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Posts Tagged ‘Dubai Mall’

Oh my! The Cheesecake Factory Opens in Dubai

August 19th, 2012 20 comments

Many American theme restaurants have opened in Dubai in recent years: P.F. Chang’s, Red Lobster, Romano’s Macaroni Grill … However, none have gotten me as excited as The Cheesecake Factory.

To be honest, I’m a not big fan of cheesecake. (I usually order their strawberry shortcake.) For me, it’s more about the memories I have of large family celebrations there. I even lamented last summer, as I sat in The Cheesecake Factory in downtown Seattle, that this was something missing in Dubai.

So, when I was invited to the PR opening last week, I hustled down to Dubai Mall & joined a table of fellow food bloggers to sample menu items and take it all in. The style of the place was exactly like the one in Seattle: same décor, architectural details, even the same furniture and lighting.

Meanwhile, food servers circulated the dining room, offering various samples from their menu, including avocado eggrolls, crab wontons, herbed salmon, mini-burgers, and Bang Bang Chicken (a signature dish).

I asked the American staff if they had any regional specialities, such as baklava cheesecake or date layer cake or couscous with lamb. They said they didn’t, but they might have some regional cheesecakes in the future.

Cheesecakes Galore

As for the cheesecakes, eat we did. We sampled the original, the Oreo Dream Extreme, and (my favorite) the lemon-raspberry cheesecake. I asked one of the American representatives where the cheesecakes were made. Was there a bakery in the back? Or maybe a factory in Al Quoz industrial zone?

No. The cheesecakes are shipped from the United States.

I gasped. He explained to me that there are two factories in the US which make all their cheesecakes, which are shipped to over 150 restaurants across the US. They are good at shipping cheesecakes, he said.

I watched the ribbon cutting ceremony and learned about why The Cheesecake Factory chose Dubai for their first international location.

Why Dubai? This was due to their partnership with Al Shaya Group, a franchise retail operator who has brought to Dubai such brands as: Starbucks, Pottery Barn, American Eagle Outfitters, PF Chang’s, and Office Depot.

Okay, one trip wasn’t enough. I convinced my family to go with me again the next day, which was the first day open to the public. The line was very long, and we waited for more than an hour. My family got very cranky, and we almost gave up. When the staff finally called us in and we walked past others still waiting, I felt like The Chosen Ones.

The place was packed. After we sat, my youngest looked around and said, “I feel like I’m in Seattle—except with different people.”

Yes, indeed. The staff was the usual international mix, but with lots of American transplants scattered throughout. Apparently, they will stay in Dubai and train the local staff for two months.

Menu

The menu is big. All meals are made from scratch in the kitchen. Meal portions are large, and most dishes can be shared. In addition to seafood, steak, pasta, pizza and more, they also offer Lunch Specials, Egg & Omelettes all day, and Friday Breakfast.

The appetizers include Thai Lettuce Wraps and Vietnamese Shrimp rolls and range from 48–68 dirhams. Specialty Dinners include Bang Bang Chicken (95 dhs) and Baja Chicken Tacos (68 dhs). Seafood Dishes include New Orleans Shrimp (84 dhs) and Wasabi Crusted Ahi Tuna (115 dhs).

As for desserts, the 31 kinds of cheesecake include: Red Velvet Cheesecake, Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheesecake, and Key Lime Cheesecake. (28–34 dhs.) If you don’t care for cheesecake, other options include Apple Crisp, Carrot Cake, Lemoncello Cream Torte, and a selection of layer cakes (all 37 dhs).

My daughter ordered the Chocolate Tower Truffle Cake, which was huge.

You can see the original menu here, which is nearly the same as the Dubai menu.

By now you might be thinking, “This is why Americans are fat.” Well, yes. The calorie content is frightening. And that is why I think of this restaurant for special occasions only. It’s not every day fare.

The Cheesecake Factory is located in Dubai Mall on the ground floor, directly across from the Aquarium. An even larger branch is scheduled to open at Mall of the Emirates sometime in the fall, as well as a third branch in Kuwait.

