Same name, same location but new owners, new interior, new menu and, as a consequence, a new lease of life – Al Leekh (which means fishing net in Arabic) is the closest thing to a South Iranian Khodemooni restaurant with something very unique to offer – seafood. New owners, kabab masters @al.fareejrestaurants, have spruced the place up, doing away with the outdoor hut, focusing instead on offering a clean and cool indoor dining space, be it small in size. The menu includes all the amazing Al Fareej kababs but it’s the seafood you need to be focused on here, not the kababs.
Although the restaurant is actually billed as Emirati, something the menu reflects by using the local names for the dishes, I choose to think of Al Leekh as a pretty decent representation of South Iranian Khodemooni cuisine. It highlights just how many similarities there are between Emirati and Khodemooni Iranian. And I’m pretty sure if asked hand-on-heart who their main clientele is, we’d find the majority are Khodemooni locals. It was no fluke then, that I had my resident Khodemooni food guru, Sheikh @mansoormadani with me to help navigate the menu and, more importantly, judge how good the food is.
By the time I arrived, Mansoor had already ordered. We started with some fried fish roe sacks or Hobool as it’s known locally; Tokhm-e Mahi in Iran. Contrary to what one would imagine, cooked right, this regional delicacy doesn’t taste at all fishy. In fact, drizzled with a few drops of lime or dipped in the tangy tomato salsa it is usually served with (not dissimilar to what one gets at mandi restaurants), it really is quite delicious. Next up was Saloona with Shrimps. Saloona (or Salona) is a local stew normally made with chicken. In South Iran it’s called Katokh (or Katoq) since Khodemooni slang does not pronounce qق. The biggest difference between the two is that the Iranian version is slightly more pungent, otherwise, they’re literally identical. The one dish I specifically asked Mansoor to order was Kooli Podooni, a dish of minced shark meat which his late mother was a master of making. It’s known locally as Jesheed.
The rest of our meal comprised of a perfectly grilled butterflied Seabream and a couple of prawns…which I hardly touched. Why? because I can get them almost anywhere. Saloona and Kooli Podooni I can’t. I am really impressed with this latest incarnation of Al Leekh. It offers a dimension of South Iranian Khodemooni cuisine usually reserved for Khodemooni homes. And, of course, Emirati restaurants such as Al Fanar. The only gripe I have is that it’s located in such an awkward place. I can only imagine what this restaurant could do if it were located on Al Wasl or Jumeirah – Oof! Irrespective of location, I strongly recommend you give this place a try.
Xerxes (pronounced Zûrk’seez) – Food Adventurer Extraordinaire & Aspiring (=Amateur) Food Blogger – Shamelessly Exploring the Boundaries of Gluttony
Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join him on his culinary journey on Instagram: @ravenousxerxes or reach out to him via email on email@example.com.