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It didn't take us too long to find this authentic north Indian restaurant in the middle of a busy Bay Square. The name, simple yet intriguing, is derived from Dubai's latitudinal position on the world map — 25 degrees north — and it was the aroma of the mutton kebabs and the gently swaying chiffon curtains that invited us to experience the food on a warm October afternoon. The place was buzzing with a happy crowd from the neighbouring offices, people dressed in formal attire tucking into the sarson da saag (mustard leaves) and makki di roti (unleavened bread made out of corn flour) and plates of succulent kakori (minced lamb) kebabs.
The idea to start 25 Degrees North came about when college buddies Mohammed Sohail and Nadeem Ashraf met after more than a decade. ''We had gone separate ways after college and were in different professions. But when we met again we realised that Sohail's passion for food and my hospitality background was a perfect mix to start a restaurant like this,'' says Ashraf, who along with Sohail started 25 Degrees North in 2012 at the Damac Tower in Tecom and soon afterwards opened branches in Bay Square in Business Bay and Jafza south.
The menu has been inspired by roadside eateries of North India, but also includes popular traditional dishes from the region. The philosophy is simple. Chefs, handpicked from India, follow the basics of homestyle cooking by blending the right ingredients to create perfectly spiced authentic and flavourful dishes.
We began our culinary journey with the crispy Palak Patta Chaat (fried spinach leaves sprinkled with Indian chaat masalas) and Dahi Bhalla (lentil dumplings served in yoghurt and mixed chutneys) served on tiny spoons. A kebab platter followed with our hearts melting along with the buttery parathas or breads that come as accompaniments.
The jewel in the crown was the special mutton biryani that was served to us on the chef's recommendation. The desserts here are just as tempting: mini jalebis served with homemade creamy rabdi and tiny gulab jamuns served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
What we found really interesting is its genuine effort to present the food in an aesthetic way — not exactly a replication of a five-star restaurant, but each dish has its quirkiness and individuality. So while the rounded pani puris are placed on top of tiny shot glasses filled with the mint-tamarind water, the mutton kakori kebabs are served wrapped in mini parathas. The biriyani comes to your table inside glass jars and the yoghurt raita in tiny versions of similar glass jars, much like how jams and compotes are stored.
The gulab jamuns and ice creams are very delicately served in cocktail glasses — again minute details that would go a long way in building customer loyalty. Although the menu has the usual suspects (read butter chicken and chicken tikka), what sets it apart is its effort in presentation, affordability and generosity in portion sizes. A meal for two would cost you Dh150 at the 1,800-sq-ft Bay Square restaurant.
While takeaways are very common here, and you could definitely opt for one, my suggestion would be to walk that extra bit along the stony pavements into the subtle elegance of satin grey interiors of the restaurant — only because the Palak Patta Chaat will not be delivered crispy at your doorstep. For that you definitely have to visit this hidden gem!
25 Degrees North is located in Bay Square in Business Bay Area.
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Source: Ishita Saha, Special to Property Weekly
The author is the founder of Foodmagdxb.com and the author of ishitaunblogged.com
This section features lesser-known places and events that are delightfully distinct in their own way. It could be a quaint little café or simply a charming lake. If it's got character and brings a smile to your face, it's a hidden gem that will find a place on this page. If you know of a hidden gem, email the Editor at: email@example.com