Recently lured to Dubai Mall by the persistent Dubai Shopping Festival billboards, text messages and e-mails, we eventually exhausted our credit cards and required sustenance to keep our energy levels up. Thus, it was in a moment of nostalgia that we found ourselves seated at Red Lobster for dinner. Back in the day when we were poor university students, a meal at Red Lobster was considered a big night out, so having noticed its arrival in Dubai we couldn’t resist a visit.
Greeted efficiently at the unassuming entrance we were swiftly led past a lobster tank and a series of non-descript wood tables to a booth near the back of the restaurant. We immediately commented on the fact that the décor seemed to lack the character that we remembered from our bygone days – though we might have been wearing rose-coloured glasses at the time.
We had high hopes for the menu and memories of copious seafood meals to relive. The Dubai menu is a slightly paired down version of the North American original but all the classic dishes are available, from lobster tails to the seafood Alfredo to steak and everything in between. The menu is dominated by shellfish dishes, mostly containing variations on the shrimp and scallops theme so don’t expect to find any interesting aquatic species or unique food preparation methods here. We decided to take the “in for a penny, in for a pound” approach to ordering, so chose to start our meal with the coconut shrimp, lobster stuffed mushrooms and a green salad for the health quotient.
After placing our order, the server promptly returned with a basket of Cheddar Bay biscuits. These biscuits are Red Lobster’s true claim to fame and frankly we didn’t really care about the rest of the meal after we bit into these delicious, flaky, rich, garlic-cheesy morsels. Apparently, the real recipe is a secret, but for all you foodies out there a quick Google search will identify dozens of copy-cat recipes that claim to have perfected the formula.
As we were still drooling over the biscuits our appetizers arrived. The Coconut shrimp was fried to a golden brown and had a crispy texture, although the flavor was a little too sweet and we ended up dousing it in lime and salt to enjoy. The accompanying piña colada dip was cloying and absolutely unnecessary. The mushrooms were somewhat small but generously stuffed with seafood, broccoli, rice, then smothered in gooey Cheddar cheese and obviously tasty – how can you go wrong with that much cheese. The green salad that we selected to counterbalance the richness of our other appetizers was disappointing in size and quality as it was mostly comprised of iceberg lettuce and served with a not so extra virgin olive oil.
Barely finished with our first course, our mains dishes arrived and we had to shuffle the plates around the table to make room. Continuing with the “go big or go home theme”, we ordered the Ultimate platter containing half a Maine lobster tail, crab legs, shrimp two ways – one in garlic butter and the other hand-breaded, butterflied and fried to a golden brown – all accompanied by a side of french fries. Fearing cardiac arrest, we also selected a grilled hammour served with broccoli and an extra side of asparagus to offset the richness of the first dish. Most of the items on the Ultimate platter are either deep-fried or smothered in butter, making them richly flavorsome with the exception of the crab legs that were unfortunately over-cooked and unappetizingly dry. The hammour had to be sent back as it was extremely undercooked, but once it arrived it was reasonably tasty and moist. Unfortunately, the kitchen staff hadn’t removed the fibrous stalks on the asparagus making them partly inedible.
Overall, the food quality was adequate and the preparation sufficiently accomplished to make the meal pleasant. On the other hand, the service was unfortunate, as our server lacked even the most basic understanding of how to handle a table and also had an unfortunate “eau de Dubai taxi” about him that we could not ignore as hard as we tried.
At the end of the day, Red Lobster is one step above fast food. As long as your expectations are for a family style casual dining experience, you’ll find what you seek. We certainly left feeling full and satisfied.
Coconut Shrimp – 33 dhs
Lobster stuffed mushrooms – 30 dhs
Garden Salad – 13 dhs
Hammour – 55 dhs
Ultimate Feast – 105 dhs
Asparagus – 10 dhs