Introducing The Royal Bukhari, a Gulf-style fast-food restaurant that offers several variations of barbecued lamb, chicken and fried fish dishes all served with a Saudi specialty called bukhari.
Bukhari is basmati rice that is cooked with a savory blend of tomatoes, onions, and ground or whole spices like as cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cloves, and coriander. Bay leaves can be added to the rice mixture as well. But bukhari’s distinct flavor – a tangy sweetness – comes by adding thin slices of boiled carrots and small, seedless white or gold raisins.
The Royal Bukhari serves its signature dish from two large metal vats in the kitchen, each filled to the brim with either yellow, saffron-flavored rice or brown basmati bukhari. The servers dole out both versions with flat-head ladles, swiftly covering plates with a deep bed of rice that very few customers would be able to finish in one sitting.
Large chunks of meat are added at the end, almost like a topping, depending on the customer’s selection. The grilled chicken is cooked over warm coals with salt, pepper, and a baharat, or general spice mixture that includes mostly cumin. It’s succulent and flavorful, and so is the fried filet kanad fish.
Every dish at The Royal Bukhari comes with a small side of spicy red salsa. Called salata hara, or hot salad, it’s a freshly-made puree of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, mint leaves, and chili peppers. Their salata hara is tasty and provides a nice kick. It also helps to wash down the heaping plates of rice and meat.
The rice base that is the foundation of Royal Bukhari’s menu is very, very good.
Everything is also very, very affordable – the most expensive dish is lamb bukhari, priced at 55 dirhams (around $13).
Most of the customers are locals, according to the Yemeni who greets diners at the cash register in the front section of the brightly-lit restaurant. He isn’t the only non-Saudi staff member: one of the waiters is from Bangladesh, the chef is from Afghanistan, and a young Indian man keeps the new restaurant extremely spic and span.
Despite the fact that no Saudis are actually involved in the preparation of this traditional Saudi meal, The Royal Bukhari serves delicious food and already seems to be a hit.
On a recent weeknight, Emirati businessman Mohamed ordered a large meal of brown bukhari with a side of half-chicken, and ate on the floor in one of the restaurant’s three semi-enclosed carpeted areas.
Mohamed loves bukhari. During his business trips to neighboring Saudi, he says he makes a point of stopping along the highway to order it before driving home to the UAE.
“I would always stop and get bukhari at the Saudi restaurants along the border,” he said. “Because, until now, you couldn’t find it here in Abu Dhabi.”
The Royal Bukhari: see the menu
Address: Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum (2nd) Street near Cake Gallery (there is a second branch in Mussafah)
Telephone: +971 2 665 6114