Novelty can go a long way in a market like Dubai. Being the first at something – conveyor belt restaurant, tapas bar, organic quinoa coffeeshop – can sustain a venue’s reputation a long time until the copycats arrive.
Keeping the customers coming week after week, month after month, though, can't ever simply be about the new – indeed, it owes much more to delivering the old. It’s the ability provide the dish they loved last time just as the customer remembers it, with service as gracious and efficient as their first time thorugh the door.
Claw makes for an excellent case study. It got off to a rip-roaring start when it first opened in Souk Al-Bahar in 2013, delivering a Southern-style barbecue restaurant that has witnessed many imitators since. Its warm brick interior, booth-style seating, capacious bar and endless array of nostalgic Americana on the walls provided the necessary conviviality, while the hearty menu and inventive drinks ensured it was instantly popular both after work an during extended weekend get-togethers.
It is pleasing to note that, two years later, the consistency and quality have endured. It seems like it will remain a fixture on the Downtown dining scene long after the Cajun craze has passed.
The food remains uncomplicated, generous (perhaps too generous), and immediately gratifying, with most of the dishes meant for sharing. The various “buckets” being a : you can order huge tubs of king crab, snow crab legs, mixed shellfish of mussels, clams and shrimps, or any combination of the above, and spend an enjoyable half hour fighting over the contents. Whatever shellfish you choose, it will feel straight-from-the-boat fresh and be packed with flavour.
It doesn't pay to over-do any starters here, though, especially if you are interested in the various types of smoked and slow-cooked meat on offer. The Jalapeno Bacon Burger, the BBQ Beef Sloppy Joe or the Smoked BBQ Ribs are roughly two meals' worth in themselves, while the bread that surrounds the Beef Brisket sandwich, sourced specially we understand, could probably line bomb shelters.
A minor quibble would be the slight tendency to sweetness in the various barbecue sauces, which seems to be an issue across a lot of Dubai restaurants, but otherwise this is hearty, lean-back-and-exhale food that is best served as a precursor to a long nap. It might not be cheap exactly but it's always great value for money.
Three dishes to try:
Beef brisket sandwich
A beast of a sandwich that requires several extended pauses before the board is empty. The soft, slippery, slow-cooked beef in a tangy barbecue sauce is wedged between door-step slices of Texas toast and really ought to come with a doggy bag.
Shrimp, peppers, japalenos and about five different cheeses are stuffed into a soft flour tortilla and then drenched in sauce and more cheese and... well, there's a picture above. You figure it out.
Shrimp Po' Boy Sandwich
Crisp-fried shrimp and a voodoo mustard help single this out as one of the better sandwiches in Dubai. A Southern classic pulled off with aplomb.