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12 LAVISH NEW HOTELS OPENING IN DUBAI IN 2019
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We had high expectations for Alici, the homegrown restaurant from the team behind two-time What’s On Restaurant of the Year award-winner, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro. And if first impressions count, boy, did Alici deliver the goods.
The Amalfi coast-inspired restaurant is located on the waterfront of Bluewaters island, and walking inside feels like stepping into a cosy family-run trattoria on the Italian coast. Everything inside Alici – which means anchovy in Italian – is beautiful. Contemporary cream interiors are blissfully interrupted by art and pottery, most of which has been hand painted by ‘The Anchovy Man’, famed in Italy for his fish paintings.
The two-storey restaurant is split into an intimate restaurant space with a raw bar downstairs, and a livelier upstairs where you’ll find an inviting bar, private dining area and partially open-plan kitchen, where you can just see in to watch chefs at work as you pass by. Both floors open up to terraces, with the ground floor terrace lined with flowers native to the Amalfi Coast, and the upper outdoor area offering stunning views towards the twinkling Dubai Marina skyline. It’s the only reminder you’ll get that you haven’t left Dubai for the glittering waters of the southern Italian coast.
The menu is extensive but not overbearing, and a friendly waiter guides us through it, confidently recommending his favourite dishes while ensuring we don’t over order. We opt for the ricciola (Dhs65) from the crudo bar, and watch in awe as a swift team of chefs glide delicate slices of amberjack onto a plate, dressing it with pomegranate, thin cuts of apple and drizzle it with lemon. It tastes as delicious as it looks, and the freshest of fish is complimented by the citrusy taste of the fruits. The tartare di manzo con artufo nero (Dhs145) is Alici’s take on a beef tartare. Another beautifully presented dish, once tossed together it’s a brilliant flavour combination of gamey beef tenderloin, pickles, quail egg, homemade mustard and fresh black truffle. We order the fritto misto (Dhs95) for the calamari, but enjoy the crispy slithers of fried zucchini and purple potato dunked in citrus mayo just as much as the fresh squid and prawns. Lightly battered and fried, they’re served alongside the citrus mayo and a thick, punchy chili jam.
For mains, the highlight is the capesante scottate (Dhs170). Another signature dish, hand dived scallops are lightly seared and perfectly plated with roasted cauliflowers, crispy beef bacon and wild mushrooms. The soft textures of the scallops combined with the crunch of the cauliflower and bacon make for a rich, flavourful taste explosion, and we struggle to refrain from licking the plate clean.
For dessert, the torta al formaggio (Dhs50) is the prettiest plate we see come down from the kitchen. A citrus sensation, the lemon cheesecake is shaped to look like a just-picked lemon, and plated with wild berries and almond soil. Don’t leave without trying the mandarin soufflé (Dhs55) for dessert. Cooked to perfection with that just-risen top, it’s a fruity finish to a faultless dining experience.
Alici, Bluewaters, off JBR, Dubai Marina, daily noon to 3.30pm and 7pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 2752577. alici.com
We’ve already had some huge hotel openings this year with the arrivals of brands including W and Mandarin Oriental, but the city shows no signs of slowing down.
From the Royal Atlantis opening its doors to a second serving on FIVE complete with 270 pools, here are 12 lavish hotels opening in Dubai in 2019.
Spanning the 18th to 55th floor of DIFC’s Burj Daman is a brand new Waldorf Astoria hotel, which is opening next year. The entire 18th floor is dedicated to the hotel’s outdoor pool, rooftop bar, restaurants and wellness centre, while the floors above are dedicated to the hotel guest rooms.
Waldorf Astoria, Burj Daman, Happiness Street, DIFC, Dubai, opening April 2019. waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
Dubai Studio City is set to become a dining destination in its own right, thanks to the soon-to-open Studio One Hotel. From the same people behind Media One Hotel, the mid-range, affordable city hotel will feature no less than six new dining destinations – and we reckon you’re already familiar with some of them. As well as a second serving of The Maine, L’Arte, The Irish Village and Mr Miyagi’s, there will be two new homegrown concepts, El Chapo’s Tacos and The Meating Room, which says it will offer ‘Indian suburban chic vibes’.
Studio One Hotel, Dubai Studio City, Dubai, opening April 2019.
The two-tower Address Sky View hotel and residences will begin accepting hotel reservations from August 1. The first tower will be dedicated solely to residences, and stands at 61 storeys high. It’s linked to the second tower (where you’ll find the hotel), which is slightly smaller at 56 storeys, by a stunning, three level Sky Bridge at floor 51. This epic new viewing deck will serve as the jewel in the Address Sky View crown, boasting 360 degree views of Downtown Dubai and the skyline beyond. As well as a public observation deck, Sky Bridge will be home to a huge infinity pool overlooking the city, as well as a restaurant and bar where you can dine as you watch the city go by below.
Address Sky View, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, opening August 2019. addresshotels.com
The first St Regis in the city was rebranded into Habtoor Palace last year, so we’re hoping the second serving fares better when it opens on The Palm later this year. The luxury 280-room hotel will occupy the first 18 floors of a new building by master developer Palm Tower, which will be home to an infinity pool, 52nd floor viewing deck and several restaurants. It will also sit alongside the region’s first St Regis beach club, which will open in 2019, too.
St Regis Dubai – The Palm, Palm Tower, Palm Jumeirah, opening 2019. nakheel.com
Taj hotels second Dubai property will open in The Residences in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in the second quarter of the year. The hotel will occupy the first 17 floors of the tower, and features 200 guest rooms and suites, in addition to recreational facilities and dining venues. It’s one of two new Taj hotels opening in Dubai this year, with a Taj on The Palm set to open at the end of 2019.
Taj Hotel, The Residences, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai, opening second quarter of 2019. theresidencesjlt.com/taj
JA resorts, the legacy UAE brand is gearing up to open a third hotel, The JA Lake View Hotel this September. The 5-star hotel will join JA Beach Hotel and the all-suite JA Palm Tree Court on the 128-acre estate – making it Dubai’s Largest Experience Resort. It will bring an additional 348 luxurious rooms and suites to the area, and will include three outdoor swimming pools and five meeting rooms.
JA Lake View Hotel, Jebel Ali, Dubai, opening September 2019. jaresortshotels.com
The Royal Atlantis Resort is set to open towards the end of the year next to Atlantis, The Palm. Atlantis’ second Dubai property will offer 231 residences and 795 new guest rooms and suites. Among the host of planned amenities is an infinity pool situated 90m above the ground, as well as a legion of celebrity chef-led restaurants which include Dinner by Heston from Heston Blumenthal, Ariana’s Persian Kitchen by Iranian-Persian chef Ariana Bundy and Jaleo, the acclaimed restaurant by Jose Andres.
The Royal Atlantis Resort, Palm Jumeirah, opening late 2019. theroyalatlantisresidences.com
Known as The Palm’s popular party spot, FIVE will open in JVC in 2019. Inside, you’ll find 247 hotel rooms and suites, 221 one and two-bedroom hotel apartments and 33 four-bedroom hotel apartments, with all the apartments set to come complete with private pools and lush, landscaped gardens. In total, the website advertises that there will be 271 pools inside the 800 foot skyscraper – that’s a whole lot of pools.
FIVE Jumierah Village, JVC, Dubai, opening 2019. fiveglobalholdings.com
Millennium Place is slated to open in the first half of 2019, and is a new offering in Dubai from the Millennium hotels group. The hotel features 453-rooms and suites, and will also be home to the world’s first Masterchef TV restaurant, which you can read all about here.
Millennium Place, Dubai Marina, opening 2019. thefirstgroup.com
The Middle East’s first Radisson hotel will open in Damac Hills at the end of the year. Currently under construction, it will be situated amongst the new 3.9 million sqm residential community surrounded by parkland and an 18-hole championship golf course. It will feature 481 rooms, including one and two-bedroom suites, as well as two restaurants to cater to guests’ dining needs. Leisure facilities including a gym, spa, kids club and an outdoor swimming pool will also be available, as will an extensive hotel meeting space built out over 600sqm.
Radisson, Damac Hills, Dubai, opening Q4 2019. damacproperties.com
One of 14 hotels opening within the six-island, The Heart of Europe complex is Côte d’Azur, a luxury beachfront hotel with 839 keys. The contemporary Mediterranean-style hotel will be home to premium quality rooms, suites and deluxe apartments with balconies. Special features at the hotel will include picturesque courtyards, various swimming pools, landscaped gardens, a beautiful white sandy beach, kids clubs, watersports, diving and snorkeling facilities, beach cafes and speciality restaurants. It will also be linked to the rest of the mainland Europe island, with a heap of shopping options.
