If you’ve been in Dubai long enough, you’d know that an occasional visit to a quieter, less bustling neighbourhood in the city is always refreshing. It’s double the fun when the trip involves a delicious spread of food in a pristine but homey setting – especially during Ramadan. If you’re in search of such an Iftar, Palermo is your spot. Having recently revelled in the goodness that is this restaurant, I can say so myself.
Located in Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, opposite Arabian Ranches and next to Studio City, traditional Islamic architecture is evident in its columns, domes and arches. We arrived early and waited in the patio overlooking the polo ground, and watched as two horse riders relished in a nonchalant trot as the sun’s warm rays bathed the sky. We took in the calming views and entered the restaurant just in time for Iftar; its red and brown, equestrian theme, obvious but unfussy, and an elaborate spread of dates, dried apricots, juices, laban, lentil soup and bread surrounded a horse-head sculpture before us.
The interior featured a dark wood drop ceiling and mounted shelves boasting a touch of Arabian grandeur, further accentuated through arched windows with latticework, a horse painting (of course), and red and brown printed upholstery. To my right, there was a long table setting, a concept that has proven to be popular for Palermo, particularly for corporate meetings.
This is also the restaurant’s most unique offering, drawing on the communal spirit of Ramadan, the one-table-for-all dining experience was quite unlike any other. The idea is that guests, devoid of who they are and where they’re from, connect, passing dishes around the table, enjoying the many blessings the Holy Month is a joyful reminder of.
Middle Eastern platter
As we broke our fast with the delicious dates, a generous spread of Middle Eastern delights awaited us – chickpeas, tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, fattoush and salads, appetising both visually and in taste. For a fried food lover like me, there were crispy bite-sized samosas, falafel and vegetable spring rolls.
Next came the mains with nods to well-seasoned barbeque and vegetables on pita bread that was just as it’s supposed to be – soft and perfectly charred – this was like a deconstructed shawarma. Fish in white sauce was flaky and creamy and didn’t sit heavy on the stomach. Accompaniments included grilled potatoes so flavourful they could pass as a main dish.
Barbeque served with pita bread and mixed vegetables
And then, the desserts, aka my weakness. A delicious mix of traditional sweets such as baklava, qatayef, basbousa and lokma, and American classics such as mini cheesecake, rounded off with a hot cup of tea.
Iftar at Palermo offers a spread that stays true to traditional Middle Eastern flavours that emerge gently and graciously – beautifully presented and divine to devour, a blissful, fulfilling experience. We dined with guests we met for the first time and got up feeling a sense of camaraderie.
On days other than Ramadan, Palermo offers a sumptuous mix of classic steaks and seafood, served with a variety of sauces and sides, along with vegetarian options including ravioli, risotto, Mille-Feuille and cauliflower steak.
As I went to sleep that night, I thought to myself it’s not often that there’s a restaurant so warm and inviting you lose track of time as you relish great food and company. Palermo offers just that experience.
Iftar is available from sunset until 9:00pm. Packages start from Dhs149 per person and Dhs70 for children aged between 6 and 11 years. Complimentary for children aged 5 years and below. From the regular menu, prices range between Dhs45 to Dhs500 and are subject to change.