Arriving at Tribes Carnivore is like stepping into the very heartbeat of Africa. The newest eatery to open in the vast Dubai Mall offers African food to the masses with an ‘all you can eat meat’ concept.
Interiors are decked out in woods to provide the rustic feeling of rural African village. Wooden handicrafts are utilized into the very fabric of the dining space and offer a sense of authenticity via colorful tribal murals, inverted fishing baskets as light fittings, railway sleepers suspended from ceilings and animal skin drums scattered throughout. Tribes Carnivore may not be subtle but it certainly is fun.
With a prime location overlooking the Dubai Fountains, people are likely to come in droves during the cooler months for one of the best views of the fountains and of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. Inside may be gloomy and more barn-like but peeks of that view are available through the slats on the external wall.
Relaxing back in our wooden chair (similar to those we saw for sale during our travels through Tanzania, Malawi and beyond) the welcoming team introduced themselves and explained the simple concept behind the latest eatery from the Tribes brand. Carnivore takes the diverse and exotic flavors of Africa, from the Spice Islands of the East, the French in the West, the Malay & Dutch in the South and the Arabic flavours of the North. Combining them into an all you can eat extravaganza.
If you’ve ever been to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant before, you know the drill. On the table sits an African Drum, one half painted red and the other green. As soon as you’re ready for meat, flip the drum over so the green side faces skywards and skewers of meat will soon begin to arrive.
Team Out and About weren’t going to make it easy and were slightly hesitant to bring a vegetarian dining partner along for the review but we needn’t have worried. Every single item found on the hot and cold buffet (and sides orders) are 100% vegetarian friendly. Think sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, truffle mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, capsicum soup, the list goes on… and on.
For a buffet the quality is of a high standard, with only a little of each dish laid out at one time and replenished often. Salads are kept cool on large trays of ice and the Tribes team are more than happy to talk diners through the extensive offerings. The salad bar stays more North African / Mediterranean with lots of dishes you would find in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. This makes makes sense as the cuisine from these countries is very Arabic influenced and obviously blends very well into Dubai’s dining scene. With dishes like beetroot hummus, traditional potato salad (Kenya) and a quinoa and pomegranate blend (Morocco) fans of Arabic cuisine will be happy indeed.
We feel as though they could have mixed it up a bit by offering some Fufu (West African porridge) or even Egyptian Koshari (a mix of lentils and macaroni) but instead Tribes Carnivore sticks to familiar territory and doesn’t go to niche. Even cassava, a staple ingredient in African cooking is noticeably absent from proceedings.
Our experiences with Brazilian BBQ’s in the past have been very hit and miss but we were suitably impressed by the cuts of meat used at Tribes. Almost instantly after turning our drum into ‘green mode’, a stream of meaty goodness was presented. Beginning with a choice of two sausages, South African Boerewors – derived from the Afrikaans words boer (farmer) and wors (sausage) – a beef sausages braaied (barbecued) upon a grill. The other option was a smoky paprika chorizo, more Spanish than African but delicious all the same.
Nibbles of plantain chips, cheese bread and a shrimp soup also appeared as a good accompaniment to all the protein.
Carved at the table by a tool that resembled a machete more than knife, were the chicken parmesan drumstick and chicken breast wrapped in veal bacon. Followed by picanha (also referred to as sirloin cap) known as one of the most prized cuts of meat in Brazil.
The meat didn’t stop there, with a rosemary and crusted lamb appearing next. This was our favorite item on the menu for it’s flavorsome crust and pink interior that is peeled away via metal tongs. Like all other meats at Tribes, the lamb was tender, juicy and served piping hot and with the addition of piri piri shrimp, we happily turned our plate into a surf and turf.
The last meat to arrive at the table were the plump meatballs, looking the part on their smoldering grill but transpiring to be the only item that was bland and flavorless.
The meat selection at Tribes tends to stick very close to the edges of the African continent and having travelled extensively through Africa we had hoped for a little more. Tribes Carnivore could really put themselves on the map if they offered some of the more obscure African meats from savannah dwelling species like ostrich and crocodile, both of which are found extensively on menus throughout Africa. This unique spin could become a talking point and more obviously, an Instagram lovers dream, yet it is easy to why these items have been neglected. Perhaps being to extreme a concept for UAE diners, especially in a mall.
Regular readers will be aware of our dislike for cooked pineapple. Hawaiian pizza or sweet and sour chicken are unlikely to ever pass our lips, so when we saw an entire skewered pineapple making its way to our table, we tried to decline. After some gentle persuasion by the Tribes team, we did manage a little mouthful and it was surprisingly good! With the texture of an apple crumble filling and an oh so sweet exterior that had been sugared to allow for perfect caramelization. The skewered pineapple was beautifully sweet, we wouldn’t say that we’re converted but it was very good.
A quick note on beverages. Tribes Carnivore is unlicensed but does offer a variety of interesting mocktails. We throughly enjoyed the Brainwash (watermelon, mixed berries, cranberry and basil) in a glass shaped like a mans head where the drink resembles his brain! Ginger Fresh (passion fruit, pineapple, ginger beer and basil) is served in a coconut but best of all was the thoroughly tropical Tribes Special (raspberry, strawberry, lime, rosemary and mint). Accompanied by authentic African music, we were transported to the beaches of Mombassa, Mozambique and Cape Town without even leaving out seats.
With staff hailing from various tribes across Africa, the team really do set the tone of the restaurant with their friendly, upbeat and attentive serving style. They also provide a spot of dinner theatre with live percussion, dancing and chants of ‘Jambo Bwana’ (a traditional Swahili greeting translating as Hello Mister). The team at Tribes create an energetic atmosphere and the interactivity certainly makes for a fun dining experience.
Despite suffering from a mild case of the meat sweats, we couldn’t resist dessert. It was with this final course that a bit of molecular gastronomy crept into proceedings. Served inside a large wooden drum and billowing smoke sits a Malva cake.
Malva is a traditional South African dessert made from apricots but the version presented at Tribes is given a unique UAE twist by switching the key ingredient for dates. The moist malva cake is then caramelized in front of you via a duo of blowtorches and it is spectacular.
We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Tribes Carnivore and wouldn’t hesitate to return again. The food is much better than a lot of Dubai’s hotel ‘all you can eat buffets’ and the price is very affordable. All you can eat meat is priced at 135 AED (lunch) and 165 AED (dinner). For vegetarians it’s just 65 AED (lunch) and 90 AED (dinner).
Tribes is a great new casual dining spot that is exceptionally family friendly and offers some of the best fountain views. It may not be that authentically African but there is currently nowhere else in the UAE promoting African food to the mass-market and for this we commend Tribes.
With over 300 dining destinations now in The Dubai Mall, it’s difficult to deviate from the usual favorites but for those diners looking for something different. We suggest you head over to the Star Atrium where you’ll find two unique dining destinations well worth your hard earned cash, Parkers and now… Tribes Carnivore!
We were invited to dine at Tribes Carnivore. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.