Cote D’Azur Hotel, The Heart of Europe, World Islands, opening 2019, thoe.com
Opening in The Opus, which was designed by the late legendary architect Dame Zaha Hadid, is contemporary Spanish hotel brand ME by Meliá. Projected to open in the final quarter of 2019, it’s set to bring no less than 15 restaurants, bars and nightlife concepts to Downtown Dubai. Included in those is contemporary Japanese robatayaki restaurant, Roka. Founded in London in 2004 by Zuma’s founder Rainer Beck, the award-winning restaurant will make its Dubai debut in the hotel, and will feature a central robata grill as well as signature dishes from Roka’s famed London menu. ME Dubai will occupy 19 floors in the lower half of the building and consist of 93 rooms and suites as well as 98 serviced apartments. The jewel in the crown is set to be the ultra-luxurious ‘Suite ME’, which will occupy 200 square metres.
ME by Melia, The Opus, Business Bay, opening Q4 2019. mebymelia.com
Looking to mix up your usual ladies’ night circuit without having to fork out for a cab to take you half way across the city between bars? Then let us introduce you to a new dine-around ladies’ night at The Pointe.
Six of the restaurants at the new Palm Jumeirah destination have teamed up for a fun new ladies’ night that best of all, takes place every Thursday.
From 7pm to 11pm, ladies can enjoy four complimentary drinks at street food hall Asian District, seafood restaurant Seafood Kitchen, European bistro Fitzroy, funky Mexican joint La Palapa and Asian restaurants Mama Pho and Fat Chow.
But it’s not just about drinks. Ladies can also avail a 25 per cent discount at any of the participating restaurants too. So whether you’re fancying Asian sharing plates, freshly caught seafood or some traditional European dishes, you and your squad will be covered.
It’s a limited-time ladies’ night, so you’ll need to book in a girls night before April 30 to avail the deal.
Elsewhere at The Pointe, there are plenty of other ladies’ night deals to be had if you head down on a Wednesday.
At Palmetto restaurant and cafe, ladies can enjoy free drinks from 8pm to 11pm and 30 per cent off the food bill, while per Te, the Italian-inspired spot offers ladies 5 complimentary house beverages from 9pm to midnight on Wednesday too.
6 in 1 Ladies’ Night, The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah, 7pm to 11pm, Thursdays, until April 30. thepointe.ae
The post Get 4 free drinks at 6 restaurants with this Thursday ladies’ night appeared first on What’s On Dubai.
There’s putting fashion before comfort, and then there’s choosing freebies over fashion. In aid of Wear Your Pyjamas To Work Day (where do we sign up?), Barasti is offering a complimentary beverage to anyone dressed in their sleepwear on Tuesday April 16.
Forget everything you know about getting ready for a day (or night) at the famous Dubai beach bar, now you can simply roll out of bed and be rewarded for it. Whether its a fluffy onesie, matching patterned set or your unicorn slippers, there’s no judgement held on this occasion.
Wear Your Pyjamas To Work Day began in the US and is held annually the day after their taxes are due. It’s a time when you can kick back and relax knowing the worst is behind you.
It’s not an occasion widely-celebrated in the UAE, but Barasti Beach is hoping to change that. By offering all cosy-clad customers a complimentary beverage, they’re bringing the peculiar celebration to Dubai.
Barasti recently renovated its beach bar and now serves up breakfast from 10am, so if you feel like tucking into French toast in the comfort of your pyjamas then this sounds like the event for you.
Dare to rock the I really did wake up like this look in public, and you’ll soon be sipping on a refreshing beverage on the shores of Dubai.
Barasti Beach, Dubai Marina, 10am onwards, Tuesday April 16, free drink for anyone wearing pyjamas. Tel: (04) 399 3333. barastibeach.com
Images: Supplied and Getty
The post Enjoy a free drink if you wear your pyjamas to this beach bar appeared first on What’s On Dubai.
“Cold sea. Cold earth winds. Fire sea. Fire earth. Hot bowl earthenware pots. Master meat cuts. Sprouts greens. Happy happy joy joy.” All these terms are bizarre menu headers. Going by the selection of dishes, cold and fire do not always signify cold and hot dishes respectively – and sea and earth don’t translate to seafood and veggies. Why can’t restaurants simply stick to starters, main courses and desserts? Why over-complicate the dining out experience? When I ask our (rather efficient) waitress to explain these descriptors, she confuses me even more. The answer to these questions: a sales technique to trick us into ordering more dishes. Doesn’t work on me though. In fact, reverse psychology kicks in and I limit my order.
We’re having dinner on a Friday evening in a highly subdued Pan-Asian steakhouse, Matagi, in the not-so-very-subdued (read kitsch) Emerald Palace Kempinski on Palm Jumeirah’s west crescent. Matagi translates to a Japanese winter hunter, reflected in the meat-heavy menu, but don’t expect to tuck into deer or bear. By the time we leave around 9.30pm, we count 15 diners in a 110-cover restaurant. On a weekend.
