In the largely refined milieu that was Dubai’s international restaurant scene a few years ago, the arrival of American BBQ shack Claw was something of a revelation to the city’s diners. Benefiting from a prime location in Souk Al Bahar’s bustling restaurant quarter, it offered a rare brand of unfussy eating in a place where loosening your tie was encouraged, with eating bibs and sticky fingers intertwined with live sports, eating challenges and comically oversized drinks. Claw proved that tasty food at a reasonable price point, an unpretentious setting and a consistently ‘good vibe’ was precisely the social tonic the city’s young and the restless were after.
Indeed, Claw’s unmitigated popularity has prompted an apparently endless number of follow up acts, (some proving young pretenders, others coming a lot closer to the mark) all determined to replicate the ‘casual eating’ alchemy of success.
Not that that this has fazed Claw though, its special brand of Southern American hospitality still sees its tables and bar stools packed across the week, particularly now with its Friday brunch offering and specialist themed evenings; the most recent of which is ‘My Cowboy's Outta Town’ ladies night, boasting the requisite free cocktails and discounted dining for the girls.
The menu remains as tough to meander as it ever was, with an abundance of excellent options that make doing it justice on a singular visit an almost impossible charge. In the appetizer section alone you’ll find a smorgasbord of moreish entrees, from achingly American classics like chilli cheese fries, mini corn dogs to jumbo shrimp and wings (of the buffalo variety) lathered in hot sauce. If you’re less lily-livered diners than us, try the XXX Suicide Inferno wings - while they promise to make you cry, there is the not-to-be-sniffed-at bonus of some free beverages if you finish 12 in 20 minutes.
Naturally, given its crustacean sounding moniker, Claw’s mains menu is sufficiently stuffed with a host of seafood options – with the shellfish section denoting its own category entitled ‘The Legendary Bucket List’. Housing the restaurant’s speciality Snow and King Crab (aka the ‘deadliest catch) as well as the ‘shell of the day’ – steamed in garlic, lemon and ginger. Of course, if you want a bit of everything, the deluxe seafood steamer carries with it all the aforementioned crabs, paired with fresh mussels, clams and steamed shrimp.
If all that cracking and prising open of shells isnt your bag and you still want your seafood fix, we'd reccomend trying the fresh catch choices, where the highlights include a more manegable mahi mahi grilled number, plank roasted salmon and the fantastic baja fish tacos - battered fillets served with the requisite guacomole, cheese and homeade salsa, and a pinch (forgive the pun) at 75AED.
Not that the BBQ grill section should be ignored however. It is equally their speciality, after all, encompassing all the great and the good of the BBQ sphere, including tenderly prepared beef short and smoked ribs, beautiful slabs of steaks, colossal burgers and crispy southern fried chicken. If you'd like a touch of variety, we'd suggest either the BBQ beef sloppy joe or Texas beef brisket - caked in Louisiana BBQ sauce and both gloriously messy examples of what Claw does so superbly - with no match elsewhere in the city.
It is this just unwavering brashness of cuisine and execution that serves as one of the many reasons to love Claw. And, coupled with its seemingly laissez faire approach (that wholly belies a solid level of service) and consistently convivial vibe of the place that sets the place apart. Pleasingly, it remains every bit an enjoyable affair as it always was, just be prepared to get your hands dirty.
Souq Al Bahar, www.clawbbq.com