Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Al Dar Sweets


As you drive or walk through the busy streets of Abu Dhabi, you may have noticed one of the many Arabic sweet shops tucked into a corner or deep in the middle of the maze-like blocks.  But which one to pick when you want some of that crispy, buttery baklava or fresh breads, like manakish? Everyone will tell you a different one is their favorite...it might happen to have been their grandmother's favorite, or is closest to their house, or on their way home from work, etc.... I happened to find Al Dar Sweets, which is actually a well known brand in Abu Dhabi's event scene, but lesser known to the average customers, like us.   They have been a family owned business since 1975, but with the new generation taking the reigns in the past few years, the business is revamping itself.  Their first newly updated cafe is located in the very busy Madinat Zayed area.  (P.S. Don't try to come by car in the evenings, as parking is non-existent.)

Many Arabic sweet shops in Abu Dhabi are from an era past.  The lighting is low, and the decor, if any, is straight out of the 1970's, not to mention bleached from years in the intense sun.  So even if the sweets are delicious, it is hard to get past the drab experience.  Al Dar Sweets, on the contrary, has a modern, fresh look.  It is light and bright, with three of the four walls made of windows. And when you look at the shelves and trays of cookies, baklava, and cakes, you feel like a kid in a candy shop (appropriately).

Wissam, the owner, a young and friendly family guy, is turning the business around by focusing on customer service and appealing to the modern generation. He has morphed the old sweet shop idea into a fresh cafe.  For example there is a brand new, shiny, high-end espresso machine, and free wifi. You can sit at one of the few cafe tables and watch the craziness go by outside, as you sip an espresso, savoring some of their tasty freshly baked specialties.
 He manages the business, but his whole family is still involved in the operations.  Infact, while I was there, his very kind (and coincidentally stylish) mother stopped in to check on things.  After all, a few of the decadent cookies and sweets are her recipes, including some specially made only with pure honey (no refined sugar).

In addition to the buttery, flaky baklava, there are savory items, cakes and even freshly made Arabic ice cream (Booza). It was perfectly chewy, and not too sweet.  I tasted two manakish, one with zaatar and cheese (always a favorite choice) and one with the traditional kishk (cracked bulgar wheat that is fermented in yogurt).  Both were hot, soft, salty and delicious.  They make them on the spot, so you will have to wait a minute while it is fired in the brick oven.

Ready for the sweets?  The options are vast, but expected.  There are so many that are tasty, and I can't tell you which are the best as most depend on your personal preferences... fresh date syrup, honey, nuts, rosewater, crispy or soft, cookie or cut out... I love roasted nuts so my favorites were the Hareeseh (a base of semolina and coconut with roasted pistachios on top) and the walnut baklava.  They even make one with mocha (a contemporary twist).  And, if you are new to this complicated matrix of Arabic sweets, no worries, Wissam and his team will guide you through it.  Just tell them what you like.  They are also doing deliveries and have implemented online ordering with Zomato (PS you can get 10% off ordering online)...so in pure Abu Dhabi style (which I love) no need to leave the house or office!

In the very corporate world of our capital city, where everything is hotels and hypermarkets, it is refreshing to know that these passionate family businesses still do exist....and to find them.

Al Dar Sweets
Madinat Zayed (the other location has not yet been revamped)
024182530






Al Dar Sweets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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