Matagi is three months into opening at the time of dining, and still has no wine list. Mr S is forced to drink a disappointing Malbec by the glass that our waitress suggests. It’s either that or cocktails. I stick to a white tea.
The dishes under ‘master meat cuts’ are prohibitively expensive STARTING at AED240 for braised Black Onyx short ribs and rising to AED890 for a 1.5kg Black Onyx tomahawk, so I decide to order a selection of plates from the other menu sections, of which the choice is mammoth.
First up is fried tuna sushi – essentially deep-fried rice, which is not as crisp as it should be – topped with spicy tuna tartare and tobiko roe. Other Pan-Asian restaurants in Dubai execute this dish much more proficiently. With just three sushi rolls though (instead of four), sharing between two is difficult. That’s another Dubai pet peeve of mine. A disappointing start, but the dishes that follow are excellent. Gyozas (hurrah to four dumplings) with a delicate translucent silky ‘skin’ are stuffed with a decadent mix of caramelised foie gras and Wagyu beef. A ‘kabayaki’ soy glaze adds some sweetness, however, the chilli oil is a little over-generous.
Give me a decent serving of Korean fried chicken any day and Matagi’s does not disappoint with its large portion size and tenderness. The ‘gochuchang’ red chilli fermented paste makes for sweet, spicy and tangy notes, whilst pickled cucumbers and shallots add tartness. Barbequed lamb spare ribs glazed with a sticky Cantonese hoisin sauce are finger lickin’ delicious and laden with umami flavour. A side of what could be boring fine green beans is elevated with a rich shiro miso sauce spiked with some tart yuzu and a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds.
In contrast to the 39 savoury dishes, three sole desserts grace the menu. The most appealing is something called a mikan (aka mandarin) cheesecake. I have visions of gorgeous fluffy feather light Japanese cheesecake that was once hard to find in Dubai, but is now more readily available. Instead, we are served a deconstructed cheesecake of mandarin mousse and mascarpone cream on a bed of lime crumble topped with caramelised peanuts and peanut brittle. Flavours are bold and balanced, but the presentation is messy, with no evidence of pastry technique. And I just crave a traditional Japanese cheesecake even more.
Our waitress is well versed on every dish I question her on, as well as the concept and ownership (the same team is behind Hotel Cartagena and Weslodge). Service is almost a little too swift for a relaxed Friday dinner given we’re in and out in less than 90 minutes.
The sultry oriental Balinese-style décor with pops of bright orange and the wallpapering of the number ‘88’ signifying good fortune in Chinese culture, is warm and inviting – but given we’re the only guests in our section of the dining room, atmosphere is lacking.
If you are to order from the master meat cuts section, expect a bill of easily AED400 per person (without booze) and upwards. Ours is much more reasonable at AED250 per person because we stick to plates from the more affordable sections of the menu. Matagi would do well to revisit its pricing and menu engineering with a more compact selection; otherwise those dishes send the wrong message and simply won’t sell.
The quality of food overall is decent, as is the service, but when combined with a kitsch hotel location, lacklustre ambiance and a high price point, I am not encouraged to return. Therefore, the only fair FooDiva knife rating for Matagi is an average 3 out of 5.
Where’s your favourite easy-to-order menu?
Avli by Tashas in DIFC has replaced Laluz as the tenth licensed Greek restaurant addition to a saturated Dubai dining scene and one that I am keen to try after my disappointing experience at neighbour GAIA. Avli is the third Dubai-based concept by Greek-South African restaurateur Natasha Sideris (after Tashas and Flamingo Room), promising impressions of modern Athenian culture and rustic, open-air Mediterranean courtyards, known as avli in Greek.
It takes a staggering 12 phone calls to get through to reservations and make a booking. Luckily for Avli, I need to review and don’t give up – but others may not be as patient. This leaves me with the impression that the restaurant must be busy – and it is – reflected in the buzz on a Saturday night as we approach the dramatic entrance. Once inside, we are welcomed by a relaxed, friendly front-of-house team, with genuine smiles from each staff member. The busy restaurant pass is already in full flow and the senses are immediately scintillated by a gleaming bar. The interior is space-chic meets Greek cavern, which matches the range of staff outfits; from Greek goddess to smart business to a uniform that is a modern take of the classic toga. Even the music is modern Greek and pulls off the rare feat of livening the atmosphere without dulling our conversation. The tables are on the small side when dining for two, especially given the mezedes and sharing style of food that lies ahead.
