Aidan Imanova visits fine dining concept Em Sherif launched by Lebanese entrepreneur, which takes visitors back to the glory days of Lebanon.
Nestled among Downtown Dubai’s shiny skyscrapers and shopping malls, Em Sherif is a time capsule that transports its visitors to an era of imperfect opulence and Mediterranean splendour. Launched by Lebanese entrepreneur and passionate cook, Mirelle Hayek, Em Sherif’s Dubai location is the second launch of its kind, with the restaurant being first conceived in Beirut, where Hayek is from.
A strong love for the culinary arts led Hayek to open her first restaurant in Beirut in 2006, an Argentinian steakhouse, La Parrilla, leading to a second restaurant concept called Yasmina, an Indian fusion eatery named after her daughter. Much like with Em Sherif, Hayek has been involved in both the menu as well as the design of each space. She calls Em Sherif her “dream venture”.
“My biggest inspiration was my passion for cooking and hosting people. I had a restaurant at home long before Em Sherif came to life and found the transition to be quite organic,” says Hayek. “My love for fine dining drew me to take this experience further by adding my personal twist on the recipes and the look and feel of the place.
“If anything, hospitality is an intrinsic part of Lebanese culture, it is part of our DNA. This was an inspiration for me to build a place where people can come in and have a good, homely meal.”
The restaurant itself is designed to reflect a traditional luxurious Lebanese mansion, with each artefact specifically crafted and chosen to embody the rich culture of Lebanon in the past.
“The overall experience of Em Sherif is a true and authentic depiction of how guests were hosted and served in the golden days of Lebanon, an era I am very reminiscent of,” Hayek explains.
The Dubai restaurant is the exact replica of the first concept that was launched in Beirut, with the only adjustments being space-specific due to the differences in the floor plan.
“Being the perfectionist that I am, I set out on a mission to make sure that Em Sherif Dubai was an exact replica of the one in Beirut and it was certainly not an easy task,” says Hayek. “One of my biggest challenges was to recreate each of the elements, including the hand-painted ceiling. Another challenge was finding the right ingredients which we now ship from Lebanon to ensure consistency in food, taste and quality.”
Hayek is proud to say that Em Sherif is a “perfect execution” of her vision, where with the help of an interior architect, each and every corner of the space was conceptualised by Hayek herself.
One of the many things that one notices when first entering the restaurant is the ceiling.