Iconic Restaurants Food

Why royals and Bollywood stars frequent this Dubai restaurant

Frequented by Bollywood stars and royalty, Al Ustad has a lot more to offer than just kebabs. Though those are delectable, too.

When you walk into Al Ustad, a popular kebab joint in the heritage neighbourhood of Bur Dubai, the first thing that will catch your eye are the hundreds of photos that adorn its walls.

On a closer look, you can spot many a popular face posing with the restaurant owners, clearly happy after a satisfying gastronomical experience. The men common in all the photographs are Majeed Anssari and Shahabuddin Anssari, co-owners of the always crowded Iranian food joint. And, those posing with them are the likes of Salman Khan, Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Arjun Rampal and Zareen Khan, to name a few. Not just Indian stars — the patrons include royalty and celebrities from across West Asia, including Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai.

What makes this Iranian kebab joint so popular? “The ambience and the taste we dish out,” says Majeed, who can easily converse in Indian languages like Hindi, Punjabi and Malayalam, apart from Arabic and English.

Mohammed Kazim, an Emirati businessman and a licensed tour guide who dines here frequently, agrees. “It’s a family-run restaurant and you get to interact with them, it’s very authentic and casual. It’s a place for everyone, which is exactly what Dubai represents. The food is also on another level: the taste is very pure to the culture they have lived in, and they use spices from the region,” says Kazim. The vibe is also a plus, with currencies from all over the world on display, as well as some vintage items.

Stars of the menu

Salman Khan and Zareen Khan have visited more than once. Majeed clearly remembers a visit by Shah Rukh Khan. “The star visited our restaurant with four of his friends and they ordered the mixed grill platter,” he recalls.

Asked about the most sought-after dishes by Indians, Majeed points to the kebabs. “Shish kebab and joojeh kebab are two dishes that are ordered most frequently by Indian visitors. The key ingredients are lime, salt, black pepper, yoghurt and, in some cases, saffron,” he says.

Majeed also shares a secret behind the taste — the meat is marinated for more than 24 hours. In a majority of dishes, dried lime is also used as a spice. Traditional Iranian dishes include mutton and chicken kebabs marinated in garlic yoghurt, as well as fragrant rice served with saffron and sumac, with a side of grilled tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Fresh lavash is served piping hot, and for dessert, sticky dates are served with a delicious nutty sauce and mint tea.

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The food is affordable compared to other kebab joints. The cheapest on the menu is hummus, which will cost you seven UAE dirhams, while the most expensive dish is the Sultani dinner at 47 dirhams.

Why royals and Bollywood stars frequent this Dubai restaurant

The restaurant receives a great flux of people through the week. There is no difference whether it is a weekday or weekend, say regulars. “It’s always full. There are no reservations, it’s first come, first served. We see about 400 walk-ins on normal days and around 500-600 people on weekends,” adds Majeed.

“I have sweet memories of this place. My father used to bring me here when I was a child. Old habits die hard and I’m a regular visitor,” says Kazim.

The restaurant was set up by Mohammed Al Ansari, who left Gerash in southern Iran for Dubai in 1941. He first ran a grocery shop and bakery in Bur Dubai before setting up the restaurant 41 years ago, working there until he passed away in 2015 at the age of 83. His sons Majeed, Shahabuddin and Taleb now jointly run the restaurant.

And, what is Majeed’s special pick for a first-time Indian visitor? “I would recommend the mixed grill for Indian tourists. It works well when you are with a group of people or your family. The platter can work for an individual and also extend to serve 7-10 people.”

And whether or not you are pinned along with King Khan on this restaurant’s wall of fame, is up to you.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 7:23:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/why-royals-and-bollywood-stars-frequent-dubais-al-ustad-restaurant/article30932140.ece

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