Wharf 02, Jumeirah Fishing Harbour – 1 Al Urouba St – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
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I once went to see the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in concert in Glasgow, as you can imagine Glasgow is pretty straight laced in terms of social conservatism, so the once old Nusrat started to sing his Qualis the atmosphere in the hall became electric, it was as if the audience was mesmerised by the poetic lyrics.
Mr Khan sang about how love is a greater intoxicant than alcohol… then something strange happened, an elderly “uncle” got up from his chair and with an aid of a stick shuffled to the front of the stage.
Firstly he took out a few notes from his pocket and reverently placed them in front of the Quali master as a token of his appreciation and then he started to gyrate, yes he started to dance, not in a disco or western dance but a dance of the mesmerised, he started to whirl like a Sufi dervish…one man, without fear of judgment or failure stood in front of the stage and started dancing. Then another “uncle” started to dance on his chair, and another and another until the hall was full of men whirling like dervishes in front of the master.
It was quite a sight to behold, and equally how a single act can kickstart a movement.
The point of the story is that the food scene of Dubai is dominated by behemoth 5-star hotels with its tightly controlled international restaurant scene, or restaurants opened under the banner of celebrity chefs who lend their name so restaurant owners can overcharge their customers and finally the franchised mall restaurants who bang out homogenized food.
However, there is a movement happening in Dubai – chefs and restaurateurs are breaking free from the safety of hotels, franchises and celebrity mentorships and are creating a movement – a portfolio of independent, quality destinations that resonate with Dubai’s community.
One of the trailblazers is Chef Akmal Anuar and his 3 Fils Emirati/Far Eastern restaurant, he turned his back on the safe 5-star residentship and ventured out alone into the tumbleweed wilderness of off the beaten track independent restaurant scene.
He is the first to admit that the risk in the early days nearly did not pay off and he struggled to get 4 paying customers a day, but he persevered and turn things around.
3 Fils has 20 cosy covers and the restaurant decor is what I can describe as fishing village industrial minimalist chic, with cosy brushed concrete walls and simple wooden benches.
The menu is a single card that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the concept, It is cartoonish and illustrated, where the actual food is sophisticated and crafted. It is the only concept disconnect that I noticed.
I kicked off the proceedings with Scottish Scallops in Tiger Juice of Mandarin Soy juice and Sumac.
The Scallops are notoriously difficult seafood to get right, any lapse in focus and the scallop is overcooked and becomes a rubbery mess, however, these scallops were in the Loch near Glasgow a few hours ago.
The scallops were oh so gently seared and placed in the “Tiger Juice” of mandarins, sumac and rice wine vinegar, and basically, it was absolutely divine, the buttery scallops lent themselves perfectly to then citrusy tangy juice, I loved it.
The Spiced Lamb Ribs…nearly made me cry…they were so delicious, the ribs were seasoned to perfection and then cooked until they were falling off the bone with the merest nudge of the fork, the fat of the ribs had a nutty buttery flavour and with the seasoning, it was definitely a symphony for the tastebuds.
The Shrimp Dragon rolls were next up, The Shrimp Tempura was accompanied by the Umami Korean gochujang sauce and pickled shallots, it was decent however the seaweed hair like garnish was disconcerting and should be asked not to be used, kind of spoilt the effort.
The Fish Sandwich was a special of the day, the buttery brioche bun was the right bun to use and the slab of perfectly fried whitefish in batter was cooked endpoint and topped with kimchi gave the right about of acidity to cut the fried fish and buttery bun.
If you want my 2 fils worth on 3 Fils,
I think Chef Akmal should be very proud of what he has achieved. The space is casual with a touch of industrial fishing drama. The setting is fantastic, overlooking the fishing harbour. The staff are Filipino efficient and friendly, and the food is cool, inventive, unpretentious and accessible.
The Star of the Meal?
My star of the meal was definitely Spiced Lamb Ribs…superstar
The miss of the Meal?
I honestly cannot think of anything, but maybe the hairy seaweed garnish…
So how did 3 Fils do against its peers?
I am going to broaden my peers’ horizon on this occasion
Definitely on par with Cranshak and Catch in Glasgow
I loved it equally as Gamba
The Chicken, Lamb served in the restaurant and HALAL
Alcohol is NOT served on the Premises
Pork is NOT served on the Premises
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Alfie Foodwala visits all restaurants anonymously and pays for the bill like any other customer, Alfie Foodwala does not accept free meals in return for meals
All reviews are the personal opinion of Alfie Foodwala based on his 30-year experience as a restauranteur.