Within the Capital Business Park in Sheikh Zayed, tucked in a cosy corner adjacent a still reflecting pool, itself set in polished stone and steel, is Jubail Lebanese Bistro. An enclosed outdoor dining area with colourful pastel cushions on the chairs and gorgeous oriental lanterns out front announces the existence of an authentic Lebanese experience, contrasting with the sterile reflective surfaces of the plaza. Walking in from the cold stone and steel into the warm, comfortable light of Jubail seemed to dissolve all the tension that had built up during our typically stressful trip through Cairo traffic to Sheikh Zayed, like mist evaporating off the warming peaks of the Lebanese mountains. Not that I’ve ever seen Lebanon or anything, but that’s what I imagine.
Planting myself in one of the abundantly comfy couches set against the wall afforded me a view of the spectacle that is Jubail. One wall is dedicated to a black and white illustration of a Spanish street. It was so vivid and detailed that, had it been in colour, I would have had a hard time getting my brain to adapt to the illusory experience of seeing through some kind of portal. Adorning the space were small groups of lanterns – small globes of colour that, at night, provide ample mood lighting for whatever brings you to Jubail. Be it a dinner date for two, a larger more platonic gathering, or a family event complete with kids, the atmosphere of Jubail is conducive to almost any situation.
Snug in the cushiony embrace of Jubail’s couch we ordered drinks and a shisha while, unbeknownst to us, the chefs toiled away to create a veritable smorgasbord of Levantine delicacies. We thought we’d end up with some hummus, some bread, and a mixed grill, but the Jubail crew threw the whole menu at us. As I puffed my creamy orange shisha (which tasted like a creamsicle, and I loved it), sipped my coffee, and my cohort in devourment chugged a mastic milkshake, the bell at the window to the kitchen rang, accompanied by the most appetising of smells.
The server had to make several trips to get all the deliciousness that Jubail had provided to our table. It was hard to pick where to start, especially when provided with so many options at once. We figured the fattoush was as good a place as any, but then, when we took a look at it, it was too beautiful to eat. Almost. Set inside an edible bowl, the presentation of the dish reflected the art that is the Jubail Bistro. We did, however, manage to bring ourselves to rip it apart and eat every freshly cut piece of vegetable, and the bread bowl.
One of the things I personally love about eating at Lebanese restaurants is that they take as much pride and commit as much attention to details on the appetising mezzes as they do the main courses. Jubail superseded the standard I had come to expect. Chicken wings, little sausages (sogo2, as I’m told), hummus, and several other mezzes framed our ever-so-slightly more epic main dishes. After a few bites of everything else, we plunged spoon-first into a big bowl of fattah, thick with yogurt, pine nuts, and chicken. Fattah is one of my favourite regional dishes since coming here, and I’ve taken every chance to eat the meat, rice, and bread bowl, but I was not prepared for what Jubail had in store. This was hands down the greatest fattah I have had. Even my Egyptian photographer and occasional friend swore that it was simply the best. We had so much food, plenty was leftover on each plate - except the fattah, we ate every little piece of rice and licked the bowl clean.
Jubail has an awesome combo of atmosphere and signature dishes that make it the perfect place to stop and grab a quick bite or spend an evening out with cherished company. Myself, I’ll be heading back to get some fattah and fattoush for myself. I’m a bad sharer.
Photography by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.
Photographer: Ahmed Najeeb.