Mikado Cafe


For me, eating at a Japanese restaurant is like devouring an art canvas. I approach it with hesitation because who really wants to muck up something so beautiful? I feel like saying, ‘Let’s just shellac this and make it a centerpiece and then go eat something less attractive.’

Mikado Cafe is a cute little place tucked away in the Al Hana Center, Al Khalidiya near the Corniche. And it’s a nice change from hotel restaurants (not that there’s anything wrong with a fancy hotel meal) but Mikado’s is neighborhood dining at its best in the trendy Al Hana Center restaurant district.  Continue reading “Mikado Cafe”

Dubai Only City to Receive Perfect Score in Honesty Test


As reported in 7DaysUAE:

Dubai has earned a perfect score in an honesty experiment. Filmmakers from the UK carried out the test 45 times on the streets of the city – and on each occasion a kind-hearted resident returned it to the owner.

Daniel Jarvis, 26, from the hidden camera prank series ‘Trollstation’ and cameraman ‘Digi’ Dan, 25, visited various areas, such as Downtown Dubai and Bur Dubai, in recent days for the ‘Would You Steal In Dubai? Social Experiment’, which has been posted on YouTube and had more than 70,000 views by last night.

Jarvis told 7DAYS that they were surprised and heartened that no one even looked inside the wallet, which contained a few euros and some dirhams.

He said: “We’ve done this in London and other parts of the UK, but we’ve never had an experiment where no one’s taken the wallet.

“First we did the test on Sheikh Zayed Road, near Trade Centre and Emirates Towers, but everyone kept returning it. Then we thought, ‘maybe it’s because people in this area are rich’.

“So we went to Bur Dubai, which looked like a poorer area… but people kept returning it there too.”

The wallet is returned once again
The wallet is returned once again
The pair tried out the same test in London and said someone ran off with the wallet on attempt number 12.

Jarvis, who plays the suited, wallet dropper in the video, said having the property returned was “such a nice feeling”.

“I feel the media always twist stories about Arab countries,” he said. “There was once a headline about something like a man getting 15 years in jail for stealing a teddy bear. We’re showing the world it’s not like that at all.”

Trollstation’s channel has 230,000 subscribers and the duo’s next stop is likely to be Europe then America and Africa.

“It’s impossible to beat Dubai’s score now, of course, but we’ll see if someone matches it,” Jarvis said.

Please visit the original article 7Days 

Women’s Work in the UAE

2593111251 Want to support women’s work in the UAE? Plan to attend this NYU sponsored event exploring the various ways women’s work in the UAE goes beyond “fixing” the women to transforming the contexts in which they live and work. Representatives from the education, entrepreneurship, private, and public sectors discuss cutting-edge research and private-public partnerships that support work-life balance strategies, nationalization efforts, and social policy aimed at encouraging women’s employment. In examining different ways to conceptualize women’s non-linear career paths, the panel moves away from simplistic stereotypes about women’s “preferences” or assumptions about their “choices” to a characterization of the micro mechanisms that facilitate their learning, career development, and long-term well-being.

Date January 11, 2015
Time 06:30pm – 08:00pm
Location NYUAD Saadiyat Campus, Conference Center

Fatima Al-Shamsi Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration, Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi
Rabea Ataya Founder and CEO, Bayt.com
Anisa Al-Sharif Entrepreneur and former Director of Policy and Strategy for Socioeconomic Development, The Executive Council, Dubai

Moderated by
May Al-Dabbagh Assistant Professor of Social Research and Public Policy, NYU Abu Dhabi

Please confirm your attendance to Maisoon Moubark Maisoon.moubark@edelman.com before January 8, 2015.

Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

My Abu Dhabi Thoughts 2014

— The big smile of a laborer — because I know it comes from the heart

— The smell of shisha at a cafe — even though I don’t smoke

— The thrill of the city lights as they shine against the dark desert sky

— The willingness of a friend or a stranger to do almost anything — for nothing in return

— The way a friend from another country pauses to come up with the best word so I will understand them accurately

— The twinkle in an eye from a soul that has lived through tragedy

— The cheery conversation of two British kiddos during the morning school run

— The smell of foods I have never heard of — from countries I’ve never visited


— How I secretly am drawn to the chaos of miscommunication

— That I have almost grown to appreciate the smell of oud

— That I could now compete on a game show and correctly guess a sentence understanding only two words

— When disaster strikes we all pull together empathizing with people and countries we have never met or visited

— I am addicted to the surprises that the UAE constantly offers

— Realizing I now understand global politics, history, relations and also realizing that many people don’t

— My empathy for others has grown enormously

— What I want is for everyone I love to feel/see what I am experiencing

— I have grown used to driving in the chaos of the UAE roads

— I feel a little lost without a National dress

— Mam/Sir doesn’t bother me anymore

— It saddens me to know that many people around the world are misinformed about life in the Middle East

— The slang words I don’t understand but am always willing to try

— I love rubbing elbows with people in the supermarket

— The smell of rain is like heaven

— I love unexpected friendships that pop up out of nowhere

— And most of all, I love seeing the world in my child’s eyes


— My heart is full for the one we lost on a sad December day

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Thank you to the unknown artists whose photography and art I have used in this post.

NYE @Asia de Cuba


No plans for NYE?!? How about the St. Regis at Abu Dhabi’s Nations Tower newest Chic, sophisticated, glamorous, witty and above all, fun, Asia de Cuba? Combining a high-energy environment with its Chino-Latino menu; intensely flavored, imaginatively prepared and ultimately celebratory. Rooted in the Chino-Latino cafes that dotted the streets–first of Havana, and then of Miami and New York, Asia de Cuba has created a style of food and service all its own. Havana’s Chinatown, El Barrio Chino de la Habana, is one of the oldest and largest in Latin America. Beginning in the late 19th century, 150,000 Chinese came to work the sugar and coffee plantations, many from Canton in the south. As both are near the Tropic of Cancer they share similar weather and climates, and so Chinese vegetables were able to thrive in the Cuban soil. In the next few decades, many Chinese immigrants from California settled in Cuba, bringing with them new techniques and recipes, like Fried Rice, further improved by the island’s abundant shellfish.

I love all things Cuba and all things China….I’m definitely interested. How about you?

The itinerary of the Evening:

6:00pm – 8:00pm



DINING AREA (indoor): AED 850 per person

3 course meal with items chosen from a seasonal la carte menu
Unlimited selection of premium beverages
Dine indoor and party on the beach deck, enjoying the fireworks at midnight and our resident DJ all night.


Party on the beach deck, enjoying the fireworks at midnight and our resident DJ all night

Cabanas – AED 6000 minimum, for 6 people. Extra person @ AED 800 per person

Loungers – AED 6500 minimum, for 8 people. Extra person @ AED 800 per person

Pergola – AED 10,000 minimum, for 12 people. Extra person @ AED 800 per person

Welcome Fruit and Cheese Platter
Ceviche, Salad and Hot Appetizer Platters
Unlimited selection of premium beverages

STANDING BAR: AED 550 per person

Unlimited selection of premium beverages at the bar or cocktail tables.


Spinning live all night is our Resident DJ – Marise Cardoso from Brazil


For Reservations Contact : 02 699 3333

For More Information on Asia de Cuba visit their website http://www.asiadecuba.com

Carols, Marshmallows and Santa

Santa GirlYes, Christmas in the Middle East sounds like an oxymoron — and a little far fetched I agree. I too was blown away when I laid my eyes on my first Christmas tree. And of course, in full UAE style, there’s never just a simple Christmas tree but instead holiday sequoia-like trees that are three stories high and decorated by highly qualified Indian engineers. They spring up overnight immaculately decorated from top to bottom with an elaborate Santa village and dancing Filipino elves singing at the top of their lungs while enthusiastically pulling the willing into Santa’s house for a chat with the breaded guy. Even in the Middle East there’s a fascination with Christmas and all of the festivities; the colors, the baking, the snow, the giving. It’s the magic of the holiday and you don’t have to believe to participate. Muslims, Hindus, Shinto and Buddhist lined up in long queues to snap a pic and share in the joy.

This weekend we attended our first Carols in the Desert which has become an Abu Dhabi tradition for expats and some locals to drive 45 minutes into the middle of the desert to cook, dance, sing, and camp. This year over 2,000 people attended making the place look sort of like a festive refugee camp with the barren desert dotted with family camps spread over a large area of sand dunes. We arrived past dark without any idea of where we were going. Dragging a rolling Nascar cooler through the sand, up the dunes and stopped just as we crested the top only to find our friends had given up at the very same spot. Unable to see, unable to walk, we all decided this looks like a good spot. Since I had never attended I had no idea what to expect. Our Arizona friends, remember them, the Partridge Family of the Middle East? They were there of course because they will bust out in a song and strumming a guitar at any given opportunity. I could faintly hear them jamming away on the other side of the camp. In fact, many of my friends were there but it was so dark you couldn’t see. Hello. Hello. Hello. You could scream into the pitch dark night. Everyone around us was keeping a close eye on their small children for fear they would wander off and end up as camel food.

My friend Kerstin brought along ginormous marshmallows and they were the talk of the festive refugee camp. Never knowing what will be the conversation piece that pulls people together from the far corners of the desert, I was not surprised that it was the incredible hunk of gooeyness that was on the end of our camp fire stick. “Where’d you get those marshmallows? They’re like incredible. They’re like on steroids. They’re like a science experiment. They’re like the size of my bra cup. They’re like the size of my jock cup. They’re like a two-day meal. They’re like swelling up in my belly and I am not feeling so well.” Looking back on the event, I believe if I had a little more insight I would’ve definitely been better prepared for the Carols in the Desert. I would’ve made sure I had on a costume. Maybe a Grinch or a Mrs. Claus. I would’ve brought a lighted Jedi sword, a headlamp with an adjustable strap, popcorn, glow sticks, a pop-up tent, and maybe a glow in the dark frisbee. I believe that could possibly make Carols in the Desert an extraordinary event. There’s always next year and many opportunities in between to practice for perfecting the practice of being a festive refugee.


Go to Market Kitchen!


This is a part of a featured series highlighting businesses, events, services and products around the Capital that I love. They will be featured at the top of the blog. Please give these merchants a try. I did and I loved them! If I didn’t they won’t be featured. Promise!  🙂

I’m going to say it out loud right now, “I think you should go to Le Royal Meridien’s Friday brunch at Market Kitchen this weekend!”

First let me tell you, if you haven’t been to Le Royal Meridien lately you should go because the recent remodel is fantastic! It reminds me of California… yet infused with Italian design. It’s chic. It’s comfortable. It is unpretentiously suave. It lifts me to a higher standard without making me feel like I don’t belong.

As my 10 year-old son said, ‘Mom, I want to live in this restaurant.” The decor has that kind of welcoming balance.

Another reason why I love it so much. Because sometimes you want to have brunch without balloon art on your head, or someone spinning plates on a stick, or a petting zoo. (but if you got to have this type of thing it is located right down the hall complete with bubble machine and face painting for the kids or you I guess if you’re that sort of person).

Sometimes you want to sit with friends or business associates and have great food with fantastic cocktails and pleasant conversation — without the feeling of being in a mass horde of hungry wildebeests. If this is the case, then please visit The Market Kitchen because I did and I really enjoyed the change.

Did I mention the cocktails and the mocktails? If I didn’t shame on me! No lie. Hands down. And I am not joking you. Le Royal Meridien offers the best tasting cocktails in Abu Dhabi. If another hotel/restaurant/club wants to challenge this…bring it on, but I am here to say that the cock/mocktails are the freshiest and most inventive drinks I’ve tasted during my time here in Abu Dhabi. Cucumber martini, lychee raspberry,  bellinis, ginger margaritas…yum! yum!

Now onto the brunch. First, it is not a buffet style brunch. It is a seated, shared, farm-to-table menu which means it will change every week. The brunch is offered as a set 4 course menu. A little different for us here in the land of over-the-top competitive brunches. After the bread and the drinks, came the first course appetizers, and although I wasn’t a huge fan of the tartare, my husband is always in the mood for sushi and we all loved the calamari. It was light and fresh and perfectly fried with a fabulous little lemon rosemary dip.

On to the second course, which, by the way had my boys at Hello; Steak, burgers, pizza and for me a tomato soup. Need I say more? Nope, but I will. It was tasty and we gobbled it up. You can never go wrong with a mini cheese pizza. And tomato soup is always one of my favorites. The little steak and egg stack was a nice surprise and an interesting chef creation.  Yummy and interesting — definitely a good combination. And of course, every little person needs the option of resorting to a burger and fries if they want to go with something familiar; and so the Market Kitchen graciously obliged. (Please overlook strange expression on child)

For the main course, we were presented with a wooden serving board of meat dishes for sharing along with an array of dipping sauces for grilled fillet of beef, parmesan crusted chicken, and a side order of grilled fish; they all were delicious. The sides were the familiar staples that you find around your own dining table: mashed potatoes, broccoli, mac and cheese, except with a creative twist and the juicy fact that you will not have to cook it.  The truth is I felt like I was at home with friends or family passing around our family favorites. The good thing is if any of these dishes do not make your mouth water then you can order from a selection of others off of another preset menu. It’s that simple.

To finish our experience off we were served a trio of desserts. Warm chocolate cake with a fudge filling, a warm apple crumb cobbler, and the market cheesecake with a side of berries. We finished the feast with a couple of cappuccinos and determined that this definitely deserved a return visit with either friends or for a business lunch for my husband. What makes the Market Kitchen so special is the management and the staff who are there to make sure your experience is a good one. I cannot rave about this anymore. Please go for yourself. Go this weekend!



Market Kitchen Brunch Friday from 12.30pm to 4.00pm

Cost: 250 with Mocktails, 350 with signature cocktails/wine and 450 with champagne

Le Royal Méridien Hotel

02 695 0300


Facebook Page

Although this is a sponsored post I can assure you these views are my own. I am a fan of the Market Kitchen and Le Royal Meridien Hotel and love sharing experiences that I enjoy.

A big thank you to the staff and management for your kindness and hospitality.

Goodbye Dubai. Hello Abu Dhabi.

dubai-167872Goodbye Dubai I do not need you anymore.

Like a sexy new friend, you mesmerized me. You were the answer to all that was missing in my life.  I could rely upon you for everything between laundry detergent to a 7 star hotel. In awe, I shopped your malls. I marveled at your architecture. I salivated at your restaurants. I gorged on your ostentation. And then with a belly ache, I hobbled home and dreamt of when we would meet again.

Goodbye Dubai I do not need you anymore.

I loved you for what we were. You dazzled me with your sparkly and I fed it on it like a school girl. Bright eyed and in admiration of your grandeur and your resources. In you, I found what I was missing. No one within miles could fill your shoes. I talked about you to everyone I knew. And ended all of my sentences with, but in Dubai…..


Hello Abu Dhabi.

I love your new found glamour and your worldly culture. You’re so approachable and within my reach, I can wrap my arms around you and give you a big hug. You’re like the friend I overlooked because I was busy with someone more chic. You’re comfortable like an old habit. Pleasing, enjoyable and never in your face.

Hello Abu Dhabi.

I think I’ll shout to the word that you’re enough for me. I do not need to travel for amusement, entertainment or to be wooed with a promise of something blingy. I can get my laundry detergent, my hot dogs and my Cherry Coke right here. I’m really very easy. You cannot beat Abu Dhabi’s beautiful beaches, the mesmerizing skylines, and the incredible Emirates Palace.

Goodbye Dubai. Hello Abu Dhabi.

