Tucked away as it is at the top end of Dubai Marina, set back slightly from the main promenade, it doesn’t seem that Kurkuman receives much trade from passing customers. Which is a shame really, because this place serves decent dishes from Peshawar, Balochistan and Afghanistan. There’s a nice outdoor terrace overlooking the water, the staff are friendly and knowledgable and the room has a pleasant, cosy feel to it, with hanging rugs adorning the walls and plenty of ornamental knick-knacks -dotted about.
The fresh mango juice that I sipped on as I waited for my friend to arrive was thick, floral and creamy and the retro paper umbrella and plastic twizzler made me smile. Glancing at the menu and deciding that the balochi kofta (boiled eggs coated with mince) was a must try, we then set about ordering a clutch of dishes from what is a sizeable list. In fact, we ordered so many items that our waiter gently warned that there would be too much food – he was absolutely right and happily packaged up our leftovers ready for us to take home when we declared ourselves defeated 90 minutes or so later.
The basket of hot bread that arrived first reeked of garlicky goodness and we quickly dipped hot, crisp triangles of it into a surprisingly smooth and tangy hummus-style dip. Our next dish – niney – was perhaps my favourite of the whole meal; fresh corn shucked off the cob, sautéed in butter and finished with a touch of turmeric. It was perfect picking food: the roasted corn was chewy and crisp with a lovely bite and a zesty finish; chopped almonds, walnuts and pistachios added crunchy contrast and a sprinkling of chaat masala made the whole thing really zing.
Appetiser plates cleared, a flurry of dishes arrived. Qandahari chicken qorma – chicken simmered in a tomato and plum sauce – was a nice dish, but not an exceptional one. The meat was tender and the mildly spiced tomato gravy was very pleasant, but we couldn’t detect the plum element of the sauce – there wasn’t the sticky, fruity, sour-sweet dimension that we’d hoped for and the end result was a touch -mundane.
The much-anticipated balochi kofta brought us two minced meat and breadcrumb-wrapped boiled eggs, sliced in half horizontally and surrounded by a tomato-based sauce. Comparisons with that British classic, the Scotch egg, were inevitable here and while the yolks weren’t served runny at Kurkuman, they were remarkably creamy. Unfortunately, the over-minced meat let the side down; it had been processed to a paste and as a result, both the taste and texture suffered.
Acting under the instructions of a colleague, I ordered a serving of baatinganr. It was excellent. The musky aubergine flesh had been roasted until soft and dark before being shot through with warming spices and pepped up with sautéed onion, fresh tomatoes and herbs. It’s not often that two vegetable dishes steal the limelight like this, but at Kurkuman they really did.
That said, my friend in particular really enjoyed the roughly cut chunks of lamb that came with the kabuli pullao; the meat had a rich, gamey, mutton flavour and was surprisingly succulent. A mountain of rice, meanwhile, needed to have been more keenly spiced and seasoned in order to hold our interest beyond a taster mouthful or two, particularly at this point in the meal. So there you have it; it might not have been flawless but nevertheless I still enjoyed my meal at Kurkuman and would return. There’s something about the homely feel of the place and the traditional dishes that -appeals.
A meal for two at Kurkuman, DAMAC, The Waves, Dubai Marina, costs Dh248 including service charge. For reservations, call 04 447 4278. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito