x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Restaurant Insider: Eat like an Egyptian at Al Ammor

This little Dubai cafe has serves up big portions of quite delicious, very cheap, heavy-duty fare.

Al Ammor restaurant in Karama, Dubai, serves carb-friendly comfort food.
Al Ammor restaurant in Karama, Dubai, serves carb-friendly comfort food.

Let's get one thing out of the way: if you're trying to steer clear of carbs, then perhaps avoid Al Ammor. This little Egyptian eatery in Karama specialises in carbohydrate-heavy fare: breads, cakes and the all important koshari, served in various incarnations (normal, special, bigger, with liver or with hot dogs being just a few examples).

Al Ammor is small and functional - wipe-down tables, minimal cutlery, paper napkins. It is also busy: the waiters call out to the chefs in the tiny adjacent open kitchen and the chefs holler back in reply. No one speaks much English, but that's not to say the staff aren't willing to help you out, particularly when it comes to packaging up the inevitable leftovers in a takeaway box.

The menu is a bit of a confusing jumble, with everything appearing in a long list, but order some form of koshari (we went for a small special and struggled to finish it) and a stuffed fateer and you really won't go far wrong. Incidentally, if you do try the Kraft cheese with honey and egg version, then do let me know what you think – I wasn't quite brave enough.

The koshari arrived first: a mass of macaroni, noodles, chickpeas, rice and lentils topped with a generous layer of russet, crunchy, caramelised onions. Four bowls containing cumin-dusted lentils, chickpeas, more golden fried onions (I ate the lot) and a smooth tomato sauce were served on the side.

We quickly set about customising our koshari, mixing the ingredients together and adding spoonfuls of tomato sauce, a drizzle here and there of chilli sauce and a splash of garlicky vinegar from the decanters already on the table. Make no mistake: this is filling comfort food done well. The ingredients may be simple, but they are cooked properly – the chickpeas were soft, the macaroni had texture and the rice fell into distinct grains.

A huge slab of fateer stuffed with romi cheese and minced meat studded with the occasional piece of tomato or briny sliced olive was equally good. Just before it arrived at the table, we'd watched the chef twirling the raw dough through the air and slapping it on to the work surface in front of him, as it grew larger and thinner with each rotation. It was then folded and stuffed, before being shoved straight into the middle of a raging hot wood oven, only to be pulled out – with bare hands – minutes later. The flaky, layered bread was transparent in parts, with a scorched pockmarked top and a chewy centre. Stringy, creamy, salty melted cheese ran throughout and the meat, although a touch chewy, had a pleasant spice to it.

When we ordered dessert, our waiter looked at us as if we were quite mad (and promptly began preparing a takeaway box for the inevitable leftovers). I'm happy to report that the sweet fateer was on a par with the savoury version. This time, the dough had been slathered with qishta (thick cream) before being cooked. It had then been drizzled with honey the second it was removed from the oven. The top layer was crisp, like sugar-tarnished filo pastry, with the dough gradually becoming deliciously sweetly soggy in the centre, thanks to the cream and pools of honey.

In short, the total cost of this feast came to Dh53, which is, in my opinion, quite fantastic. Do go.

Al Ammor is located in Karama, close to Sana Fashions. For takeaway or more information call 04 370 7060. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito.