Mall of the Emirates
Aaron Noah M.
Location: Dubai, UAE
Newly opened, we figured Tribes might be a popular dinner establishment, but when a Gulf Vantage crew arrived at the Mall of Emirates just after noon (in an effort to beat the crowds), we were surprised to find the African-themed restaurant packed. We worried that we’d have to wait to get a seat for the three of us, but a smiling hostess was quick to clear a path through the masses and find us an empty table in one of the vast hollows of the place.
We sat down to the deep rumbling of congos, with several staff in colorful tribal costumes drumming, dancing, and singing nearby. The African vibe was further enhanced with wood toned deco and lots of themed artifacts adorning the walls such as masks, spears, shields. Others in the group seemed to enjoy the atmosphere but I was a bit worried. I’m not a big fan of gimmicks; I just want good food.
Tribes was created by the same folks who conceived the popular Meat Co., and looking through the menu you’ll notice some similarities, especially the bounty of items designed to appease carnivores. Our waitress informed us that beef steaks are the house specialty, but there are plenty of other animals to throw on the grill, such as chicken, fish, lamb, camel, and ostrich.
We ordered up and, while we waited, a small round of maroon colored bread was set on the table with a knife. Cutting into it we were delighted that it was hot, oven-fresh, and smooth with flavor. Off to a good start.
Within a short time, out came our plates: one dish of shrimps in peri-peri sauce, and two with steaks. One steak was spiced with mushroom and truffle butter while I decided to try a sirloin cut topped with a butter mixed with blue cheese, honey, and walnuts. We all shared a garden salad.
Slicing into my steak and noting the juicy red center I was happy that the waitress and chef actually got my request of “medium rare” correct, as some places in the UAE prefer to ignore the red meat request and just cook a steak until it’s a withering stump. No problems here though, and the meat was extremely tender, almost melting in my mouth. Rounding out the plate was a hefty dollop of mashed potatoes, quality in both consistency and flavor.
Then I stole one of the shrimps from my colleague’s peri-peri plate. It had a nice covering of golden sauce, which was predictably spicy, but not over-the-top. It was good, but not as impressive as those steaks; two of us were quite happy we chose the beef option. Our salad remained lonely in the center of the table until we finally finished off the meat and had nothing else to eat.
At some point the drums started up again and out came the costumed staff, but now that I had a good meal in me, I was able to relax and enjoy the setting.
If you’re looking for an authentic selection of African cuisine, I think Tribes will fall short of your expectations. The menu is African inspired, although predominantly South African (à la Meat Co.), with a few sprinklings of “Madagascar style” or “Bushman spices” thrown in the mix. However, what they do, they do well. The steaks are pricey, but I’ll definitely splurge again to enjoy one of those tender cuts. The service was fast and friendly, and depending on your mood, the employee’s tribal outfits and drumming can be sometimes gimmicky or downright fun. It’s too bad they’re not licensed for booze!
200g Sirloin steak with blue cheese, honey, and walnut butter = AED 130
300g Sirloin steak with mushroom and truffle butter = 165 AED
Peri-peri shrimp with chili potato cake = 130 AED
Location: Fashion Dome, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai
Hours: Open daily from 11.30am to 11:00pm