The Shake Shack's juicy offerings in the Mall of the Emirates are worthy of devouring.
Shake Shack in Dubai
The first Shake Shack restaurant opened in New York's Madison Square Park in 2004 and this low-key hut quickly became known for its excellent burgers, frozen custard shakes and long queues.
Although Shake Shack is now something of a mini-chain in the United States, the restaurant in the Mall of the Emirates is the first of its kind outside the US. I visited last Friday at lunchtime and despite the plethora of fast-food offerings in the immediate vicinity, the place was teeming with people.
The mall setting does, of course, detract a little from the quirky charm of the original restaurant (modelled on an old-fashioned roadside burger stand). The atmosphere is fast and frenetic.
My friend and I were quickly herded into a queue and as we joined the snaking line, a plastic menu listing the various burgers, hot dogs, fries and floats was thrust in our direction.
After placing our order, we began a search for a table. Before we managed to locate one, our hand-held buzzer started to sound, so we collected our food instead. Clutching a tray loaded with the classic Shack Burger, a 'Shroom burger, fries, soft drink and an ice cream shake, we stocked up on condiments and pounced on a recently vacated table.
Shake Shack's much raved-about crinkle-cut fries are served in a sweet little cardboard tray. They were sufficiently hot and crisp, but could've done with a dusting of salt and certainly weren't the crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside little wonders that sometimes set this simple snack apart.
Both of our burgers had been squashed into paper bags that were not only too small, but also quickly became translucent with grease. These were also very flimsy and didn't provide a substantial enough surface area to rest the burger on when you weren't holding it. Most importantly though, the paper bags trapped the heat of the burgers, which caused the buns to sweat and take on a rather unattractive sheen.
Nonetheless, I was looking forward to the 'Shroom burger - a crispy, deep-fried portobello mushroom, stuffed with Muenster and cheddar cheese, sandwiched between a grilled potato bun. In reality, it was a little disappointing. As soon as I bit into the burger, molten cheese spurted out, but the flavour and proportion of this completely overwhelmed the taste and texture of the mushroom. The flavour of the Shack Sauce, meanwhile, was lost entirely and the bread quickly became mushy.
My friend fared better with his Shack Burger. In fact, this was where the restaurant came into its own. Given the dubious quality of many fast-food burgers, it's good to see that Shake Shack uses 100 per cent Black Angus beef, which doesn't contain any hormones or antibiotics. The meat was flavoursome, nicely seasoned and had a robust, pleasing texture to it. The lettuce and tomatoes layered on top were sprightly and the Shack Sauce was pleasantly mayonnaise-y. The burger was devoured quickly - enough said.
We then set about tackling dessert. Having deemed the Shack Attack an indulgence too far (frozen chocolate custard, pieces of cookie dough, chunks of Valhrona chocolate), we shared an only marginally less extravagant Great White Way. This consisted of vanilla ice cream (or frozen custard as they call it), blended with surprisingly crisp Rice Krispie-esque cereal pieces and marshmallow sauce. The first couple of mouthfuls were actually rather nice, although the synthetic vanilla flavour asserted itself rather too loudly for my liking.
Personally, my visit served to reinforce what I already knew: unhealthy fast food really isn't my thing. That said, if the craving for a burger does strike, it's certainly worth bearing the Shack Burger in mind because it far outstrips its competitors in terms of quality.
- A meal for two at Shake Shack, Mall of the Emirates, costs Dh115 not including service. For information call 04 347 5513. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.
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