An Arabic feast in spellbinding surroundings…

They say we eat first with our eyes, so a dish that looks like an enormous sushi platter with unusual Middle Eastern ingredients should be a disaster. But we found just that at Asil’s new brunch and – after trying it – we’ll be back to have it again. The icy spectacle featured mussels stuffed with wild rice, sushi made with couscous topped with sweet red pepper and walnut, and a masterful sea bass ceviche marinated in a light mayo mustard. The dry ice hovering over it all may have looked freaky, but it all tasted wonderful.

The sushi platter isn’t the only thing at Asil to pack a visual punch. The restaurant channels a luxurious Aladdin’s cave with ruby red drapes, eerie glass mirrors, amber velvet chairs, and gold fringes hanging over the large central bar. All of this added up to a fair amount of gawping, which continued when our welcome drink arrived – a mystical cocktail topped with a transparent orb bubble that, when popped, would add extra fruity flavour into the glass.

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A generous selection of small(ish) dishes left us struggling to decide if we liked the aforementioned sushi platter or the Arabic mezze bites best, until the plate of mini shawarma pockets (chicken, beef and falafel) arrived and quickly became the winner. The main course, an enormous barbecue platter of tender lamb kebab, chicken shish tawook, steak, and meat wrapped in melted cheese, was another hit.

A word of warning that by this point, you’ll be too full to share a dessert, never mind the six puddings that arrive in quick succession to the table. It’s a mind-boggling array of Middle Eastern-inspired tiramisu, a heavy Umm Ali, sweet lokma balls and a huge bowl of exotic fruit. We barely took a spoonful of each.

If you don’t have your own magic carpet to help shift you out of the restaurant, it’s worth considering extending your stay to digest both the enormous meal you’ve had and the amazing views from the terrace. There’s the option to keep the party going for Dhs100 per hour for unlimited drinks and a further Dhs100 for shisha. A sundowner on the terrace is unmissable.

Rixos Premium Dubai JBR, Fri 12.30pm to 3.30pm, Dhs275 with soft drinks, Dhs375 with house drinks. Tel: (0)45200055.