Monday, November 30, 2015

Olea: a delicious breath of fresh food ... and air

We have been living in Dubai for over a decade now and we have seen restaurants and culinary concepts rise and fall throughout the years. But if there is one thing we have learned, it is that people have got to eat at some point and the classics never fail. 

That is not to say a twist here and there, well designed and beautifully executed is not welcome. Actually, it has become a necessity. Food can get so boring so quickly. Everywhere looking the same. Everywhere tasting the same. It is almost a burden to pick a nice place to go out on the weekend. And with children, forget it! So many factors and prerequisites come to play. It is truly a challenge.

To be honest, when we decided to visit Olea, I was expecting yet another Lebanese restaurant.


But what a wonderful and delicious surprise 
Olea turned out to be.

The restaurant concept is brilliant in its simplicity: 
« Olea presents the most authentic Levantine cuisine and a complete Levant dining experience that will delight all the senses.  
Levantine cuisine is the true traditional cuisine found in the Levant region, known in Arabic as the Bilad ash-Sham or Land of the North, which today spans Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, southern Turkey and Cyprus. »


What is fun is that all of these countries have similar cuisines and sometimes even the same national foods but there are twists as to how they cook each dish.  Olea is presenting some of these signature dishes as prepared by one of these countries.

And so we were handed a menu that looks familiar, but tastefully executed in ways that varied from the usual.


Some tasted like what we knew from home and other Lebanese and Syrian restaurants but others were new and exciting. The Cypriot grilled Halloumi cheese for instance was such a hit the minute it landed on the table that I did not even have time to snap a photo! It is amazing: crunchy and golden on the outside, creamy on the inside; overall, very different from how Lebanese restaurants will present it. The four pieces had already been swallowed when I took out my phone for a quick photo! 

The portions are quite generous and the waiters keep the stream of hot freshly baked bread coming continuously. We gave some appetizers, main dishes and a dessert a try and all were exquisite. The chefs clearly know they stuff and they excel at it. 

Three mouth-watering Hummus.

We started with a selection of Hummus from three different countries, which was a delightful change from the regular Lebanese one we usually order (also available and equally delicious), three kinds of Labne to die for, the tastiest kinoa Tabboule in town, amazing Sojok, superb raw Kebbe and a lentil soup Mia could not stop eating! Needless to say we had a difficult time refraining from licking our fingers in public, as my prolific (and well deserved) use of adjectives will indicate.

Please, please, do click on the photos to enlarge them and get a glimpse of what I am talking about!



After such treats, we could only tackle two main dishes which left us in awe and definitely coming back for more!



And finally, because there is always room for sweets, we shared this fantastic piece of home that sealed the deal:

All wrapped up in a delightful setup. 

The weather was gorgeous and we opted for the charming terrace where the kids enjoyed running around and watching the Metro pass by, which incidentally was not loud at all (we almost missed it most of the times). 

A breath of fresh air at the heart of Dubai!






Mamma Mia's Checklist:
  • Parking / Access: The restaurant is at the Kempinski so the hotel's valet service is available; alternatively, the mall parking is also quite near but it is necessary to enter the restaurant via the Kempinski lifts (2nd floor)
  • Staff: Bilingual (Arabic/English), kind, knowledgeable and very friendly; lovely with the children
  • Service: Prompt and professional
  • Food: Delicious and always at the right temperature; exquisite presentation 
  • Kids Menu/Meal: Not available but the children can easily find something they like in the main menu (meat, chicken, fries, soup, mana'ich which are baked dough with various toppings like thyme, cheese, etc. - a sort of an Arabic pizza)
  • Play area/Playground: Not available but the restaurant is at walking distance from Magic Planet at Mall of the Emirates and the beautiful terrace is also a gorgeous alternative to the usual places kids are confined in
  • Baby Chair: Available
  • Changing Table: Not available; the restaurant patrons have access to the Kempinski restrooms which do not provide baby facilities
  • Outdoors: Agreeable and welcoming; beware of the pool as it is accessible from the restaurant terrace and although it makes for a lovely view, it could be dangerous to allow the little ones to wander nearby (a lifeguard is always on post)
  • Indoors: Elegant and private seating available if needed
  • Drinks: Alcohol and bar available 
  • Family Seal Of Approval: A big fat YES! Grown ups and kids both loved the venue and the food


This review was written for Mums Like Us.  

Mamma Mia+Jad

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Safe (and fun) Halloween to all!

It's that time of the year again and children will start negotiating for the spookiest or coolest costume very soon. If they haven't already! 

So in anticipation to the biggest candy fest of the year, let us remember some basic safety tips so Halloween remains what it is intended to be: FUN & ROTTEN TEETH!

