What comes to mind when you think of Balkan cuisine? Me – for some reason, my brain goes to heart-warming soups, stews and heavy dumplings. Not that I am opposed to these wintery dishes, but I wouldn’t necessarily think they would be suited to these warmer Dubai climes. So when 21GRAMS, a new Balkan bistro, opened on Jumeirah Beach Road, a stone’s throw from the beach, I was intrigued to see where it would slot into the Dubai restaurant scene.
Evoking memories of a homeland’s favourite recipes, the warmth and comfort of a family home and the smell of freshly baked pastries, 21GRAMS offers Balkan brilliance with a twist. What I previously thought was heavy, appeared to be light, offering a menu of mezzes, dips, salads, soups and hot dishes including octopus, gnocchi and chicken.
A labor of love, 21GRAMS aims to offer a sincerely authentic experience curated by their own operating and creative partner Stasha, from first appearances, the food, the space and the ambiance were on point – I loved the cozy urban bistro experience and the smell of coffee that constantly wafted through the venue. A vibrant bistro space with floor to ceiling windows, the eatery offers a light and welcoming indoor dining area bathed in warm tones, with a pastry counter and seating for 30, as well as an intimate outdoor area, with balcony views overlooking Umm Sequim Park.
The menu honours Stasha’s passion for wholesome soul food, and her desire to create a uniquely authentic experience inspired by the diverse ethnicities, cultures and cuisines of the Balkan Peninsula. Every dish contains freshly-sourced ingredients, follows traditional recipes and contains modern execution. Arriving at lunchtime, we didn’t go crazy with qauntity and instead, opted to try smaller and lighter portions, following the team’s recommendations. Starters arrived in the form of Polenta with beef bacon, goats cheese & black truffles, Urnebes which is basically red-hotchilli cheese, Melidzano which is an eggplant relish and white bean hummus with smoked paprika. Arriving with a loaf of home-made crusty bread, we tucked into our Balkan mezze and I must say, I loved it all!
Mains arrived in the form of slow-cooked lamb in milk with horseradish sauce and poached apple and orange and balsamic vinegar marinated octopus with baby potato and carrot puree and crispy skin chicken thighs with green pea puree and herb infused bechamel sauce. The chicken was picture perfect with shades of green and covered in flowers, while the octopus was amazing – arriving as a huge tentacle.
Considering it was a short stay, I was definitely impressed with what this new eatery brought to the table. 21 GRAMS brings honest, wholesome soul food with authentic accents – all wrapped up with generous warmth and spirit.
Open daily from 7 am to 11:30 pm. For more information, please call +971 04 349 07 44, or e-mail email@example.com.