Wakha is one of the best Afghan restaurant concepts in Dubai. Well, I used to think it was until I visited their new branch in Al-Nahda. Located on Amman Street opposite the Sahara Centre, this new incarnation follows through on the same design theme of the al-Barsha original, but somehow décor at this one seemed tacky, amateurish and cheap.
Perhaps that’s because we were the only ones there at lunchtime. I was happy to find the butcher’s chiller with hanging lamb carcases has been retained as part of the see-into kitchen. Wakha is famous for using fresh meat for the kababs it serves; they actually cut the meat only when an order is placed. The problem is that you have a longer than usual wait while dishes are cooked; the price you pay for it being fresh. Sadly no one at Wakha has figured out that waiting half an hour with nothing more than a single tomato, cucumber, carrot and some pickles is NOT fun. But believe it or not, that’s all you get. No bread, no munches, nothing. And worse, nothing is suggested or offered either. Baba, offer your guests something.
My come-back-to dish at Wakha has always been the (minimum for two unless you are a shameless glutton) Wakha Platter, which is what my food buddy and I ordered. Like a mixed grill at other restaurants, the Wakha platter allows you to sample some of their signature cuts of meat and chicken, in this case, Shinwari Lamb Tikka, Shinwari Chicken Tikka, Kabuli Beef Kabab and Kabuli Chicken Tikka all of which comes served, Mandi style, on a bed of Kabuli Pulao.
Best of the lot in my mind is what the restaurant calls Shinwari Lamb, which is really just a back to basics lamb, slow-cooked in nothing more than its own fat – how heavenly is that?! The rest was good, but the meat was nowhere near as tender as what it should be. This could be the consequence of us nagging the kitchen to prepare our food faster. We also tried their Channa Daal the taste of which was enhanced further by the addition of a beautifully tart and tangy vinegar-based Torshi (pickle). If I were the owner of Wakha, I would offer this Chimichurri-style sauce on the side of whatever kabab I served.
Speaking of being served, service at Wakha al-Nahda was disappointing. And the main reason for this is that the staff do not speak English. They cannot explain the menu to you nor can they understand what you want. My love-affair with Wakha started because the owner sat and talked me through the whole concept when they first opened. He recommended what I should try and even took me to see their kitchen. This was at the al-Barsha branch. Sadly, although I have visited Wakha many times since, I have never seen him again. Back in al-Nahda I actually had to switch to (my very basic) Urdu to make myself understood. That said, true to their hospitable Pakistani instincts, what our waiters lacked in linguistic skills they made up for in enthusiasm.
Bottom line, Wakha al-Nahda was a disappointment. If you want to sample the amazing cuisine of Afghanistan, I still say Wakha is probably one of the best places to do so in Dubai BUT the al-Barsha branch, not this one.
Hey! Now read this –
Xerxes physically visits (and dines at) each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat and drink. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews. What you have read was not influenced in any way by the venue. Join me on Instagram @ravenousxerxes or email me on: email@example.com