The wine list is extensive and includes an opportunity to try some Greek wines. Avli has invested in the Coravin wine system, however only on one red and a Greek Viognier, which is impressively soft on the palate. I would like to see more Coravin wines available by the glass. The cocktail list looks fun, as do the mocktails which are very popular with the many locals dining. As ever with Dubai mocktails, they are, sadly, priced on a par with alcoholic drinks.
The mezedes promise to be small and not too filling, however are definitely on the generous side. The beetroot salad is colourful and fresh but could do with more of the goat’s cheese crème to make it even better. My scallops are every bit the dream I imagine them to be, having spotted these on Instagram – covered in a delightful panko and lemon crumb and cooked to warm perfection. The fennel salad is the ideal accompaniment, and despite the price of the scallops (AED130), this dish is a must-order.
Main courses of tiger prawns and lamb chops are not available, so we settle for lamb youvetsi; a cut-with-a-spoon soft lamb shank on a base of orzo-tomato sauce. This comforting dish is delayed as Natasha is not happy with the execution. However, this issue is handled with the minimum of fuss and we would not have noticed a delay had they not told us. While waiting, we share an impeccably cooked grilled octopus tentacle that could not have been more Mediterranean. I love the confidence of Natasha and the kitchen to only send dishes that meet the standards expected. A side of Greek fries is resplendent with oregano and seasoning; so much so that I try to make my own the next day.
The star of the show is Natasha herself; a whirlwind of energy and high expectations. I see her checking almost every plate that leaves the pass, communicating with her team, and charming almost every table. I feel as if I am in her house and she is somehow feeding 80+ diners single-handedly. That is the key difference between Avli and GAIA, along with the personable ease at which errors are dealt with – and still being allowed to select my own dessert. The lemon semifreddo is a smooth, silky dream that uses a warm lemon cream to soothe and excite at the same time. Natasha insists that we try her baklava sundae on the house and she even serves it herself. We could not feel more special, but note that she is giving similar love to other tables, too. This pistachio baklava incorporates a tower of brandy snap-like structures, mixed with plenty of mahalepi (rose water milk pudding) ice cream and vissino (Greek sour cherries). It is big enough for four people. We just keep digging our spoons back in, and I am both proud and disappointed to say that the two of us almost finish it!
An authentic Greek coffee rounds off the meal and we notice how busy Avli is; a wonderful mix of Greek and Mediterranean families; Emirati couples and friends; Europeans and Asians. Everyone seems to be having fun, us included – in line with Avli’s press release that the meal should be a celebration of family and friends. Some of the sharing platters we observe draw envious looks as they pass from kitchen to table.
The only downside for me is the price. Obviously, we are compensated for the desserts because of the ‘wait’ for the main course but otherwise the bill would be AED410 per person, without alcohol. This may work out cheaper with the sharing plates or splitting the mezedes between larger groups, but even by Dubai standards, this is expensive. For me, Avli is worth visiting as a special occasion treat, and I cannot wait to return with a big group to try more dishes. Given the excellent experience all round and the outstanding customer service recovery from a minor delay, Avli by Tashas is truly a ‘Parthenon’ temple to modern Greek dining in Dubai and therefore scores a high 4 FooDiva knives out of 5.
Have you tried any of Dubai’s Greek concepts? Which is your favourite?
Who is guest reviewer Matt? A married man with an obsession for French wine and food, he loves nothing more than trying new restaurants and dishes with his wife and friends. Travel plans are always made around food and he can remember what he was doing on any given day by recalling the meal that he ate. His favourite chefs are Michel Roux Jr., Michael Bremner and Tom Kitchin. You can follow him on Instagram @finediningmatt
Whose mum cooks the most delicious chicken curry? Do the golgappas, those small hollow crisp puris with a savoury filling and tangy tamarind syrup on the streets of Kolkata, taste better than those in old Delhi? Controversial questions that perpetuate discussions on Indian meals around the world. Be it home comfort food or signature street eats, opinion on what is popular and what triumphs varies dramatically across regions in India, and even amongst families in a neighbourhood.
It therefore takes a lot of courage to bring Indian soul food and street bites to the domain of a ‘casual’ yet licensed Dubai restaurant in a five-star hotel. I am curious to see if Indian super chef Vineet Bhatia’s new restaurant Indya at Le Royal Meridien Resort & Spa stands up to the challenge.
The colourful murals and paintings with concept areas like a long sharing table and a gin room welcome us. We take a table in the semi al-fresco section to make the best of a glorious Dubai winter evening. The bustling open plan kitchen adds to the ambiance.