There’s room enough for two. When I need a place to blow my mind. I’ll pick Dubai anytime. But when I need a place to call my own; cozy, comfortable and nothing over-the-top, I’m calling Abu Dhabi home.

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Thank You


Thank you for everything you do.

For working in miserably hot conditions that would make others crumble. For leaving your families for an opportunity that some cannot comprehend. For all of the difficult work you do to make our lives more enjoyable.

Thank you for cleaning the toilets. The floors. The laundry. The sidewalks. The dishes.

Thank you for being kind.

The kind of person we feel comfortable allowing into our homes, our lives, and into the hearts of our children. The kind of person who has our best interest at heart. The kind of person we will miss when we return home. The kind stranger that does their job with a smile on their face.

Thank you for being that kind of person.

Thank you for being there.

There to carry our groceries and to clean our pools. To wash our windows and our car. To drive us around. There to manage the things that make our lives possible. To maintain all things that seem impossible. Being there to do the mundane. As we sometimes pass by without seeing you.

Thank you for being where you are needed.

Thank you for doing that thing.

That thing that is beyond understanding. The thing that springs from the ground and becomes a community before our eyes. The thing that nobody else really wants to do and the things you don’t fully understand. The things that we need but don’t realize it. The things you do knowing it will not be appreciated or acknowledged.

The things that make a difference.

Thank you for giving us a gift.

A little glimpse of the globe and a better understanding of our place in the world. Thank you for extending a helping hand with only the best intention. Thank you for the new definition of community and the lesson in compassion.

Thank you for your work which has created our beautiful memories.

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Mixology. The Best Cocktails

Courtesy of Le Royal Meridien

Last week I was invited to a cocktail/mocktail master mixology class for bloggers. I must admit it was my first mixer and Samia, one of the PTA girls, agreed to join me representing the mocktail to my cocktail.

I had recently changed to a new medication which was leaving me feeling as disoriented as a sea-sick cruise passenger. I decided that maybe I should spare myself any embarrassment and cancel. So I sent Charlie the organizer a note. “I am sorry. Can’t come. In the process of letting new meds equilibrate. Not keen on making a fool of myself and since I cannot say no to a tasty cocktail, I must cancel.” Charlie responds, “Please come cocktails are tasty.”

So I went. I took a taxi to Samia’s place and she drove us to The Meridien Abu Dhabi which is the wrong hotel. Not the wrong hotel if you want to try out the new Greek restaurant (Opa!) but the wrong hotel if you’re going to join the bloggers at the Market Kitchen.

We drove a few minutes up the street to Le Royal Meridien home of the master mixology.

What a beautiful hotel. Unfortunately, in my time here in Abu Dhabi I have completely overlooked this fabulous hotel and all of its wonderful restaurants. Since we arrived late I wasn’t able to see the swimming pool which is a huge disappointment to me because I am on an official search for the most fabulous pools in Abu Dhabi. Hint. Hint. Le Royal Meridien.

I will also say, that my friend Laura used Le Royal Meridien to cater her masquerade party which was fabulous and the talk of the town for several days afterward.

Anyway, Samia and I climbed the stairs to this little bar above Market Kitchen which resembled the living room of my Italian aunt. If I were Italian and I had an aunt. It was super cozy, softly lit and the perfect place for an intimate evening. All around the place oozed Italian comfort. And the bar smelled like all of the fresh fruits we were going to use to concoct our mixology drinks.

From the beginning I knew things were going to be tricky because I was the only American at mixology. Samia is Canadian/Pakistani married to an American/British Pakistani. So she has the ethnic-mixology to converse that I do not. I should say thank you Samia for knowing Urdu. We would’ve been stuck in the lost corridors of Abu Dhabi without it. So I started the mixology night off not understanding anything anyone was saying. Could be due to the meds. Could be due to the fact that most of the other bloggers were British and although we share the English language we usually cannot share a conversation. I laugh as if I understand what they are saying and hope that they are not describing the recent event of their grandmother’s funeral. Life is not easy in a multicultural, ethnically blended city.

