FARZI CAFE

Farzi Cafe's mission is simple – bring Indian food back in vogue. Sure, Indian food has enjoyed its glory days. It's had a major influence on ancient travelers and the culinary souvenirs they took back home. Instead of a pet peacock and elephant keychain, the English took home the recipe for chicken tikka masala and crowned it their national dish. As the decades passed, Indian food settled into a comfort zone and stayed there. Now folks like Farzi Cafe are determined to draw open the curtains and throw a bucket of cold water on Indian cuisine to wake it up. It plans to bring sexy back to the Indian kitchen with a dose of molecular gastronomy. Reviving traditional flavors with a post-modern twist, guests better prepare for their jaws to drop at Farzi Cafe.

Reservation
Indian molecular gastronomy + City Walk + Thursday = busy tables around the clock. I feared I'd have to literally swim through crowds just to nab the restaurant's tiniest table. So, I decided to be an adult about it and make a reservation 48 hours in advance. So much for that plan – my call didn't go through despite multiple attempts. When my lunch date and I arrived at the venue, we were informed to expect a table in ten minutes, and that irked me. I tried to be organized and book in advance - only to no avail. It was then that the manager told me that the phone lines and wifi were in the dumps due to a technical hiccup. All was instantly forgiven. We opted for a table outside – a charming balance between dappled sunlight and a gentle breeze. 

Parking
City Walk is dotted with ample parking space, open to the public for free.
You can take your pick from either underground or above ground parking.

Greeting and seating
The maître d's podium was crowded with three people. While initially hoping to sit inside, we decided the general banter was too loud and opted to dine al fresco instead. A pair of dramatically sized menus were handed to us, leaving us to peruse the creative dishes that lied within.

Knowledge and service of the waiter
Given its unique concept, the waiters were rolling out descriptions of menu items off the tip of their tongues. When asked for recommendations, the waiters were geared up with personal favorites, which have now become my favorites too!

Our order
Lunch was a feast of raj kachori, daal chawal arancini, spinach and paneer quesadilla, potato sliders, cayenne shrimp and lemon rice, Holy Crimson Cloud mocktail, and ras malai tres leches.

Food
The moment our appetizers arrived, we were impressed right off the bat. The dishes were dressed like they were about to strut down the red carpet – dolled up in thoughtful sprinkles of sev (fried chickpea flour), striking jewels of pomegranate, and freshly plucked leaves.

We launched into lunch with daal chawal arancini (a medley of squishy rice and Indian lentil stew rolled into balls and deep-fried), spinach and paneer quesadillas, and raj kachoris (thin cases of fried flour stuffed with sweet and savory ingredients). So, where exactly shall I start?

Let's make it a visual game. Picture this – it's raining and you're dangling your head over the balcony, inhaling the scent of freshly drenched soil. You're cozied up in your fluffiest pajamas when you feel a tap on your shoulder. It's a humble little bowl of steaming daal and chawal (rice). Leaving frills and thrills at the door, it tastes like a mother's kiss in a bowl. Neither too hot or cold, it's got a balance so perfect, it could make Goldilocks weak in the knees. It's got a way of hugging your chest by simply sliding down your throat. That's daal and chawal for you. Fried as arancini is like putting the Mona Lisa in a diamond encrusted frame. Sure, it's a nice addition, but not vital. The dish is a classic masterpiece on its own, whether you're eating it in pajamas or Gucci.

Next up – raj kachori. The credit for this popular Indian street food is a tug-of-war between Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Doesn't matter which state wins, the kachori is the true prize here. A skinny case of flour deep-fried in oil – it's typically heavily fed with sweet and savory stuffing before heavily feeding it to a diner. We cracked our kachoris open like an egg and drowned the shattered shell in the ocean of yogurt in its belly. A mischevious combination of sweet and savory – it's the perfect dish to entertain a bored palate. While coffee wakes the mind up, this dish is like an alarm clock for your tastebuds. For the ultimate experience, don't ignore the sev on the side.

The spinach and paneer quesadillas were pleasant, but nothing to write home about. I find the quesadilla, in its natural state, a bland dish. Lovely to nurse a hangover with, but we all know tacos and burritos get all the love when drunk-dialled and ordered at 3AM.

I kept busy with a watermelon and basil mocktail until our entrées arrived. Playfully called the Holy Crimson Cloud, the drink is accessorized with an emulsified cloud of basil. While it may initially look like the kitchen's forgotten to wash soap foam off the glass, you'll soon realize it's intentional. Lighter than a feather, you could accidentally inhale too hard and vacuum the foam up into your nose. Despite surfing over a pool of watermelon juice – it proudly retains its distinct flavor. A refreshing combination, the basil foam tastes like the ghost of a Caprese salad. Love!

My entrée was an elegant plate of sunny lemon rice dressed in cayenne-spiked shrimp and gravy. I squealed when my date's plate arrived and immediately wanted to swap. His lunch arrived in a damn tiffin! The last time I ate out of a tiffin, I had pigtails and a failed math test I was hiding from my parents crumpled in my backpack. Talk about #ThrowbackThursday! Nestled inside the blindingly red and black lunch box were two potato sliders and wedges. Giving quesadilla some company on the list of hangover remedies, this dish is a dream after a Friday booze brunch. The sliders get an A+ for presentation but my shrimp and lemon rice win major flavor points. Explosive spices that didn't leave us choking for water from chili overload. Well played.

Farzi Cafe's dessert menu was like a sugerholic's wishlist. I skipped a heartbeat with every description I read, wanting to shove my face in them all. After an intense game of Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe; the Ras Malai Tres Leches won. Sunshine was strained into a soup and served with our dessert. Stunningly yellow, it should really have been a paint advert. Adorned in pistachios, strings of saffron, and crumbled rose – the dish checked all the boxes on my Indian and Middle Eastern palate. Bengal's gift to the rest of India, it reflects everything I love about Bengali culture. Elegantly powerful and packed with masterful flavor, Ras Malai sends you to the moon and back.

Courtesy extended during the meal
The manager swung by when my mocktail arrived, and praised the luscious basil foam that delicately crowned its watermelon base. Everyone from him to the waiters was keen to ensure we were enjoying our meal. They were pleasantly attentive without hovering over our table.

Ambience
For a place with “cafe” in its name, Farzi's interiors emanate fine dining vibes. Draped in sophisticated shades of beige and gold, the atmosphere was buzzing with banter and clinking cutlery. With waiters zooming around and a queue accumulating at its doorstep, the scene was every restaurateur's dream. At the outdoor tables, music gently leaked from inside the restaurant. Pedestrians sauntered by as we basked in a beautiful spring day with scrumptious food.

Price
For avant-garde molecular gastronomy, Farzi Cafe's prices are fantastic! Our three-course lunch for two with drinks and a couple bottles premium bottles of water amounted to 252 dirhams. Ditching the usual leather wallet that bills are presented in, Farzi Cafe turned up the quirk by serving up the bill in a faux antique typewriter. This place knows no bounds with creativity!

Overall, would you return?
Ask me this next Thursday and I won't be able to answer because my mouth will be stuffed with Farzi Cafe's desserts. I've promised myself to keep returning until I've blazed through the dessert menu. The golden beads of Farzi's jalebi caviar are calling my name!

Chef's recommendations
Braised mutton bunny chow, chocolate dirt pile dessert, and the steamy Bootlegger mocktail.