The one-page menu is broadly divided into three sections – from the earth (finally my vegetarian wife is spoilt for choice); from the land (a fairly broad offering of poultry and meat); and from the sea (a compact selection of fish and seafood). The wine list is long with varietals from around the world, including Indian Sula – white, red and even a late harvest dessert wine. The signature cocktails boast humourous names which most Indians would relate to, but am not sure other nationalities would understand.
My wife is nursing a cold and the alert waiter offers to bring a rum-based hot toddy, which is off the menu, so, many brownie points for that suggestion. I order Indya Se Bhatia – an old fashioned with Indian Amrut whisky, angostura bitters – and for a twist, cardamom. Gods own country Kerala has gin with curry leaves and banana syrup. Our friend is looking for a white wine and I coax her into ordering the Sula Chenin Blanc.
The starters arrive in a rush, well before the drinks, which we have to chase several times. A traditional khasta kachori is an authentic savoury stuffed puri – both crisp and puffed as it should be. The paneer koliwada (cottage cheese fried in batter Mumbai-style) and the goat cheese gujiya (thick dough dumplings filled with goat cheese) are too creamy for my palate. The sabudana kebab,made using tapioca root milk globules is indeed unique and a great wholesome snack.
A classic chura paratha is crushed with a generous helping of ghee, and makes for a distinct addition to the bread basket. But, by the time we get to it, the paratha is cold and crusty. A burnt aubergine spinach, the chef’s take on the popular baingan bharta (aubergine roasted on fire) is flavoursome, but oddly, I cannot taste any spinach.
Does the ghar ki murgi stand up to ‘my mum’s chicken curry challenge?’ This simple curry, served in a steel cooking pot, stays within the rules – small odd sized pieces of chicken on the bone; not too oily; no overdose of spices; and without any colouring. Definitely no cliched chicken tikka masala here. Whilst I cannot pick a flaw in this dish, it’s not something that would entice me to a restaurant.
Banana koli fish is a steamed local fish fillet with spices popularised by the original fishermen of Mumbai – the kolis. The baked fish is immersed in a masala paste that is vibrant without overpowering the character of the light flaky fish.
I have to sample a dessert so we ask the waiter to serve his preferred choice. The phuchka bevda is an intense dessert and a digestif in one, using the traditional savoury phuchka pani-puris. The waiter uses a syringe to lace the chocolate phuchkas with rum-infused rabri (reduced sweetened milk) that I love. The masala chai ornate kettle with piping hot tea and short conical tumblers is a great way to end the meal. This offering in India which transcends barriers of wealth and culture is presented and executed well.
I am a bit surprised how we rack up a bill of AED220 per person without alcohol, given the most expensive item we order is AED85 and median prices around AED40. I am sure many of us have faced similar situations where we end up ordering a large number of moderately priced tapas-like plates and get stumped by the bill. Atmosphere is an absolute winner. Apart from the slow arrival of our drinks, service is good.
The food stands up to the challenge of bringing comfort and street fare to a restaurant setting. However, I am not convinced of Indya as a go-to destination for a specific street eats dish. Instead, chef Vineet has created an elegant showcase of something very down-to-earth, yet core to the fabric of Indian cuisine, which diners would do well to keep in mind. I would therefore give Indya 3.5 out of 5 FooDiva knives for a balanced offering and for meeting a difficult challenge.
While I applaud chef Vineet’s efforts, I leave with mixed feelings and wonder if comfort dishes are best eaten at home and street food by the road side?
Who is FooDiva’s anon guest reviewer? AK is an avid gastronaut who thinks that a day without a good meal is a day wasted. He has travelled the world exploring culinary delights, including a treasured dinner at El Bulli. He works as an investment banker in Dubai.
The latest opening at La Mer is a rather novel concept. Osh is a licensed Dubai restaurant that, according to the press release, serves modern Uyghur cuisine, a first for this emirate.
Incidentally, the restaurant’s website makes no mention at all of the Uyghurs (pronounced wee-gurs), a nomadic minority group who traversed the Silk Road and primarily live in the Xinjiang region of China. And whilst Uyghur specialties are peppered across the menu – most notably lagman and a native tomato soup – the menu covers far more from Uzbekistan and Central Asia, with, in sadly typical Dubai style, the odd stracciatella, ceviche, and tempura thrown in for good measure.
Osh’s first restaurant opened last year in London’s exclusive Knightsbridge, followed by Dubai at the end of January in one of the spacious two-storey buildings within the licensed section of La Mer North. Osh is both the name of the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan and another name for the better-known plov, Central Asia’s version of biryani – a celebrated rice dish, rich with mutton, glistening with fat, and often cooked with carrots, onions, chickpeas and raisins.
