Local legend review: Al Ustad Special Kabab
Simplicity is this legendary location’s sugar, spice and everything nice…
Al Ustad Special Kabab doesn’t scream for your attention. For starters, the entirety of the kebab combo offers at this Iranian haunt fit on one laminated sheet of paper. And there’s just enough space in the tiny restaurant for six tables, arranged a-la-Tetris, and a lone sink.
But that simplicity is part of its allure.
It is an uncontrived beauty, one that runs right through the anatomy of this local, family-run, business. A sort of rawness that you just won’t find in a fine-dining, fork-and-knife-ing type of location.
Al Ustad Special Kabab was the brainchild of Haji Mohammed Ali Ansari, an Iranian expat who came to Dubai, made it his home and gave it this hidden gem in 1978. Not much has changed since, except those who helm it, and the global fame. Al Ustad is a legacy, a culinary heirloom passed down from one generation to the next, now safeguarded by Ali Ansari’s sons.
Décor here takes the form of scattered homely paintings, artefacts telling tales of the old country and framed cuttings charting the eatery’s rise to popularity. What catches your eye, are the innumerable pictures pinned to the walls, snaps of every famous face that has dined here, and there are quite a few of those. UAE royalty included.
I grab an out-of-the-way seat and watch the waiters rush past, carrying teetering plates of aromatic kebabs and steaming white rice laced with butter. It’s a Saturday evening, which means business is brisk. We order a mixed platter for three. Deliberation complete – now we wait.
The kebabs arrive and are accompanied by a side of fries, huge, freshly baked tandoori naan and a serving of hummus. They’re an assorted mix, made with chicken, lamb and beef, and featuring varying flavours and marinades like lemon, sumac, cumin and a signature smokiness. Every meaty morsel is melt-inthe- mouth, perfectly grilled, good.
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As is the nature of Iranian fare, there are no harsh surprises, no excess of spice or salt or anything. Everything is subtle, letting the true flavour of the produce shine through. The yoghurt kebabs offer the strongest kebabing, with a tartness punctuating the beef. Eaten with plain rice and salted butter, the mix is simple, but elevated.
That’s all you need to try at Al Ustad. That’s what it’s celebrated for. And it continues to do just that – nothing more, nothing less – every single day.
What’s On Verdict: No fancy spreads or mind-numbing variety. Just vibes and flavourpacked, meaty goodness.
Al Ustad, Al Fahidi, Dubai, Sat to Thurs, 11am to 1am, Friday, 5.30pm to 1am, Tel: (0)4 397 1933. @ostadi_1978
Images: What’s On