Abyat is perhaps not strikingly impressive at first sight, with scarce furniture in a relatively large space leaving it looking sparse beneath its massive brick walls.
But it is elements such as the Lebanese restaurant’s Roman-style arches and paintings of Arab icons that help bring out its vintage charm. Forget Dubai’s flawless settings; you will find a raw, authentic mood at Abyat.
Located in Club Vista Mare on the Palm Jumeirah, the venue has a terrace overlooking the sea and city skyline. Since shisha is served outdoors as well as indoors, we dumped the alfresco setting for a touch of culture and sat inside opposite a Fairuz painting.
The food promptly followed. We are not big on taking risks so opted for our usual fattoush salad (AED32) with crispy bread. It often swims in excess pomegranate molasses, but was just sour enough.
If you are more adventurous, try the eggplant-based raheb salad (and tell us what you think of it). Continuing on our regular order, we tried the hummus pomegranate (AED38) with olive oil extract.
While we are likely to conquer any hummus we set our eyes on (it’s the Palestinian in us), Abyat’s is distinctively good, making us ditch the bread and pair the hummus with all of our other appetisers. We wouldn’t recommend you follow our lead, though. The bread was as good as anything on the table – and there’s nothing like freshly baked Arabic bread to lure you out of a carb-free diet.
We couldn’t leave without trying its falafel (AED32), a fried mixture of chickpeas, herbs, spices and tahini dip, though we must admit we have tried better in Dubai.
This one lacked that nutty, slightly aromatic taste that the best falafel has, which was rather disappointing as it is such a signature Middle Eastern dish. Perhaps fresher ingredients are the key.
Tasting much better, however, were the friend cheese rolls, rkakat jibneh (AED32), with creamy, rich fillings and subtly crispy dough. The portions were big, as with most Arabic restaurants, but we kept some room for shish tawouk fekhara (AED72) with chicken breast, potato slices and melted cheese served with steamed rice. It was simple, probably lacking in spices, yet very tasty. It is a bit too heavy for our liking, though, so do recommend you share it.
For dessert (we left enough space for that, too), we could not resist ghazal Beirut (AED45); smooth cotton candy with a centre of Arabic ice cream that tastes as close to home as we will get for a while.
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