Khyber is the new north Indian restaurant at Dukes Dubai, the newest hotel on the Palm Jumeirah.
It’s renowned in Mumbai as an authentic dining experience, with six successful decades of serving Mumbai’s ruthless foodies, and now Dubai has its own branch, the first outside India. Head Chef Faizan Ali has spent nearly two decades perfecting his craft at some of the world’s best hotels, receiving tutelage in north Indian cuisine from some masters in the field, including Chef Farman Ali, Corporate Master Chef – Leela Group.
With this heritage in mind, we were excited to eat at this hot new venue. Arriving late (and sweaty) from fighting the usual Saturday night traffic on the Palm, we were immediately transported into an oasis of calm on the 15th floor.
A warm welcome from the staff, we were walked down a long corridor to a huge, private table. Surrounded by specially-commissioned art, beige pillars and stone-effect walls, our first impression was that we were in a spa, not a restaurant. Not a bad thing, if you’re looking for a peaceful, romantic evening, but this is perhaps not the place for the party crowd. We were assured the views at sunset over the Palm are a treat, but by the time we arrived all we could really see from the windows were reflections of the interior. A good incentive to come back for a sundowner, maybe?
It exudes sophistication, with food prices to match.
Chef Faizan swung by to say hi, and was surprisingly meek given his credentials.
Starters arrived, and we were delighted by the eye-pleasing tiranga paneer tikka – six cubes of paneer, baked in different spice pastes – red, achari and chutney masala. The tri-colour cubes are designed to reflect the Indian flag. Flavours came through well, with a delicious smokey hint, although with a surprising delicacy. We would have liked a heavier coating of each paste. And once you bite through the paste, paneer is paneer, albeit freshly made on the premises, and delicious.
Tandoor ka phool – flowers of the tandoor – took broccoli and cauliflower and elevated them to the next level, in a delicious, creamy, almost cheesy, dry coating. The texture was a little like bread sauce. We could eat this all day. The cauliflower had a stronger spice flavour than the broccoli, making them work together well. A smear of saffron sauce took the dish even further upwards. Veggies have rarely tasted so indulgent.
We swerved Chef Faizan’s offer of one of his signature dishes, lamb raan, (an unusual dish in that it includes papaya), opting for lighter main courses.
Shahi kofta was tasty enough, served well and satisfying, but didn’t really warrant the AED95 price tag. We didn’t pick up on the promised hints of cardamom or saffron, either. Aloo jeera was served just right, not too spicy, and perfectly cooked baby potatoes. Dal makhani is always a test of a chef’s mettle in my eyes, and Faizal’s certainly didn’t disappoint. Rich, creamy, dark, and even perhaps smoky, this was a delight.
Breads are something the restaurant is very proud of, so we opted for the bread basket, getting a taste of reshmi paratha, one with a local twang – zaatar lachha paratha, and five-grain tandoori bread. Good, solid carbs, but nothing too exciting.
While the restaurant is licensed, we were more interested in the range of lassis, and tried one of each. The salted lassi ticked all the boxes (although I prefer it with more salt!), the coconut and lime version was delicious, a wonderful mix of sweet and sour, served ice, ice cold; while the mango lassi, served with the dessert, was like a beautiful creamy sweet in its own right.
We still had room for dessert – of course – but missed the promised ras malai for some reason, and took the halwa and a phirni. Both sweet and bland, yet comforting, they are the perfect foil if you’ve opted for a spicier meal than we did.
Khyber has great potential to be the go-to Indian restaurant on the Palm, but on a quiet evening it lacked atmosphere. It occupies the entire 15th floor of the hotel, with many different areas, including a very corporate-looking private dining room overlooking the pool, and this – the enormous amount of seating – might be part of the problem. When winter comes, and the outdoor terrace opens, we will be back to visit.
With such royal surroundings, this is a place for those with cash to flash. Or perhaps for those looking for an authentic home experience without it actually feeling anything like home at all… except for the food.
15th Floor, DUKES Dubai, Oceana, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai