I can see what Bazxar is trying to do – they have shunned the need to be a specialist in one discipline and have attempted to compete in a multitude of events. They are a fine dining restaurant, a casual eatery, an Asian concept with an American meat district, a bakery, and a bar. They are the Decathlon athlete in an Olympics that is busy with single event specialists. They are not here to take part; they are here to try to take over. If it sounds risky, that’s because it is. It is confident, brave and exciting, but it could just as easily be arrogant, foolish and unnecessary.
Located in the hallowed corridors of DIFC, Bazxar is a self-proclaimed food hall, although walking in; I saw little indication of a hall-like space. The floor is divided into multiple and numerous nooks and crannies and is full of bottle-necks, narrow corridors and densely spaced tables and benches. The design is industrial (of course) with some nice finishes and detailing, and a heavy reliance on steel, brick, and wood.
The hostess guided us through the Olympic obstacle course of tables and chairs and half-heartedly indicated with a floppy Discus-throw arm movement, that we could sit anywhere we wanted. After checking we hadn’t suffered any casualties or losses in our trip through the restaurant, we sat in the meat district, which is less of a meat district, and more of a meat patch with two tables and a counter overlooking the meat kitchen and some nice graffiti-style artwork on the back wall. The hostess dropped the menus in front of us and without another word of encouragement or explanation, started the arduous journey back to her station.
I had some questions about the menu, so I flagged down a very enthusiastic young man who listened very carefully to my inquiries and then immediately went to get our waitress so that I could repeat myself to her all over again. Perhaps I had flagged down a customer by mistake, and he was too polite to say anything?
Anyway, there are several menus to Baxzar. The fine dining menu, (which was unavailable to us in economy class) shows some real promise in dishes like branzino from the Josper and roasted cornbread with buratta. However, they insist on calling their food ‘things’ as in ‘wood-fired things’ and ‘various things from various places’ which I find a little odd. Equally, the menus are vague, mysterious and eclectic– for example, the king crab comes with ‘street stall flavours and condiments’. I honestly don’t know what street stall flavours are, and I’m more worried than curious about what street stall condiments are. Some dishes are also served with ‘scoops of salad’ and of course, all dishes are served when ready.
Our menu was that old classic of East meets West, with the West menu heavily favoured with nachos, potato skins, mac and cheese balls and a decent burger and hot dog selection as well. The East doesn’t fare so well in terms of menu choices – you are limited to a smaller selection of steamed baos, Asian salads, and noodles.
Shrimp popcorn, crispy mac & cheese and stuffed potato skins were ordered for the table, with duck steamed bao, Asian salad, soy glazed chicken noodles and the garlic prawn penne pasta to follow. I know it sounds like a lot of food, but there were two of us eating. That’s a lie – there were three. Maybe.
I was getting a sense of impending doom that perhaps Bazxar had bitten off more than they could chew. That is a big menu to come out of one kitchen operation. That’s a lot of ingredients needed and more importantly a lot of specific culinary competency to pull off so many different flavour origins. Does anyone know how difficult it is to get street stall flavours right? Does anyone know what street stall flavours are? I was alone in my apprehension apparently – my dining companions seemed oblivious to the danger signs and in fact, seemed to be enjoying themselves. I tried to relax a little and have some fun.
The starters arrived, and my concerns were alleviated – a little. The food looked fresh and lively, and the overall presentation was on-trend and perfect for the dynamic professionals of DIFC. However, due to the sheer scale of the menu, there were bound to be some shortcuts taken by the kitchen. They were noticeable, but not a red-flag-waving noticeable. The popcorn shrimp was probably pre-breaded, cooked from frozen but perfectly edible, pairing well with the chipotle ranch sauce. The mac & cheese were a little dry and bland but were eaten quickly, and the potato skins were too soft and chewy but had generous toppings of sour cream and cheese.
The mains followed the same trend – the garlic prawns packed a good flavour but were drowned in a heavy cream sauce – no respectable penne should have to endure that much sauce. The Asian salad was too heavy on the Chinese cabbage, too light on the papaya and I don’t recall seeing any mango at all – but had a great depth to it with the sweet basil ponzu. The duck bao was really good – I suspect the bun is a premade product, but the duck was sweet, sticky, with BBQ undertones. The noodles were passable, but certainly not gold medal standard.
Overall, I think the food is good – I admire Bazxar for their sheer ambition, but I think the staff need to have a little more conviction about the concept with better table attentiveness and desire to discuss who they are a little more. We had to send up a flare to get someone to come back to take our coffee order. We had to blow our safety whistle to find someone for the check and the only time we were paid any genuine attention was when we were leaving, unfortunately. Having said that, the staff were friendly and smiley, which is good, because it’s easy to train the rest.
There are equally as many good things to share – it is a young and energetic team, the menu is varied and wide ranging, and the quality is perfectly acceptable, bordering on good. I’ve heard great things about the Nutella milk shake, the burgers, and steaks. The space is exciting and different, and the overall experience is perfect to feed, fuel and energize the DIFC crowd before heading back to their offices to sign more multi-million dirham deals or whatever it is they do there.
Bazxar doesn’t quite do enough for me to warrant a gold medal, but they do certainly deserve to be able to put on their podium pants.