Tips for eating at The Cheesecake Factory

  1. Go early. Plan on having a wait.
  2. Avoid over-ordering, as the portion sizes are huge.
  3. Don’t be shy about taking leftovers home. They have good take-away packaging.
  4. If you order a piece of cheesecake—or anything for that matter—plan to share.
  5. Schedule a trip to the gym the next day.

Question: Have you been to The Cheesecake Factory in Dubai or elsewhere? 

View from the Top ~ The Burj Khalifa

January 18th, 2012 3 comments

The Burj Khalifa (Khalifa Tower) turns two this month. It’s hard to believe it opened two years ago, but it’s true. I remember when it was just a billboard sign—perhaps a twinkle in Sheikh Mohammed’s eye.

Some facts and figures:

At 828 m high, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world with the largest number of stories (200) and the highest occupied floor (level 160), and–in case you care–it houses Giorgio Armani’s first hotel.

It has a super-sleek elevator and reaches the viewing decking before you register all the TV screens inside. Naturally, this elevator is the fastest, moving at 10 meters per second.

The viewing deck is lovely and bright—except for the squeaky floor boards, which I found slightly unnerving.

 Here is a view from above. On the left is the edge of Dubai Mall. In the center is Souk Al-Bahar (one of my favorite places in Dubai), and to the right is the  Palace Hotel. In the water is the Dubai Fountain, which is also a record breaker: the world’s tallest performing fountain.

The view below includes more of the residential buildings on the left. This is a relatively new area of the city, yet it’s called “Old Town” in typical Dubai-fashion—to reinvent and confuse us.

Below is a view of Sheikh Zayed Road and Defense Interchange.

On our way out, we picked up a bar of Gold to Go. And why not?

What are your impressions of the Burj Khalifa?

Red, White, and … Black & Green ~ It’s UAE National Day!

December 1st, 2011 7 comments

December 2nd is National Day in the United Arab Emirates. The country has been in overdrive for weeks in anticipation, as this 40th anniversary is a big one for the UAE.

The United Arab Emirates is an amazingly young country. Many people walking around have memories of when Sheikh Zayed united the seven emirates and the various tribes into the one union. In fact, the slogan for this year’s National Day is “Spirit of the Union.” This is the logo:

This whole week has been full of funny little surprises. For example, last weekend, my husband and I were eating falafel sandwiches in Sharjah on the canal in Al Qasbah, when this patriotic marching band came by, complete with performers on stilts.

Naturally, the celebrations across the UAE have been endless. For example, an airshow recently took place on the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

(Photo courtesy of The National newpaper.)

Meanwhile, manufacturers are cashing in, selling all sorts of National Day-themed products, including clothing, accessories, food and even limited-edition cars. One of my favorites is at Bloomingdale’s in Dubai Mall: the UAE-themed tote, which can be yours for 150 dirhams ($41). 

Emiratis express their national pride in many ways. Most common is vehicle adornment. Below is a mild example; some vehicles have every inch decorated.

Lots of Emiratis display flags at their homes. I don’t mean standard-sized flags like Americans hang for Fourth of July. No. When Emiratis do something, they do it big—I’m talking about 20-foot, 50-foot and even 100-foot flags. Here are just a couple villas in my neighborhood. 

This past week, my kids’ school has been going all out for National Day. The students dressed in the colors of the country and formed a human flag on the football field.

Meanwhile, the school parking attendants were required to wear patriotic vests this week. 

Here’s a photo of my kids observing National Day. My two older kids are wearing UAE national dress—kandura for the men, abaya for the women. 

Finally, I’d like to end with song. This song was written and produced by Ms. Jules & Mr. Jones of the music and theater department at my children’s school. If you listen for 2 minutes you’ll hear all the lyrics, written in honor of National Day. I think it’s lovely. Click here and tell me what you think: Song for National Day ~ This is Home (The Spirit of the Union)

If you’d like to know more about UAE culture, here are some of my favorite things about the UAE.

Questions: What are your impressions of National Day?

                    How are you going to spend the holiday?