Seafood Kitchen – Jebel Ali Recreation Club, Dubai

Jebel Ali Recreation Club is one of the oldest institutions in “expat-Dubai” and recently underwent a huge facelift – the old clubhouse (think typical, dirty, smoky working men’s club-but charming) demolished, to make way for a behemoth of a venue, that kinda looks like half of a football stadium from above.

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The new rec club!

The businessman in me questions whether the venue is fully fit-for-purpose, as it’s not located in the greatest spot to attract major footfall. Most of the living areas nearby (Jebel Ali Village, Al Furjan) are predominantly (if not all) villa complexes and without transport links or anything particularly unique to attract people from afar (especially when Meeras seem to be popping up new developments on a weekly basis), I’m concerned it might not stand the test of time with it having around 7/8 restaurants in the same venue. Having said this, the new cinema is opening soon – the only licensed one in the region, so hopefully that can attract enough people to fill the venues before and after.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to try to get across as many of the new restaurants as possible, but after browsing the offerings, the wife and I settled on Seafood Kitchen, an Asian-inspired seafood restaurant in the middle of the complex.

When we arrived at the club, a lot of my fears were realised regarding the footfall. The actual pub bit was busy outside, consisting mainly of Western expats but the other restaurants were quiet. Seafood Kitchen is a monster of a restaurant with space I reckon for 200-300 diners, so it was unfortunate to see only one other table seated at 8pm on a Thursday night.

The staff were expecting us as we’d been invited to visit and they were polite and friendly and gave me a tour of the restaurant. Whoever has designed it has done an admirable job; it’s got a nautical theme but is not too OTT and space has been taken to show off the fresh produce that you can select for dinner.

We were seated at the table and were brought over the menu:

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The menu

I appreciated the succinctness of it. Some places insist on throwing everything on a menu to try appeal to everyone, but here they’re very heavy on the theme which shows a belief in what they do. Although I prefer to choose my own food, the staff said the chef has selected a menu for us – I feel this is a risky tactic as surely it’s better to let a food critic choose dishes that appeal the most to him, but khalas, who am I to judge?

We began with the Tom Yum Prawn Soup. The staff asked us how we are with spice and we told them to “go nuts” and oh boy they did. We both love our chilli kick and this soup was packed with heat – unbelievably tasty, fragrant and balanced, the prawns deliciously plump and juicy, it was an absolute cracker and was probably the best Tom Yum Goong I’ve tasted outside Thailand.

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The perfect soup!

Alongside the soups, we were brought a bowl of Crispy String Beans and Chicken Floss. I’ve never had chicken floss before, but according to my sources (Google.com {lolz}) it’s a Malaysian, dried, finely-shredded chicken.

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The stringed beans with chicken floss

It was a weird one this. The floss had a strange texture (flossy!) and it had a bit of an unnerving sweetness that really confused my taste buds. The first mouthful was really unpleasant but I just kept digging in for more and between me and the wife, we polished them off. She really liked them, I still don’t even know, to be honest, “yum yuk” as Matt Preston would say.

After these two courses were removed, we were brought over the Chicken and Prawn Sui Mai (dim sum). It arrived housed in the traditional Chinese bamboo steamer and was hotter than the sun. It was pleasant – nothing particularly standout about it in all honesty, but hit the spot.

Mains were next to hit the table:

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Red Snapper main course

The dish was pretty looking and cooked very well. The fish was fresh, melt-in-the-mouth and all the herbs, spices and garnishes made it a healthy, balanced dish. The wife and I left nothing on our plates.

Next, we were brought out the Singaporean Black Pepper Crab and unfortunately, this was the start of the evening’s decline. At 130 AED, it’s the most expensive dish on the menu and despite the relatively large looking portion and the provision of special utensils to attack the dish, it was hard to get much meat out of it and I didn’t like the black pepper flavour – it’s a shame because I would never have ordered this dish anyways, but gotta judge what’s put in front of me!

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The Crab

Finally, we were brought a couple of desserts and both were sadly poor. The brownie was overly dense, chewy and just didn’t have that naughty-goodness a simple dish like this deserves and the Chocolate Pistachio Samosas were far too greasy.

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Chocolate Pistachio Samosas

It’s a bit of a tough one to judge in all honesty as the highlights were very high but the lowlights were very low. They did shoot themselves in the foot by choosing what food we ate, as some of it was just not to our tastes.

The bill came and presented good value for the amount of food we tried. We settled up and left, both agreeing that they have some great dishes but also a lot of room for improvement.

FOOD: 8/15 – Frustrating to give it this score, as the fish main and tom yum goong were both fantastic, the desserts and crab were below-par though.
SERVICE: 11/15 – It was friendly and efficient although I feel we were a little “over-serviced” at times as they knew we’d been invited.
DRINKS SELECTION: 3/5 – A pretty small drinks list, but well priced and has the basics.
AMBIANCE: 2/5 – Sadly, the restaurant was almost desserted and being on the terrace, you could hear different, jarring, loud music coming from its neighbours which made the environment a little unpleasant.
DESIGN: 4/5 – It’s an attractive restaurant inside but it’s probably about 4 times the size it needs to be for its location.
VALUE: 4/5 – It’s decent value for money, especially for the drinks.

TOTAL: 32/50 – A hit and miss affair, although if I was in the area I wouldn’t hesitate to go back for the beautiful soup and fish. I just hope that they manage to get the word out for the development as a whole because it offers great value for money. They need to reinvent the dessert menu though for sure.

Seafood Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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