The Manhattan Fish Market is a new seafood concept that has touched down in Dubai Festival City Mall. Drawing inspiration from New York City’s Fulton Fish Market, a street market originating in 1882, directly underneath the cities iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The Fulton Fish Market was known for having a diverse selection of seafood, said to be the freshest in New York, thanks to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.
This popular catch of the day concept has spread worldwide, encompassing the Asian Market and now the Middle East. The UAE’s first branch of The Manhattan Fish Market is now open, with another soon to follow in Deira’s Al Ghurair Centre.
First things first. The restaurant at Festival City is a little tricky to find. Situated at the far end of the new SkyWalk food court, it would appear as though this mall has a complete aversion to mall maps and signage. Making it a bit of a mission to actually located the venue. After some aimless wondering and asking a number of staff (none of whom seemed to know), we eventually stumbled upon the location.
The Manhattan Fish Market is a modern and welcoming space, similar to many causal dining restaurants you’ll find throughout malls in the UAE. Seating is a mixture of leather booths and freestanding tables that despite the small space, doesn’t feel at all cramped. Large windows illuminate the restaurant with plenty natural light, while the walls are hung with posters full of fish-related humor and comedy puns. The most striking feature is the lighting, which comprises a collection of filament exposed light bulbs hung on strings of thick fishermans rope.
Staff are plentiful and offer the warm type of service one expects from a family friendly restaurant (we were looked after by the wonderful Germa). Patrons are greeted by all members of staff, who welcome you to the restaurant in unison. The menu itself is gargantuan (who knew there were so many different ways to serve seafood?) and offers a varied selection of soups, hearty chowders, pastas, salads, combos and so much more.
Diners with an aversion to seafood are going to seriously struggle and may want to consider dining elsewhere but lovers of the ‘fruits of the sea’ are going to be very happy with the offerings. Appetizers include mussels, fried calamari, crispy whitebait and (surprisingly for a casual dining spot) an oyster roulette. A dish in which diners are presented with four oysters, one of which has been doused in spicy sauce and will be a fiery experience for the person who actually consumes it! An interesting idea that certainly adds an additional element of fun to proceedings but at just 35 AED, it would appear difficult to attest to the quality of the oysters!
Opting instead for the Quad Delight. A platter of four of MFM’s signature starters – crispy calamari, a salad of ocean gems (mussels and shrimp), beautifully sweat coleslaw elevated by the addition of cranberries and juicy fried mushrooms. The mushrooms were the surprising element of the platter, covered in a light batter and a secret seasoning and it was pleasing that such an abundance of fried food, showed little signs of grease and the expected heaviness.
Washing our food down with some of MFM’s signature beverages, we especially enjoyed the coolers. Blending tea with exotic fruits, these variations on a traditional iced tea were refreshing and not too sweet. The Sunset By The Bay (a mixture of Earl Grey and peach chunks) was the standout, though we also relished the Passionate Peach (blending Chamomile tea, lemongrass, peach and passionfruit). Our dining companion made a bold move in ordering the Gummy Bear, a fluorescent concoction of blue Curaçao and mixed fruits that looked like a sure fire sugar rush.
Moving onto main courses, the twenty seven (yes twenty seven!) page menu is home to all your fishy favorites, including fish and chips, grilled salmon and fish burgers. What’s great is that the food can also be cooked in five different ways, meaning that customization is key – poached to preserve moisture and flavour, grilled to seal in the taste, baked to seal aroma, fried to provide the perfect crunch or flamed to bring out a caramelized sweetness to the food.
Unable to resist the signature style of ‘flaming’ we opted for the Manhattan Flaming Seafood Platter. Which much like our appetizer, was a combo showcasing the best of Manhattan Fish Market’s fin-tastic main courses. Priced at 135 AED this platter offers very goof value for money and a more than generous portion size (easily enough for three people to share). Hand battered dory fillet, fried calamari, oysters and flamed prawns.
To be honest, the dory was the highlight thanks to the restaurants secret batter recipe, keeping the fish moist on the inside with a nice crunchy exterior. Arriving in a skillet, the ‘flaming’ aspect is certainly a fun one, as a blow torch is used to crisp and caramelise the prawns. Though referring to it as a cooking method is more than a little misleading, as the flaming technique is pure showmanship and used more as a method to melt sauce onto the prawns than to actually cook them. Either way, these dinner theatrics are a welcome addition and one that will certainly impress diners, especially those with children.
The calamari offered on this flaming platter is the exact same as the one served as an appetizer (we didn’t intend to double up) and all platters come with an excessive amount of rice, fries and al dente steamed vegetables. The only misfire were the deep fried oysters, which we really struggled with for their overly potent nature and stringy texture that just reeked of a lesser quality product.
Desserts fared much better and continued with the theatrics of the mains. Despite not offering the largest dessert selection (brownies, banana fritters, strawberry and peach poppers, mud pie, sundaes and a cookie crumble) what is available seemed good.
The banana fritters are again flamed and come poached in a warm coconut sauce. Accompanied by chocolate ice cream, that somehow managed to stay frozen and in tact, despite the flaming nature of the dish. The fritters were sea-riously good, caramelized to perfection and promptly consumed by our dining companion.
We also selected the sizzling brownie, served on a hot skillet that begins to sizzle when the caramel sauce is added. This dessert (much like the prawns) was a case of gimmick over convenience, the problem being that the caramel on the hot skillet produces an acrid smoke and unless eaten quickly, the sauce actually begins to burn! That being said, the brownie itself was very good, moist and with a generous serving of peanut sauce and ice cream. Though the removal of the ‘sizzling’ element would actually make the dish better.
Despite some obvious issues with the meal, we did enjoy The Manhattan Fish Market concept which offers something unique to the casual dining scene. There is little doubt that this is a good spot for families, with the presentation and reasonable pricing being a specific draw. A place to check out next time your in Festival City and looking for somewhere a little different from the usual food court chains.
We were invited to dine at The Manhattan Fish Market. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.