On a lazy weekend morning, the Serb uttered those fateful words that can make or break an entire weekend. “I’m hungry, what shall we eat for lunch?”
Needless to say, like many things we discuss, we couldn’t come to a definitive agreement. However, for once, we found a compromise – we decided to go to both our choices. That’s right – two restaurants, two meals but one review. It’s complicated, so pay attention!
I wanted some flavour and spice – I wanted to be reminded that I had taste buds and teeth and was quite frankly I was tired of smashed avocado, quinoa and massaged beef. I chose Desi Adda, the Indian/Pakistani street food place in Al Qusais.
The Serb is the reason why burgers, unfortunately, continue their rampant growth across the globe. She wanted umami, melted cheese and sweet, processed bread. She chose Elevation Burger on Jumeirah Beach Road.
This was going to be a wonderful journey of contrasts, a dichotomy of east meets west, Al Qusais vs. Jumeirah, international brand vs. home grown street food, garam masala and coriander vs. ketchup and mayo. Two lunches and a road trip. It was the perfect afternoon.
We started with Desi Adda, which is admittedly, a little out of the way for us in New Dubai. It’s so far out of our way, actually, that when I entered the address into Google maps on the iPhone, and chose “Start Navigation,” Siri attempted an intervention and asked if I was sure I wanted to do this.
Desi Adda stands proudly between an industrial equipment rental shop and a hardware store selling door handles and office furniture. It had plenty of parking out front, and we found a spot between a Nissan Sunny and Hilux. Desi Adda would describe themselves as intimate, but let’s call a spade a spade – Desi Adda is tiny. A counter with four chairs on one side and two more tables on the other. So, literally, twelve people can eat there at one time. On the positive side, they would always be fully booked if they ever did a brunch.
The interior is clever and not what you would expect in the heart of Al Qusais. It is quirky with slick pop culture references dotted around the small space in the form of posters and quotes. For such a small space, their design is fun and hats off to whoever did their positioning. It reminds me of Raju Omlet to some extent.
Elevation Burger stands proudly by itself on Jumeriah Beach Road like a monolithic temple to beef. We didn’t find parking out front because this is Jumeriah and we had to circle several times until space became available. We squeezed in between a Range Rover and a G Wagon because this is Jumeriah. Elevation Burger is as big as Desi Adda is small. Spread over two floors, you could hold an Indian wedding reception here if you wanted. Desi Adda would obviously need to do the catering.
For such a big space, the interiors are quite stark and bare, and they struggle for personality. There is a reliance on large graphics of burgers and illustrations of imaginary farms at the base of snow-capped mountains. Their artwork screams out their promises of organic, grass fed beef and better ingredients.
Our waiter in Desi Adda was friendly, patient and eager to please. He might have also been the owner, chef, and busboy as well, as we saw no-one else in the place apart from him. We decided to stay away from the grills, and stick to the rolls and sandwiches, bearing in mind we had potentially a double stack cheese burger still to come.
Desi Adda’s menu packs a punch with about thirty different options of Desi street food to choose from. It is split into several sections; rolls, buns, grills, chaats, biriyani and some deserts.
For someone unfamiliar with food from the Sub-Continent, knowing the difference between Malai, Reshmi and Bihari is understandably difficult, but it is all about the combination of ingredients and the marinade. The Reshmi for example, combines curd, cream, cashew nuts and spices, whereas the Bihari goes for onions, chillis, ginger, yogurt and mustard oil. With Desi Abba clearly going after a more international crowd, they might do well to explain a little more about their dishes on their menu.
Elevation Burger is counter service with their menu on large boards at the front. The layout is weird in the Jumeirah branch. As you open the doors and walk in, they have placed their self-serve soda machine front and center, and their ordering counter all the way in the far corner. If I wasn’t an F&B expert, I might have been shouting my order at a soda machine for twenty minutes before figuring it out.
Elevation Burger sells burgers. Beef burgers, cheese burgers, chicken burgers, lettuce wrap burgers, double stack burgers – you get the idea. They sell sides as well, which are all fries – fresh fries, fancy fries or fiery fries. What’s important to note here is there are no French fries. They also have one salad option in case of emergencies – like if a vegetarian accidently walks in. They pride themselves on quality ingredients, such as 100% beef (sad that this has become a USP) and better ingredients.
In Desi Adda, we ordered the chicken shami with egg and cheese and the chicken malai boti roll. We were also convinced to try a Gur and Nemboo wala sharbat, which is an apricot sugar cane drink and not Bollywood dance routine. The chicken shami bun kebab is marinated chicken kebabs with a sweet onion chutney, thin pancake omelet in a grilled bun. The malai boti roll is marinated chicken pieces in a flaky roti roll with green chutney. Both were delicious – cooked with knowledge, experience, and care. This is the new wave of street food – handheld food with flavours that dance and tingle and make you happy you’re alive.
At Elevation Burger, we ordered a cheese burger, with tomato, lettuce, pickles, ketchup and mayonnaise. We also had a chicken burger with the same and a side of fresh fries. You take a number, they bring the food, and you serve yourself own drinks at the soda fountain. We had to wait while someone finished giving their takeaway order to the Sprite button and then grabbed our drinks. It is in moments like these where you realise that Diet Coke foam is the work of an evil sorcerer.
The burgers arrive, neatly wrapped in little bags on a steel tray. The Serb grabs her cheese burger and takes an enormous bite, which is about the same as if a mouse had nibbled at it. She smiles, chews her food quickly and takes another bite. She looks like she is thoroughly enjoying herself. However, I know what’s really happening though. All burger chains look for the same thing – the perfect combination of salt, sugar, and fat that excites your brain and gets you coming back for more. For example, the mayonnaise helps promote a salivary response that helps cover your taste buds in goodness. The brain finds the dynamic contrast of the crunchy fresh pickles and soft fresh bread very novel and exciting.
There are many reasons why burgers are one of the most popular foods in the world, and judging by the Serbs reaction, Elevation Burger know what they are doing.
Two very different lunches and not really comparable, even though I’ve just spent one thousand words comparing them. I preferred Desi Adda and the Serb preferred Elevation Burger, but you probably figured that out already.
Go to both and make your own mind up.
Elevation Burger – 103 AED
Jumeirah Beach Road – 04 3880000
Desi Adda – 37 AED
Al Qusais – 04 261 2399