  • Fire resistant: Choose costumes made of flame retardant materials
  • Tripping: Avoid long costumes that hit the ground and cover the feet
  • Falling: Avoid high heels or oversized shoes, not matter how fun they may look
  • Visibility: Always opt for bright colors and since black is a favorite color for Halloween, make sure you add reflective stripes to make sure you and your children are visible at all times regardless of how well lit you think the street may be (use stripes as accessories like bracelets, belts, etc)
  • Masks: Never cover the eyes or the nose as vision is a priority and you do not want to hinder breathing
  • Accessories: All accessories such as swords, knives, or sharp objects should be made of soft foam with no actual sharp edges and should be easy to carry (the kids will already have their candy bag/basket to carry)

  • Chaperon: Always make sure children are accompanied by a responsible adult and let them know they should never leave their group to wander alone
  • Familiarity: Opt for neighborhoods and streets that are familiar to the children and preferably well lit
  • Street crossing: Teach your children to always look both ways before crossing a street and make sure they understand this is the only time they are allowed on the street (while crossing) and at all other times they must  always walk on the sidewalks and never on the road
  • Fire: Make sure your decorations are not dangerous; if you must have lanterns or candles, make sure they are placed in a safe location away from the doorsteps or where children might stand and costumes could catch fire 
  • Strangers: Always remind your children to never go inside a stranger's house or vehicles

  • Poisoning: Instruct your children to only accept commercially wrapped treats
  • Parental control: Make sure you examine the candy before the kids eat them
  • Rotten teeth: Teeth will be the most abused victims of Halloween, so make sure you... BRUSH THEM when you are done with all the candy! ;)


Mamma Mia+Jad

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Mia and Jad meet Le Petit Prince at last...

We had been waiting for an eternity. From the moment we heard it was in the making, we just could not wait. And finally, two days ago, we took the children to a very special avant-première of Le Petit Prince.

Source: Wikipedia

I had refrained from reading about the film or even watching the preview. I really wanted to make room for fascination and I refused to go with preconceptions or expectations.

After all, Saint-Exupéry's masterpiece is a classic. We grew up with it. And it grew with us. It is one of those stories that you read and reread over and over again. And with every reading, you understand more. You see more. You discover more. It is truly beautiful. And quite frankly, I was a little worried the film would pale in comparison to the original.

And maybe because anyone who had read Saint-Exupéry would also fear nothing could possibly equal to the book, the filmmakers intelligently created their story around the original text and not as an adaptation of The Little Prince for the big screen. Considering the book itself relies greatly on visuals and the drawings of the author, it would have been sadly dull and redundant to simply animate those illustrations. And because nothing matches human imagination and so many have read the book countless times, any animation would have felt a little unimpressive.

Instead, these illustrations are left exactly as they are in the book. But they become the center and the catalyst for the film storyline. They instigate the main connection between the characters who will move forward to not only recount the story but even do what any child (or adult) does with characters they get attached to: go beyond what exists.

We have all taken characters of a book or film we love and imagined how their lives would be after the ending.

The film is basically the (theorized) future of The Little Prince as imagined by the creators. But it does not transgress from the core and gives another layer to the original messages conveyed in the book while establishing a coherent correlation to our modern lives. Humans are humans after all. Be it in 1943, when Saint-Exupéry published this beautiful life lesson (poem) or today.

Dreams, hopes, expectations, demands, values... They have not changed that much. Humans are still as greedy, vain and materialistic as ever. Children are still as pure, raw and open as ever. And humans are still required to grow up into that "adult person" that society imposes as "reasonable".

The film is beautiful. Visually. It is a pleasure to watch. The story of The Little Prince itself is revealed in a stop motion of the original illustrations while the rest of the "real world" is developing in modern animation style. Since the film has not been released yet in the UAE, I will refrain from going into the details but I will reiterate it is very well done. A beautiful production that honors the work of Saint-Exupéry.

The music is as fantastic as the visuals. I absolutely loved the soundtrack. It lifted the narrative beautifully and tells a story in and by itself. One would be tempted to sit there, eyes shut, just listening. It might come across as cliché to say that the music transported us but it truly was a vehicle to a deeper intensity and understanding of the themes.

Mia waiting for the film to start

We were lucky enough to score tickets to this avant-première in French as the original version might never play in UAE theaters. It was emotional to watch it in the language I have read and known The Little Prince. That being said, I am definitely going to watch it again, even if it is in English. The kids loved it and Mia has been bringing up intense scenes of the film (to my surprise, not the silly events at the surface). So I would like to give her the opportunity to watch it again and hopefully see new things that will mesmerize her and undoubtedly make her think and analyze every new discovery. She has not yet read the book and this will be an opportunity to explore the story now. I just cannot wait for that.

Jad just happy to be there!

Red carpet moment for Mia and Lynn before we enter the theater

The Little Prince will be released in UAE Theaters on October 22, 2015.
Do not miss it!      

This review was written for Mums Like Us.

Mamma Mia+Jad

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