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Monocle: Passion project

“Fusion is confusion,” says chef Mohammad Orfali with a grin from behind his thick, round spectacles before serving a pistachio éclair from a glass vitrine. Along with his siblings Wassim and Omar, Orfali (pictured) co-founded Syrian restaurant Orfali Bros in Dubai in spring 2021 after more than a decade as a TV chef (he says that “chef” will do). He sees the food that the trio concoct as a link to their homeland but at the same time it’s a resolutely refined take – just don’t call it fusion.

The dishes are delicious, from the umami-rich wagyu-beef shish with sour cherry ketchup, pine nuts and cinnamon, to the stracciatella pide (flatbread) with heirloom tomato and Aleppo pepper. Yum. Despite the flair and invention on show, Orfali is humble about his work. “This food thing was a mistake,” he says with a giggle. “I’m just a man who wasn’t so good in school and who likes to eat.” Thankfully for us, he likes to cook too.

Monocle’s December/January issue, which is on newsstands now, features a dedicated 48-page guide to the UAE.