In a city populated with a wealth of small alleys, Zaroob (which literally means small alley) is transporting classic Middle Eastern recipes out of dark little alleys and into professional kitchens. Draped in kitsch, it's locally renowned for dishing out post-pub fodder, recently opening the doors to its newest branch in Palm Jumeirah. If you're a fan of Zaroob but only eat dinner after midnight, save the address to its Dubai Marina and SZR outlets on your GPS. They're open 24/7!
Zaroob doesn't accept advance reservations, welcoming only walk-in guests.
Arriving in a taxi, I didn't have to worry about landing a parking spot.
The Golden Mile complex has a parking lot within close vicinity to Zaroob.
Greeting and seating
Jumping out of a taxi at Golden Mile 3, Google Maps guided me by foot to Zaroob's doorstep. When I got there, I was surprised to see that there wasn't even a doorstep. Just a flamboyant burst of Zaroob's signature vibrance oozing into the bland hallways of the shopping complex. A quirkily dressed server welcomed me with a smile, but I was too busy admiring her striking cheekbones to smile back. Desperately tempted to plonk down on a repurposed olive oil container, I took the sophisticated route and seated myself on a garishly turquoise chair instead.
Knowledge and service of the waiter
We were served by a variety of waiters who dipped in and out with plates either loaded with food or scattered with scraps. Service wasn't overbearing and was lightly sprinkled over the course of our meal – akin to when I sneak in a “sprinkle” of Ajinomoto seasoning to make my nasty home cooking taste better. If we needed a fresh plate or ice for our water, there was a waiter in the background intuitively addressing our request. Kind of like Peter Parker and his Spidey sense.
Divided among three courses, lunch featured a three-fruit juice, the Lebanese foul jar, beef tenderloin, Zaroob's famous fattoush, hummus with meat and another with fatteh, felafel, the Arabic chicken shawarma, fried halloumi skewers, garlic chicken manoushe, zaatar wrap with fresh vegetables, meat saj with pomegranate molasses, and fateer with Nutella, fruit, and pistachio.
Round one – First course // Appetizers
If you were to explain the concept of summer using nothing but color, Zaroob's Fruitti Juice would be an excellent example. Thickly stacked layers of pulp-rich juice, freshly squeezed, tightly hug the glass walls of a mason jar. Sweating with cold drops of water on the outside, it's the perfect remedy for a case of Dubai summer blues. A blend of strawberry, mango, and guava – it's no surprise the Fruitti Juice is a popular drink of choice among Zaroob's diners.
Our appetizers comprised a mishmash of dishes – the famous fattoush, felafels, two kinds of hummus – one with fatteh (southern Levantine classic featuring toasted pita bread, yogurt, and spices) and the other with shreds of meat, fried halloumi skewers, and sojouk. The fattoush is delectably fresh, and better than any other version I've tried at many a Ramadan tent and desert safari. The felafels are a striking balance between moist and crispy – accentuated by the mischievously purple strands of Arabic pickle on the side. The hummus duo equally won my heart – the fatteh with its zesty tang and the lahm with its perfectly cooked accents of meat. Fry anything, and you're on a direct path to success. This goes for the halloumi skewers that were fried just enough to land a crispy coat without drowning the cheese in grease. The soujouk, sausage peppered with a blazing combination of spices, made the roof of my mouth melt onto my tongue.
Round two – Second course // Entrées
You can never just order one thing at a Middle Eastern restaurant. Traditionally, Arabic meals have nourished its diners both nutritionally and socially. Consumed in a communal fashion, it's all about sharing food and memories. The food is seasoned with as much humor as it is salt. As urbanism creeps into the modern Arab's lifestyle, week nights may be spent slurping on Chinese takeout while streaming Netflix but Fridays are all about sharing wholesome meals with family.
Similar to the appetizers, our main course featured a multitude of dishes – beef tenderloin in a pan with pomegranate beads, chicken shawarma, garlic chicken manoushe, zaatar with vegetables roll, meat with pomegranate molasses saj. Expertly cooked to tender bliss, the beef tenderloin was elevated with sneaky pearls of pomegranate sprinkled among the finely chopped cuts of meat. Proudly Lebanese by nature, I've always been fascinated by how the chefs of Lebanon have taken the pomegranate's potential beyond just a basic fruit salad. It's been awhile since I've luxuriated over a midnight shawarma in a parking lot – Zaroob's chicken shawarma reignited my love for the flawless wrap. Accompanied with a fistful of paprika-dusted fries on the side, I was floating on a cloud of flavor nostalgia. The garlic chicken wrap had a similar effect, but with more garlic. While I devoured all the meat dishes, my vegetarian colleague relished bites of his zaatar and vegetable roll. As uncomplicated as butter on toast, the wrap was a sublime combination of freshly cut vegetables slathered with a generous layer of scrumptious zaatar. Just when I was ready to throw in the towel, my hands lurched over for a slice of minced meat flatbread. Light and fruity, the pomegranate molasses was the hero ingredient that took this dish to another level.
As a savory dessert before our actual dessert arrived, we ladled a spoonful of foul onto our plates. Flaunting citric notes of lemon, we soon learned it's a popular dish at the restaurant. While foul is an acquired taste if you've never tried it before, the ritual of it arriving in an ornate metal jar and the act of ladling it onto your plate is what wins its diner's heart.
Round three – Third course // Dessert
Crushed by the sheer amount we ate, we couldn't even stomach the thought of dessert. Once it landed on our table, not even a second passed before we changed our minds. With a Nutella craze conquering the world, dessert was the perfect fusion of Middle Eastern and Western culinary traditions. Smeared across fresh and flaky flatbread, our dessert was encrusted with colorful slices of banana and strawberry. An instant hit the moment it touched my tastebuds, I wanted to return later that evening just for another serving of the fruit-studded Nutella fateer. Sprinkled with crumbled pistachio, it thoroughly satisfied every single corner of my Dubai-kid heart.
Courtesy extended during the meal
The manager was a cocktail of warm smiles and enthusiasm for Zaroob's unique brand. Occasionally visiting our table, he ensured our meal was a pleasant one. We decided to soak in the natural light outside, and were accompanied by flies hovering over the table. The waiters assembled a contraption topped with burning coal, shooing away the flies in a jiffy.
Zaroob is as much of a visual gallery as it is an eatery. Playfully decorated with everything from stacks of glistening fruit ready to dive into a blender to turquoise tiles shimmering in the sunlight. Splashes of pink dominate the space, bringing alive the bright bursts of color the Middle East is known for. Step into a postcard by sitting outside – strips of Palm trees create a verdant backdrop as you tuck into a steaming hot manoushe or slurp on an ice cold Vimto.
Menu Pages was invited as a guest at Zaroob's Palm Jumeirah branch.
An approximate estimation of our bill, for three lunch guests, would be around 320 dirhams.
Overall, would you return?
I've been returning ever since I first visited in 2015. Zaroob is one of the few places in Dubai that serves up a cracking bowl of koshari - a classic Egyptian streetfood comprising pasta, rice, lentils, chickpeas, fried onions, creamy tomato sauce, and everything that's good in life. While the Palm Jumeirah branch is too remote for me, I'm glad it's there for the district's residents to enjoy.
Zaroob's famous fattoush, hummus with meat, and the Lebanese foul jar.