How a family-run bistro became the Middle East’s best restaurant

How a family-run bistro became the Middle East’s best restaurant - Food and Cooking - News

The Orfali Bros: A Syrian Culinary Legacy Fused with Modern Flavors in Dubai’s Melting Pot

The Orfali brothers, Mohamad, Wassim, and Omar, have a profound connection with food that transcends their professional roles as the dynamic team behind Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai. Their love for food and family is deeply rooted in their childhood memories, particularly Mohamad’s cherished recollections of his favorite Syrian dish, “Treet Bel Laban,” an omelet with meatballs served on garlic yogurt and eaten with warm bread.

The brothers’ passion for food has translated into their successful restaurant venture, which opened in 2021 and showcases a menu that is a testament to their Syrian roots and the contemporary Arabic and Mediterranean influences they have embraced. Mohamad, the chef de cuisine and charismatic host, leads the kitchen, while his brothers, Wassim and Omar, both talented pastry chefs, create the restaurant’s unique desserts.

Orfali Bros Bistro has garnered remarkable accolades since its inception. For two consecutive years, it has been named the “best restaurant” in the Middle East and North Africa according to the 50 Best list, as well as securing a spot on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2023 and receiving a Bib Gourmand award from the Michelin Guide. Mohamad shares his pride in these achievements, explaining that they have played a significant role in putting the restaurant on the international culinary map and attracting food enthusiasts from around the world.

The Orfali brothers’ family extends far beyond their immediate circle; their 53-strong team is an integral part of their extended family. With a diverse workforce comprising different nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds, the Orfali Bros Bistro reflects Dubai’s multicultural community.

The restaurant offers a unique concept that Mohamad calls “Dubai Cuisine,” which is not traditional Emirati food but rather an adaptation of global culinary traditions for the international palate. This approach allows people from various backgrounds and taste preferences to enjoy a meal together while preserving the authenticity of their dishes.

Innovative and surprise elements are central to Orfali Bros’ food philosophy. For instance, the signature “Guess What?” dish combines Lebanese Fattoush salad, Greek salad, and gazpacho on one plate. Another example is the “shish barak a la gyoza,” an Asian twist on the traditional Levantine meat dumpling, served with sujuk oil inspired by spicy Sichuan flavors.

Orfali Bros’ success story has inspired the brothers to embark on a new venture, “Three Bros,” a burger joint located next door. This project will offer diners an opportunity to savor Orfali Bros’ signature OB cheeseburger, made with a wagyu beef patty on a Hokkaido bun and topped with secret sauce, cheddar cheese, and caramelized onion.

Despite their growing success, the brothers remain committed to the core values that have shaped their culinary journey: family, creativity, and storytelling. Mohamad believes that food transcends borders and is a universal language that connects people. “Orfali Bros for us is a platform to explore something new,” he says, emphasizing the importance of preserving and celebrating diverse culinary traditions while embracing new experiences.

The vibrant Dubai food scene has witnessed a shift towards homegrown, independent restaurants like Orfali Bros in recent years, according to Samantha Wood, the founder of UAE restaurant review Website FooDiva and a Dubai resident for 25 years. Chef-led concepts like Orfali Bros exemplify this trend, offering innovative yet flavorful cooking and a unique dining experience for guests.

A growing locavore movement in Dubai is also influencing independent restaurants to incorporate locally sourced produce and ingredients into their menus. This trend has become increasingly popular due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on global trade.

Orfali Bros’ fusion food offerings stand out from typical fusion cuisine, according to Wood, as they showcase cooking influences from Syria and their regional neighbors in a modern manner while utilizing local ingredients whenever possible.

Orfali Bros is not alone in pushing the boundaries of fusion food; other establishments like Jun’s and Chez Wam also celebrate an innovative medley of cultures and cuisines.

For Mohamad, the unconventional combination of flavors or presentation adds to the storytelling aspect of their food. “If guests don’t understand our story, then they look at the plate from a different perspective,” he says. “The food is a journey – it’s my journey, my brothers’ journey, and the team’s journey.”

The Orfali Bros’ commitment to their culinary legacy, combined with their innovative spirit, has solidified their place in Dubai’s burgeoning food scene. Their story is one of family, tradition, and exploration – a testament to the power of food to bring people together and create lasting memories.