Express in their menu). I have this feeling na magusgustuhan nila ang kanilang first Filipino dining experience – masarap kaya ang pagkaing Pinoy.

      I’m glad you like the pictures. The lighting was great in the restaurant so photography was a breeze. Also, I’ve mentioned quite a few times on this blog about how I’m usually intimidated with taking pictures in restaurants with people watching and all, but tonight was the first time ever that I took pictures of the food without reservations and really enjoyed it! There are two reasons for this: first, my sister was there taking pictures as well, and second, the place wasn’t crowded. I think it also helped that we were sitting in a corner table (we had enough privacy).

      1. hmmn… matagal ka nga sigurong naging estudyante, aba’y maalam ng dining alone? hehe… btw, i hope masood rarely lets you dine alone these days, ahaha.

        ang dami mong alam na pagkain at kulturang pinoy. ikaw na! yan, mag-aaral na nga ako uli ng kultura nyo at nang may alam akong konti pag nag-uusap tayo… 🙂

        maganda ang mga kuha mo, may pokus at mukhang elegante ang lugar. tila inspired din ang kumukuha.

        hello sa family mo! 🙂
        doon po sa amin recently posted..Tawagin ang Pulis

        1. Thank you so much, San! Yep, haven’t dined alone in restaurants since I got married, which is actually good considering it isn’t much fine eating alone. Plus I don’t have to pay the bill myself 😉

          Yes, to be fair – dapat lang na pag-aralan mo din ang kultura namin. It isn’t boring, pramis 😀

    1. I may or may not be a Filipino, Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese, Egyptian, Pakistani, or Indian. I can’t tell, sorry – it’s highly classified information.

    1. Oh, I never thought about making inihaw na manok myself. What a brilliant idea! I’m sure my very desi susraal will love it.

      PS: No, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of the compliments on the photographs, in fact, I get inspired to take more. However, a constructive criticism is also highly appreciated.

      PPS: I found this recipe to be very good.

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