Anyway, Samia jumps into this mixology like she’s one of the crew. She’s chatting everyone up like she’s known them all her life. She’s like that regardless of where you take her. And there I was woozy on my prescription meds. “Gina I think you should go behind the bar and mix up a few drinks.” Samia said with her usual chatty smile which convinces you that everything is a good idea. I stumble by the bar past Bruno Valentino to begin my class in mixoloy when it occurs to me that there couldn’t be a more perfect name for the person who is hosting a mixology at an Italian restaurant than Bruno Valentino. Perfect. Although, now that I think about it, Bruno would be even more perfect as a silent Hollywood film star except those days are gone. Too bad for Bruno.

You might be expecting that due to my meds, limited communication with my cohorts, and the dark lighting of the venue that this blog post will end in a huge debacle and otherwise total failure. But it did not. It was an absolute success. Regardless of not understanding instruction or knowing what I was doing, both Samia and I managed to whip up some very tasty cocktails and mocktails. The rest of the evening was dedicated to eating some fantastic appetizers and drinking the very tasty drinks that I was promised. I will assure you that regardless of cooking skill, current medication routine or your ability to communicate, you too can mix up these tasty drinks. Give it a try.

Although I will remind you if you would like to visit and try the entire collection of fantastic cocktails from the masters please visit Market Kitchen at Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi.

I must say it was a great event and the Market Place is a lovely place to get together with friends new and old, and also with those you cannot understand. It makes an evening far more entertaining.

Thank you very much Mr. Bruno Valentino and the entire staff of Market Kitchen Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi.

The Market Kitchen has shared a few of the fabulous recipes for us to try at home….and when you’re finished mixing please invite me over.



Cucumber Martini
2 oz. Hendricks gin
0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
0.75 oz simple syrup
2 cucumber slices
2 mint leaves
Cucumber wheel and small mint leaf garnish

Muddle cucumber, mint, lemon juice, and syrup. Add gin.
Shake and double strain into chilled martini coupe.
Garnish with a cucumber wheel and small mint leaf

Ginger Margarita
1 vol oz Sauza Hornitos Reposado Tequila
1.5 vol oz Ginger syrup
.5 vol oz Cointreau
1 rim ginger salt
1 lime wedge

Rim rocks glass with ginger salt and fill with ice.
Pour all liquids into a mixing glass. Shake. Strain over fresh ice.
Squeeze lime wedge and drop into glass




Cucumber Mint Swizzle
2.5oz fresh mint tea
0.5oz lemon juice
0.75oz simple syrup
0.25oz ginger syrup
1 barspoon chopped green apple
2 slice cucumber
6 mint leaves
Muddle mint, apple, cucumber
Add tea, lemon juice, ginger and simple syrup in a highball.
Fill highball halfway with crushed ice and swizzle until glass is frosty.
Fill the rest of the glass with crushed ice.
Garnish with mint sprig and cucumber slice

Strawberry Chamomile
0.5oz elderflower syrup
0.25oz simple syrup
0.25oz ginger base
2oz chamomile tea
3 strawberries
3 mint leaves in the shake
Orange and lemon wedge in the shake
Muddle strawberry with simple syrup and ginger base.
Add elderflower and chamomile
Add slapped mint leaves and orange and lemon wedges
Ice shaker and hard shake.
Strain into a cocktail coupe
Garnish with spanked mint leaf


Kumquat Muddle
2oz sour orange
6 halved kumquats
6-8 mint leaf
Soda water
Muddle and dump into highball
Fill with ice and top with soda
Squeeze lime and drop into glass. Gentle stir.
Add 1.5 oz of Bacardi Light Rum for a Kumquats Mojito

Sour Orange 
Combine all the below
8 Vol oz Fresh lime juice
8 Vol oz Fresh lemon juice
8 Vol oz Fresh orange juice
6 Vol oz Simple syrup
6 Vol oz Elderflower syrup

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