After spending the last three months dining almost exclusively with The Serb, we finally had a dinner with a group of friends whom we hadn’t seen for a while. Although I do sincerelyenjoy our romantic dinners for two, it was rather refreshing and enjoyable to have a jovial communal meal with friends.
Disclaimer:- I still really appreciate the Serbs company very much, and this is in no way a besmirch against her or her companionship.
Our dinner was at Fume, the friendly neighbourhood restaurant at the ground floor of Pier 7 in the marina. Fume is a “homegrown” concept and one that I rather like. They are from thesame people that bought us Qbara, over at Wafi land and have since opened a new Fume in downtown Dubai. Upon entering, I immediately liked the place. It was noisy, energetic andhad an honest, grown-up sense of fun.
Fume calls themselves a neighbourhood eatery. An “eatery” is exclusively a term reserved for when establishments apply it to themselves. I don’t think anyone, without a beard and aplait shirt with the top button done up, has ever left a restaurant and said, “Well, that was a wonderful eatery!” It is hipster for restaurant in all honesty, but it works, and it’s a cool wordthat I’ll use more often in conversation.
The menu has a few smoked dishes, in reference to the name, Fume, meaning “to smoke.” However, I think they came up with the name first and then the chef broke the news to theowners that he couldn’t possibly fill an entire menu up with smoked dishes alone. There is only so much you can smoke – especially in this part of the world.
So therefore the menu has a fairly well-rounded collection of sharing dishes and main meals, from steak tartar to crab slaw to lamb cutlets and mac & cheese. Weirdly, no-one on thetable ordered any of those dishes I’ve just mentioned.
The restaurant was full. Every table was taken, and the glass-enclosed smoking bar was also buzzing with diners nipping in for their nicotine fix like at an airport smoking room.
You know you’ve had a good time in a restaurant when you can’t really remember the interior décor. I honestly can’t remember any specific details – but my general impression was itwas a very casual, relaxed design; functional, humble and funky. In fact, that is the summary I would like to use; humble funky. Humfunky. Fume is free to use that on their website ifthey want.
Whenever there is a duck dish on a menu, The Serb is like a moth to a flame – she is inexplicably drawn to it; always searching for the duck pancake with hoisin sauce she claims she lovesso much. Perhaps I should take the hint and just take her to a Chinese restaurant one of these days. To be fair, the crispy duck and watermelon salad was ordered by a few ladies at thetable, so obviously it’s a female friendly dish.
I ordered the lamb shank pie, and butter-milk fried chicken with comeback sauce. I only ordered that dish, because I wanted to say comeback sauce as an immature innuendo for thebenefit of the table as countless other idiots like me must have done in the past.
There was a beef chuck rib that was apparently smoked for six hours and some edamame and some fries and a bunch of other good looking comfort food. The table deserved one ofthose “shot from above with a filter” pictures that would have looked great on Pinterest. I thought about it briefly but then decided to try a big dollop of comeback sauce instead.
Had there only been myself and the Serb dining that evening, the service might have been frustrating and poor. However, a group of merry diners can cover a multitude of service sins,such as repeatedly “auctioning” each dish loudly across the table to see which guest it belongs to. This is just about acceptable until there was only one dish left, and one guest left. Instead of taking a calculated risk, the waiter of course, bellowed it out, just to make sure. There was just an overall awkwardness to the flow and the service staff seemed a little nervousand unsure throughout the evening.
The food, however, was the opposite. It was robust, self-assured and competent. The duck watermelon salad was terrific; the duck meat was deliciously crispy with a whack of hoisinsauce, coriander and cashews to bring it all together. The fried chicken was crunchy yet juicy, with no recollection of ever being fried in oil, and the comeback sauce was something Iwould comeback for. (Sorry – you knew I was working that in somewhere!)
My pie reminded me of Desperate Dan’s Cow Pie made famous in his comic, The Dandy. It arrived with the shank bone sticking out of the pie crust. It was fun and phallic looking,however, let down by the lack of substance within. I’ve been told it’s very disappointing when that happens. A lamb shank pie implies that the whole shank is cooked into a pie, whichshould allow the dish to be fatty and flavourful, but this was not the case. It was really just a mediocre lamb pie with a bone sticking out. This dish could be significantly better if doneright.
To summarize, there are few restaurants in Dubai that can create a comfortable, egalitarian atmosphere that stimulates conversation and is at the crux of such enjoyment for so many. Alot of that could be down to the company of my friends, but I am happy to give a vast portion of the credit to Fume as well.
“That’s one humfunky eatery!” I proclaimed to the group of people waiting for the elevators outside, as we left. Only the bearded man with the tattoos and Walkman acknowledged me.