Osh is fashionable but not overly pretentious, at least not early on a quiet Saturday evening. The hostesses wear stylish shirtdresses with a bright red sash and embroidery that recalls the traditional iconic handiwork of the Central Asia region. The waiters sport a trendy uniform of a long white tee, sneakers and an olive-coloured ‘bum’ bag worn crossbody. But it’s not just about style. The runners’ shirts bear witty quotes of different dishes, like “May The Plov Be With You” – though the plov would not be with me that night.
We are ushered upstairs to a bar, a dining area and a cracking terrace with panoramic Burj Khalifa views. The interiors are modern in fuchsia, grey and cream with subtle Central Asia reminders, like turquoise tiling, embroidered cushions dotted around, and paintings by native artists.
The menu marries dishes from Central and East Asia, as well as Latin America. It’s a sharing concept, which suits me fine, however, I am disappointed to learn that the namesake traditional Uzbek Osh is highlighted on the menu as unavailable, apparently due to gas issues. Our waiter recommends some dishes, and when the starters arrive, I almost forget that I am in a Central Asian restaurant. I totally devour a crispy aubergine and goat cheese salad with umami Japanese flavours and a sweet green sauce made of coriander, garlic and rice vinegar. A salmon tartare with persimmon and black caviar is tasty with a ponzu and sesame oil sauce, though lacking in contrasting flavours or textures. A seared octopus with guacamole comes highly recommended and while it’s neither the most Central Asian, nor the most attractive with a thick truncated tentacle, it is moreishly tender and moist. Presentation and plating are kept simple, with a few sprigs of herbs and microgreens.
We go decidedly more Central Asian with our main courses. A lamb shashlik is the epitome of fusion – two deliciously tender skewers of lamb cooked precisely to medium as requested, served on top of a South Indian paratha with a side of Japanese cucumber salad (though I don’t taste the cumin or chilli powder that apparently typifies Uyghur kebabs). The golubtsi cabbage rolls with veal are a lean yet comforting dish served traditionally with a side of sour cream. The most curious dish of the evening, however, is pumpkin manti which takes twenty minutes to steam and boasts a sweet filling of brunoised pumpkin and lamb fat – the latter explaining the heavy gamey flavour which is not to my taste at all, but I appreciate others may enjoy this. My research tells me that Central Asian pumpkin manti tend to be stuffed with minced lamb as well as pumpkin, but there’s no discernible meat. To Osh’s credit, this dish does not feature a vegetarian symbol, but several salads are also not labelled as such. My biggest surprise is that the waiter is unaware of the lamb fat lurking inside, so if you’re a staunch vegetarian, be wary when selecting dishes.
While the pumpkin manti is nearly sweet enough to be a dessert, we order the Anna pavlova and a berry tart – again dishes that are not Central Asian. The waiter asks us to choose the berries so we pick strawberry, however, he returns to tell us that he mistakenly orders blueberry, but what we receive is blackberry. The team should either learn their berries, or perhaps only offer a ‘berry of the day’. I find that my meringue has an eggier odour than what I prefer; the crust of the tart is a too dense; and both are overloaded with the same whipped cream. I conclude that the universe is telling me dessert is unnecessary, so I just munch on the unwanted blackberries.
Osh would do well to focus on a dedicated Central Asian menu to differentiate from the rest of the Dubai pack. Though our waiter lacks in-depth menu knowledge, the service is still friendly, efficient and accommodating. Despite the few glitches, I fully enjoy the first two courses and find the price point fair at AED275 per person for a selection of starters, mains and desserts (including all taxes and without alcohol) that fill us up nicely. Starters are priced for as little as AED25, with mains ranging wildly from AED58 for the golubtsi to AED240 for a smoked hammour (good for two), so expect your bill to go up or down. My curiosity is sufficiently piqued and I have earmarked other Central Asian dishes that I am keen to return and try. Here’s to a 3 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.
Where’s your go-to spot for a good Central Asian meal?
Who is FooDiva’s new guest reviewer? Jen Sahi is the food blogger behind Dubai Food Diaries and Marriott’s #MoreCravingsMEA fine dining ambassador. She’s eaten her way through 70 countries and has lived in six, including the UAE, USA, UK, Japan, Australia and India. She has a thing for celebrity chefs and is always hunting for the next best dining experience. You can follow her on Instagram @dxbfooddiaries.
Avgolemono. A traditional Greek egg and lemon soup. It may not sound particularly appealing, but if cooked correctly, it is. Trust me. This chicken-infused rice broth, whisked with eggs and the juice of freshly squeezed lemons is pure soul food – so comforting and therapeutic that I guarantee you’ll be begging for seconds, just as I still do since my childhood in Cyprus.
