Home > The Critic > Hiding in plain sight

With the explosion of the fine dining scene in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi showing no signs of slowing down, there are still significant gaps in the market that remain mysteriously unfilled.

The new emphasis on Latino cuisine, whether from Spain or South or Central America, should fill some of those gaps, but the largest one shows no sign of being targeted by any F&B Director. That’s curious because its native eaters number over 400,000 across the Emirates and most or all of us either work with them or interact with them every day.

I’m talking about Filipinos, whose food seems available only in down market canteens or a couple of casual restaurants, as well as the Jollybee chain of burger joints. Filipino co-workers point to the fact that most of these places are only offering a pale imitation of what food is like back hime and admit that they would be unlikely to pay the sort of prices that an outlet in a 4- or 5-star hotel would charge. They point out also that wine is not a traditional accompaniment to the food, again diluting the potential revenue.

I take those points on board, as well as accepting that pork is a central theme to many Filipino meals but, in a city that can offer us food from Vietnam or Korea, I find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t be enough interest from non-Filipino diners to support even one restaurant.

The food originated from a fusion of Chinese and Taiwanese influences, overlaid successively by Malasian and then Spanish, with a much later dusting of American foods. Dishes can be simple like fried salted fish and rice or more elaborate like paella. Is it so hard to imagine that a menu containing Lechón (whole roasted pig), Adobo (chicken or squid braised in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce), Kaldereta (meat in tomato sauce stew), Puchero (beef in bananas and tomato sauce), Afritata (chicken simmered in a peanut sauce with vegetables), Kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce) or Sinigang (meat or seafood in sour broth) wouldn’t find customers?

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