Orfali Bros Bistronomy, which made its debut in Dubai in 2021 after offering culinary classes since 2015, has achieved significant awards and recognitions since then.
This year, they have been crowned as No.1 in the MENA’s (Middle East and North Africa) 50 Best Restaurants list. Additionally, it earned a spot on the 2023 Michelin Bib Gourmand List and, for the first time, secured a place on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, ranking No. 46.
The culinary journey of three Syrian brothers, Mohamad, Omar, and Wassim Ørfali, united by their deep passion for food, has transformed Orfali Bros Bistronomy into the remarkable culinary haven it is today.
Following a delightful dinner at Orfali Bros Bistro, we had the privilege of chatting with Chef Mohamad Ørfali about his early beginnings, his journey as a celebrity chef, the inception of the Bistro, and his unique philosophy regarding food and family as a source of identity.
CHEF Mohamad Ørfali was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, where his profound love and curiosity for food took root and flourished. He eventually left Syria to learn English in Dubai, where he received instruction from, among others, Filipinos. Subsequently, he embarked on a culinary journey that led him to France, where he further honed his skills at Le Nôtre Culinary School in Paris and gained experience working at restaurants owned by Michelin-starred chefs.
Prior to establishing Orfali Bros, Chef Mohamad had been captivating Middle Eastern audiences with his cooking shows on TV since 2011.
Chef Mohamad emphasizes that at Orfali Bros, they believe that “rules are meant to be bent and broken.” He elaborates by saying, “While respecting tradition, we continually push the boundaries of culinary art to discover new flavors and sensations in our food and pastries.”
“Here in Dubai, where everything is the biggest, the tallest, we are probably the smallest, and we are okay with that. For us, authenticity and the celebration of diverse cultures are paramount, mirroring the essence of Dubai itself,” explains Chef Mohamad.
Food as a Melting Pot of Cultures
“Our food at Orfali Bros Bistro has a lot of stories behind it, and we bring these to our guests,” says Chef Mohamad. “Our menu reflects our roots and our essence. We don’t simply serve Syrian cuisine; while inspired by Aleppo, our offerings are a reflection of what tastes exceptional to us. We are modern chefs with contemporary perspectives,” he adds.
The 25 items on their menu reflect the multicultural diversity of Dubai. “We don’t serve Syrian food — although we are Syrian boys and proud about that,” says Ørfali. “We’re a family of 18 nationalities in the restaurant, and we speak food. That is our language.”
During our visit, our server, who was also from Aleppo, recommended some of their best dishes, which were presented in a sharing-style experience, allowing everyone to sample and savor each delightful creation.
For starters we got the OB croquettes (AED21) – celeriac, 18 months comté cheese and truffle mayo; and the Umami éclair (AED34) – porcini emulsion and marmite, fermented quince glaze, cacao nibs and beef prosciutto.
This was followed by Patatas Bravas (AED39) – Triple-cooked chips, bravas sauce and aioli; Shish Barak A La Gyoza (AED75) – Wagyu beef dumplings, garlic yogurt, sujuk oil, pine nuts and mint; Come With Me To Aleppo (AED95) – Wagyu beef kebab, sour cherry, parsley, pine nuts and cinnamon; OB Cheese Burger (AED89) – Wagyu beef, Hokkaido bun, OB sauce, cheddar cheese and caramelized onion; Halloub (AED135) – Braised short ribs, tomato & vinegar glaze, morel mushroom, onion confit and rice; Burnt Leeks & Truffle Pide (AED95) – sourdough, brown butter miso, hazelnuts, stracciatella burrata, truffle and chives
Leave Room For Desert
Displayed beautifully by the open kitchen and bar are Orfali Bros’ visually stunning desserts, masterfully crafted by Omar and Wassim Ørfali. These desserts are not only visually appealing but also bursting with flavor. When asked about their bestseller, the unanimous response was that all nine varieties of cakes on display are all bestsellers.
We finally decided to go with the Ferrero (AED55), Mandarina (AED45), and The Japanese Square (AED55). The Ferrero is made from hazelnuts of Alba, Hazelnut cake, crispy hazelnut praline and milk chocolate ganache , reminiscent of a Ferrero Rocher confection shaped like a cane or log. The Mandarina, on the other hand, showcases rice pudding with mandarin baloza, while The Japanese Square stands out with its unique blend of flavors featuring black sesame and yuzu.
Building A Culinary Community
“Orfali Bros represents something entirely new for Dubai; it is an establishment that didn’t exist before. That’s why we refer to it as community cuisine,” Chef Ørfali explains. “We serve food that is genuinely representative of our community, reflecting the diversity of Dubai as a melting pot of cultures. The way we bring these diverse influences together is through my cuisine.”
Chef Mohamad also emphasizes that Orfali Bros sources only the freshest and finest local ingredients. “Here are Orfali Bros, we are also sustainable. We get our ingredients from local farms. It’s fascinating to discover that Dubai also has numerous hydroponic and aquaponic farms,” he adds.
“You’re now part of the Orfali Bros community,” says Chef Mohamad cheerfully after our memorable meal. Everything we ate was really that good. It had influences from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, but ultimately, as Chef Ørfali would put it, “good food gets put on the plate,” and it was certainly good food we had that night.
What’s next for you chef, I asked. “Still Orfali Bros Bistro. We’re focused on making sure that everything runs smoothly and that we continue to put out good food,” he said.
FILIPINOS stand out prominently in Dubai’s vibrant culinary scene, and Orfali Bros Bistro is no exception. During our visit, we had the pleasure of meeting Marco, Lau, and JR, who were part of the dining experience. Marco oversees the beverage offerings at Orfali Bros Bistro, while JR, who started as a dishwasher, has risen through the ranks and is now one of the chefs.
One dish on Orfali Bros’ menu that particularly stands out is the “Adobo Chicken Wings – Rice, Sesame, Black Pepper, and Chives.” Chef Ørfali reveals that this recipe originated from his Filipino dishwasher, who has since become a valued member of the culinary team.
“It was his recipe, I tasted it, and it was exceptional, so it found its place on our menu,” he shares. We learned that JR, the Filipino chef, was the creative force behind this delectable dish, and he takes pride in sharing Filipino cuisine with Orfali Bros.
“I have never had the opportunity to visit the Philippines, but I definitely want to go,” Chef Mohamad Ørfali expresses. “I adore Kare-Kare, although you won’t catch me eating a Balut,” he jests while expressing his fondness for Filipino cuisine. “You know, probably Filipino cuisine is one of the most underrated cuisines out there,” he ends.