Biryani is a savory meal consisting of basmati rice that is slow-cooked and served with chunks of meat, typically lamb or chicken. It is an extremely popular dish in the Gulf region, even though its roots are probably in India, Iran, and Turkey.
Biryani is the kind of meal that could take several hours to prepare at home, as the rice is first infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves long before being cooked with the meat.
But in the United Arab Emirates, you can now order and eat biryani – the country’s unofficial national dish – within a matter of minutes at new Abu Dhabi restaurant.
Kosebasi, a grill serving South Anatolian Turkish cuisine, is a chain restaurant that first opened in Turkey in 1995. Based on its success and popularity at home, it began expanding to international locations in 2008, according to its website.
Today it has several branches in the Arabian Gulf countries. Its Abu Dhabi restaurant opened just over one year ago in the upscale food court of a large mall in the heart of the UAE capital.
But Kosebasi isn’t your average food court stop.
It’s easy to become disoriented in downtown Abu Dhabi’s Madinat Zayed neighborhood, a bustling area of mini-blocks and narrow streets crammed with cars, people, and every type of storefront imaginable, from mobile phone kiosks to one-room laundromats to curtain rod wholesalers.
It’s also easy for a new shop or restaurant to go unnoticed in the fray.
Unless you’re from Nepal and searching for authentic momos, that is. Recently, the capital’s sizable community of Nepalese cab drivers have been congregating in this neighborhood, chatting in the streets about a new restaurant that opened just a few weeks ago, filling a much-need gap when the nearby Nepalese Curry House closed earlier this year.
Just over two decades ago, Abu Dhabi was a sleepy capital in a young nation. In 1990, there were few – if any – of the modern skyscrapers that line its Corniche today. The Emirates Palace, an iconic billion-dollar hotel and classic first sight-seeing stop, had not yet been constructed. There were no modern shopping malls, and many of the restaurants that were open back then have long since closed their doors.
Isfahan Nights is one exception.
The Persian food restaurant opened in 1990 – just 18 years after the seven Emirates unified to become one nation – making it one of the oldest restaurants in Abu Dhabi. It may have moved locations in 2000, but Isfahan Nights still is an institution.
Too bad there aren’t many customers there.