Despite the onslaught of Greek restaurants in Dubai of late, this is the first time I spot avgolemono on a menu. I am on the terrace of Ena (which translates to the number ‘one’) on The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah with breath-taking views of Atlantis. This soup is one of my go-to Greek recipes that I often make at home. Different versions abound, with chicken (like at Ena) or even youvarlakia (meatballs). My eyes zoom in on this sole dish, oblivious to the rest of menu. We order a selection of starters, and I insist to our waitress that the soup is served first.
At Ena, where the Greek chef marries traditional Hellenic classics with a creative spin, the avgolemono arrives deconstructed, if that’s at all possible for a soup. The rice, poached chicken breast slices, diced veggies and avgolemono foam are placed in the centre of a bowl, whilst the chicken, egg and lemon broth is poured tableside. With a little seasoning to lift the flavours, one tablespoon transports me back to my childhood in Cyprus when I first recall tasting it from my mother’s fair hands as a seven year old. The mellow umami flavours are identical. I want seconds. Ena has pulled it off, albeit at an expensive AED80, with high prices reflective across the whole menu.
We are offered freshly baked ‘koulouri’ bread with a delightful tart dip of rock samphire ‘kritamo’. The tarama of cod roe is whipped with blitzed onions and arrives as feather light mousse that I can’t get enough of. Charred pitta pockets brushed with oregano and olive oil scoop it up quickly until the dip disappears.
A grilled Mediterranean octopus tentacle that is served pre-sliced, whilst still retaining its form is a little chewy. The ‘keftedakia’ meatballs are delicious bites when topped with a squeeze of lemon.
The pricing of ‘Ena’s specialties’ main courses is ridiculously high starting at AED110 for a pasta dish of makaronada, rising to a staggering AED380 for the grilled fish of the day. So just do as I do, and fill up on starters, with perhaps just one main from the Josper grill section. The veal souvlaki kebab is sensational and soft as butter. I request one of the starters as a side dish – the hand-cut fries topped with two runny fried eggs. A meal in itself. I mix it all up to let the on point fries soak up the yolk – seriously sublime cheat fare. It’s not a particularly Greek dish, even though we love olive-oil fried eggs for brekkie. The slow-cooked green beans in tomato sauce which I order as an additional accompaniment is a classic rustic and well-executed dish.
There’s ample choice for dessert with ten options, including one off the menu that we order. Portokalopita is an orange drizzle cake that at Ena is filled with plenty of orange peel for texture baked in a super moist and dense cake. If you love orange marmalade, order this as a sweet ending. A feta ice cream scoop is an acquired taste with intensely overpowering tangy flavours, in contrast to the smooth and mellow vanilla ice cream.
Given the press release boasts an extensive Greek wine list, I am disappointed to only see one sole Greek wine on the menu at a pricey AED710 per bottle, or AED150 per glass.
The décor is far removed from typical whitewashed Greek tavernas that are prevalent in Dubai now. The only nod to a Greek influence might be a striking modern painting of a donkey. The interior is minimalist with light stones, glass, wood and copper, whilst a prominent ‘tree’ chandelier hangs over the bar area.
Our waitress is chatty and knows her way round the menu. She
does however linger on the side ready to pounce a little too eagerly. Having
said that, she sees me pick up a lemon slice (for our water that I want to use
for my food), and promptly suggests bringing over some lemons for squeezing.
As our Friday evening progresses, Ena does get more custom, but with an expansive 170-cover indoor and outdoor restaurant, it’s far from busy. The Atlantis views make for an atmospheric setting, but I fear that come summer, The Pointe destination will suffer. Yet again we have another Dubai restaurant, along with its numerous neighbours that are forced to build a business plan on a seven to eight month calendar.
As much as the food impresses with flavour, technique, ingredients and presentation, the prices don’t. We are very lenient with our ordering focusing more on starters, yet the bill is still AED310 per person without alcohol. A quick calculation of the the cheapest and most expensive starter, main and dessert will give you a bill of AED535 per person which is astronomical for Dubai, let alone a relatively casual setting. Value for money Ena is NOT.
Our experience is wonderful in many ways from delightful modern Greek fare and friendly service to an al fresco location and convivial atmosphere, but at that price point, the only fair FooDiva knife rating is a 3.5 out of 5. I’d like Ena to become more than a ONE-hit wonder and a special occasion restaurant, so I hope the team will consider reducing the prices. And I might just return for more avgolemono.
Given the influx of Greek restaurants in Dubai of late,
where is your favourite?