They say patience is a virtue… it is also one that I do not have. However patience is EXACTLY what you need to find this place because believe me it is more than worth the wait. The sleek dining room with a clear view of the open kitchen is an immediate draw upon walking in. I was sat front and center with the best view so that immediately jolted me out of my sour mood of getting lost multiple times finding the restaurant.
Now service was quick and seamless once I sat down, bringing out the cocktail and wine list as well as the coconut water welcome drink. The coconut water tasted as though the coconuts had been broken at the back and poured directly from the shell. This gave me memories of my childhood in Nigeria where I did the same. I loved that the cocktail menu had quite a bit of diversity to it and the manner of description of the flavor profile of the cocktail was with different circles of varying diameters. Who would ever need a bartender to explain the flavor profile of a cocktail with this. They can spend more of their time making drinks and entertaining me. Every bar should have this format I believe.
I decided on proceeding with a wine pairing by the glass with the help of the very sweet and knowledgeable sommelier. He also explained the significance of the style of the cocktail menu layout which I appreciated.
The starters, consisting of a panipuri and a herbal crisp to start were a mind blowing start on flavor and provided a calming sensation to my very hungry belly. Clearing my palate with a sip of the ruinart after every starter as directed by the sommelier was the right choice. Next, they had a lentil donut with peanut butter which in truth scared me upon hearing the description of what I was about to eat but upon tasting it, I found it to be incredibly satisfying especially when paired with the broth that came along with it. There was a minor kick of long lingering spice which I am sure to others is nothing but I have shared more than enough times how sensitive I am to spice.
Next I was given a potato tart with ten second cooked scallop and balsamic vinegar. There were a lot more elements to this dish of course. I found that so far I enjoyed the complexity of ingredients that they have in their dishes that yet still leads to a cohesive flavor profile. I would normally shy away from too many ingredients and strive for simplicity and a minimalist approach. I found this particular dish to be very interesting though. The rice vinegar is the dominant flavor here and the scallops that were ever so lightly cooked is enveloped by all the other components. I found it interesting that here, once again, what sounded complex had achieved balance.
The menu is set out as a discovery of different regions of India. At the start of every region of dishes to be served, the topography and cooking styles and techniques were explained. This region was described using words referencing scarcity and dryness which thereby led to the approach of the cooking style to maintain moisture. The first dish of this region was a chickpea flour puff filled with curry and layered atop with cactus. There was a pickled flavor on the palate which I believe may have come from the cactus and of course a minor lingering spice. The next dish was inspired by the slow cooking approach that was the norm for the region. The dish was normally made with chicken but they had switched to duck. What I had was a duck sitting in an artichoke shell topped with garlic aioli. I very much appreciated the presentation first before I started eating as it was such a sight to see. Normally, I hate artichokes with a passion but what chef has created here with the crispy shell is magical. The duck had a sweetness level reminiscent of a Peking duck but with a creamy and smoky aspect to it. This was undoubtedly my favorite dish of the night so far.
Now the next dish they gave me made me pause for a second. First it had an absolutely beautiful presentation BUT then they told me that it was a filled pepper that I was to have with the curry ice cream. I asked very clearly if it was spicy and was told it was not. “Diving in then”, I thought to myself and… thankfully it was not spicy! I do infact believe I said a silent prayer of thanks on that one. For me, it was the bold flavor of chutney that stuck out most along with the perfectly crisp texture of the pepper. This play made eating the dish even more delightful. Pairing the crispy pepper with the curry ice cream made for an even more fantastical dance on my palate. This was a magical dish.
We moved to Southern India for the next set of dishes and I found that I truly appreciated the educational aspect that they embedded throughout the meal. This part of India is where most of the spices are made. This next dish had tortellini, gorgonzola and coconut and what a magical odyssey they made on the palate. I had to take a pause at this point as I was eating too fast but I did in all my bloated fullness finish every last one of those bubble pastas. I think it was magical how chef had taken a powerfully flavored cheese like Gorgonzola and tamed it into being a simplistic and yet still lively addition to a pasta. This is just absolutely stunning magic. The next dish I was given was a play on traditional manner of serving food in the region. In that tradition, a large leaf was placed in front of you and all the dishes that you would eat would be placed on that one leaf for you to enjoy. How they recreated this was to construct a dish of marinated pineapple, pressed coconut and a crisp with a tomato broth in front of you. I am making this far more simplistic than the actual experience was. This is one of those things that you just have to visit and experience for yourself. The best part for me on this dish was that the pineapple as though ripe, it was not overly sweet which I believe was due to what it was marinated in. And we must not forget the tomato broth which enlivened my palate while cleansing it at the same time of the sweetness of the other components of the dish. A rare victory indeed.
Next we moved on to a different part of India that is dominated by seafood which speaks to why the first dish from this region was crab. It was mixed with spices and baked right before service in a cinnamon shell. Instructions to eat were to hold the shell in one hand and use provided tweezers to eat what was within. This is my first experience of experiential dining in Dubai in particular and in a very long time overall. Generally, I have to go to Europe for experiential dining so this is quite a feat accomplished. On flavor, there was a kick of spice to the crab as well as a delicate crunch which was a great additional textural element. The (intentionally) oxidized Chardonnay that I had to pair did not clear the spice from my palate but instead transformed it into more of a savory flavor versus a burn which was unexpected to me. This is wine 101 where if you pair alcohol with spice you get intensified alcohol burning and flaming in your mouth. This experience is obviously quite unappealing! As I continued to enjoy the crab, I noted that the cinnamon shell that it was baked in gave but the briefest aftertaste which gave the dish a fun and delicious finish.
The next dish from the same region was the roasted lobster tail with corn curry, tamarind curry and a green chili emulsion. The first component I went to taste was the green chili to make sure I was not going to ruin my night and I found the spice to be tolerable. By now, I believe you all are getting the point on my sensitivity to spice and probably also questioning why I went for Indian food knowing that I have this conniption. The reason is simple which is, I love to eat amazing food. It is nothing more complicated than that. The lobster was delicately cooked and every flavor of each of the different curries enveloped it and brought dimension in the different way. The corn curry enhanced the sweetness, the tamarind its juiciness and the green chili was the, “wake up! You are not done eating yet” flavor on the plate. I did not at all mind the spice here.
There were many more dishes that came out, like the mushroom “pasta”, but I knew I would not do them justice in description as I was far too full. So it is here that I bid you adieu. If you want more of the full experience then you can very simply visit the restaurant to get the rest of the experience on your own.
Best and love always