Ravi Restaurant, a Dubai institution that has stood on the same spot in Satwa for over 20 years and has won over the hearts and stomachs of almost every expat in the city. Named after the Ravi River that runs between India and Pakistan and not, as many people think, named after a person (yes when you say Ravi’s, you are wrong) this simple road side eatery is nothing more than a popular canteen; from the metal tables and polystyrene cups to the plastic plates and take away style menu there is no pomp and fanfare, just wholesome home cooking.
In my 25 years of living in this glittering city I have heard much about this little Pakistani joint and I know many a die hard fan, but in all this time I had never actually been…until now. Yes, I can finally say, I have been to the famous Ravi Restaurant – and you know what, it lived up to the hype.
Bar the ever present search for parking that Satwa is known for (not great when the guy driving is getting more hangry by the second), there wasn’t a single fault I could pick. We arrived, grabbed a table outside in a last ditch attempt to make the most of the almost bearable weather and began perusing the menu. It’s short and sweet with a great selection of meat and vegetarian options, but if you’re not an expert in Pakistani cuisine perhaps brush up on a few terms as nothing is explained on the menu and the staff don’t really have the time or inclination to stop for a chat.
On the trusted recommendation of our more experienced companion we ordered the chicken methi, one of the only dishes that comes boneless without special request and a bowl of gravy for the all important bread dipping. We then also decided on the aloo palak special and chicken palak (yes we like our spinach) and of course rice and bread – we just asked for a mix of what ever was available.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can rock up at almost 10pm and find it still busy with new patrons arriving every few minutes. The tables were full of families, groups of friends and even a few couples, each one talking, laughing and enjoying every mouthful; it was nice to see that there were no phones or iPads knocking around, kids were spending time with their parents and people were actually speaking to one another as they passed bowls of steaming curry, plates of fluffy rice and towers of homemade bread around the table.
Our table, lit only by the fluorescent sign overhead, was spread with a feast; each dish was packed with flavour and a little bit of a punch. The chicken was succulent, the potatoes perfectly soft and fluffy nestled in the spinach, the bread was completely moreish and makes for a much more satisfying utensil for devouring curry than the mismatched spoon and fork. A silence fell over our table as we all tucked in – broken only by the occasional horn of a legless patron ordering from the comfort of his Land Cruiser – and soon we were fit to burst but plates were clean and tummies were satisfied.
After a meal like that, what’s next? Chai of course. A sweet and milky tea to top it all off and perhaps the only thing not served in or on plastic (okay the saucer was plastic but lets not get pedantic). We sat, sipped and watched the people go by before paying the bank breaking bill of AED 80 between the three of us and heading home happy.
Everyone will tell you to get the butter chicken when you visit Ravi, it’s the go to expat favourite but I would recommend straying from what you know and trying something new, brain fry perhaps? No? Okay then, perhaps something tamer.
Serving up breakfast from 5am and dinner into the wee hours there is realisticly no time of day you need to be without the flavours of Ravi Restaurant, whether it’s takeaway, delivery or stopping by for a bite I am now solidly of the opinion that you can’t go wrong.
In recent years Ravi Restaurant has expanded into the space next door and opened a family dining hall that is a little more sit down dinner than street side nibble (their bread comes in baskets rather than on plastic plates) but if you’re after the authentic experience always pull up a chair at the original.