Mohamad Orfali

TimeoutDubai: Bold, brazen and pretty brilliant reimaging of traditional Levantine cuisine by a household name

Mohamad Orfali is on a mission. And boy, is it a controversial one. Because with Orfali Bros Bistro, the Syria-born, Dubai-based chef is dead-set on breaking the rules of traditional Levantine cuisine.

Bistro is by no means the first to reimagine classic dishes from across the region, but few who have tried before it enjoyed lasting success. Has the city matured? Are we ready for Orfali’s inspired assault on the dishes we grew up with?

You’d better hope so – because Orfali Bros Bistro’s cooking is pretty gosh-darn brilliant.

As the name suggests, our protagonist is not operating alone – Orfali’s accomplices are his brothers Wassim and Omar – and the Wasl 51 eatery, described as a “test kitchen” (shorthand for we’ll-be-changing-the-menu-frequently), is an extension of the Orfali Bros academy.

A firm favourite on popular Arabic food and cooking channel Fatafeat, Orfali has long had a reputation for evolving classic dishes from Syria, particularly those of Aleppo, where he was born and raised. And at Orfali Bros Bistro, innovation is everywhere.

Tabbouleh is turned on its head in the Eat H – sour, tangy, loaded with chilli paste and served with Japanese shiso leaves for a cumin-esque kick.

Shish barak dumplings get the gyoza treatment, served on a cloud of garlic yoghurt, drizzled with chilli oil and scattered with pine nuts. And it’s an absolutely triumphant treatment.

“Come with me to Aleppo”, tiny skewers featuring delicately rolled wagyu beef, were clearly made with local tastes front of mind, boldly spiced and topped with a sweet-sour kick from a house-made cherry ketchup.

A whole section of pide is constantly changing, but the backbone of every outing is a thoroughly fermented, brilliantly blistered dough. Go for the burnt leeks with hazelnut and burrata if you’ve a palate richer than the Rollers parked outside.

Plates are small, and Orfali Bros Bistro itself is almost even smaller. But it’s crammed to the rafters with punchy flavours and after the opening hype, still packed with happy diners six months later. We sense these guys are only just getting started.

Vive la revolution.

Unlicensed. Open daily noon-midnight. Wasl 51, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah, (04 259 2477).

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