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Armani’s Amal

4 Nov

Dubai; Now you know FooDiva loves any excuse to take in Dubai’s magical fountains, so given I was heading to an event at Armani Prive (the hotel’s nightclub) last night, my guest and I thought we’d first try out their tapas and bubbles at the champagne bar. Well sadly not, the bar was closed for a private event…for Tom Cruise and crew perhaps? Having scaled Burj Khalifa yesterday am sure he deserved a bottle or two.

Now the hotel’s Indian restaurant, Amal, has been on FooDiva’s wish list for a little while, so we bagged ourselves a table on the third floor terrace overlooking the fountains. With less than an hour to spare, we went straight to mains and ordered prawns in a coconut curry sauce and dhal makhani, accompanied by steamed basmati rice and plain naan (and a couple of bellini proseccos). An amuse bouche of potato cake topped with minted yoghurt, together with mini rolled poppadoms dipped in mango chutney and mint sauce arrived almost immediately. You certainly can’t fault their service – prompt and exemplary. The two dishes were delicious…succulent prawns…we asked for mild and they certainly delivered. And the dhal was as buttery as it should be. We refused dessert and were presented with a teeny package of Indian sweets, truly lovely touch even though I really don’t have much of a sweet tooth for all things Indian. With the fountains dancing away to Bocelli, I would certainly return to eat my way further through their menu.

A bientôt. FooDiva. x

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FooDiva tidbits

27 Oct

Dubai; There’s one restaurant in Dubai that consistently delivers; 1. quality food at a reasonable price with a menu that continually evolves, 2. excellent service and no upselling thank goodness! and 3. breathtaking location overlooking the world’s highest fountains. It’s none other than Rivington Grill, my all-time Dubai favourite. It’s been operating for a little while, but I wanted to let FooDiva fans know they have recently added a ‘pie of the day’ dish, and when I dined there it was cottage pie. That’s a first for Dubai I believe, so other than my kitchen you need to head there for your British classic fix. I’ve also been known to pop into Rivington just for dessert and tea, so make sure you leave enough room for scrumptious puddings.

A venue that’s not widely publicised, but deserves a FooDiva mention is The Observatory at the Marriott Harbour Hotel. With a stunning location on the 52nd floor, the restaurant and bar offer panoramic 360 degree views of Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah and Sheikh Zayed. It has one of Dubai’s most inventive bar menus; try the baked camembert with thyme, butter chicken with paratha and trio of mini burgers.

I realise FooDiva only recently e-introduced you to Chef Maurizio, but I just had to share an impromptu Sunday supper in his very own kitchen. Starter was crab on a bed of endive (chicory) accompanied by very finely chopped celery and fennel, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Not only was there plenty of crab meat, but it was ever so juicy.

Maurizio's crab

Maurizio's crab

And the piece de resistance, was no, not French, or Italian, but Spanish…red snapper on a bed of SO thinly sliced potatoes they were almost crisp-like, sun dried tomatoes, capers and black olives all baked in the oven, and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper. DIVINE! So much so I just had to have three servings of potatoes – no portion control diet for me that night.

Maurizio's red snapper with magical potatoes

Maurizio's red snapper with magical potatoes

Maurizio weaves similar magic in his kitchen practically every evening – try and blag yourselves an invite, or else am sure he wouldn’t mind sharing his recipes. (E: mauriziodubai@gmail.com M: +971 50 4282 289)

A bientot.

FooDiva. x

Chef Maurizio’s ‘Cena di pesce’…

19 Oct

Dubai, October 19th, 2010: I am still reeling from Thursday’s ten-course dinner at Chefaholic Maurizio’s villa, so whilst each course still remains ingrained in my memory, I’d like to share the sumptious Italian fish menu. And yes Maurizio is Italian, and incredibly foodie patriotic – he will defend his country’s traditional dishes right down to the last drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. So here is the ‘cena di pesce’ menu (in Italiano of course, with FooDiva’s best English translation):

 Antipasti freddi

1. Carpaccio di salmone fresco, di gamberoni selvaggi tigre con rucola e pepe rosa – fresh salmon and tiger prawn carpaccio with wild rocket and red pepper

2. Tartare di salmone con finocchio, sedano e melograno – salmon tartar with fennel, celery and pomegranate

Antipasti caldi

3. Gratin di ostriche, cozze, gamberi e sardine – gratin of oysters, mussels, shrimps and sardines

4. Zuppetta di cozze con crostone di pane all’olio extravergine di oliva taggiasca – mussel soup with toasted bread and extra virgin olive Taggiasca

Primi piatti

5. Spaghetti alle vongole veraci spolvetari con bottarga di muggine – spaghetti with clams and sprinkled with mullet roe

6. Tagliolini al nero di seppia con zucchine e scampi – black squid ink tagliolini pasta with zucchini and shrimp

Intermezzo

7. Sorbetto al limone con vodka – lemon and vodka sorbet

Secondi piatti

8. Branzino in crosta di sale con finocchi e fagiolini al vapore  – sea bass in salt crust with steamed fennel green beans

9. Orata all’acqua pazza con insalata di rucola e pomodorini  – sea bream in white wine with arugula salad and cherry tomatoes

Frutta

10. Fragole al porto con foglioline di menta piperita – fresh strawberries marinated in port and infused with mint leaves

Now you’re probably wondering how on earth we managed to digest all this food, well it’s called ‘portion control’. Whilst we did indeed feast on ten courses, the portions were reasonable and well spaced out. I’ll certainly be back, that’s if I get another invite.

By the way, Chef Maurizio is available to cook for private functions – book him and you will certainly impress!

A bientot. FooDiva. x

U.A.E’s first food hall now open!

17 Oct

Dubai, October 17th, 2010: I mentioned a few weeks ago it was coming…well the UAE has finally welcomed its first food hall! FooDiva can’t quite believe it…Galleries Lafayette has opened its Parisian food hall concept Lafayette Gourmet on the top level of the Dubai Mall store. It’s definitely of the same calibre as its original French counterpart…and even Selfridges’ food hall. And just to allay any concerns, this is a food HALL, not food COURT – ok!

Covering 370sq.m or so, the area is divided into a number of food islands – each serving a different speciality either to eat in or take away – seafood, sushi, fois gras, cheese, salads, juices, desserts, chocolates, plus gastronomic delights from Italy, India, Asia and the Middle East of course…you name it they’ve got it. And if the deli style displays don’ t appeal, there’s always the grocery store.

Walking round, foodie or no-foodie you’d be squealing with delight – so take a seat in one of a number of areas (my favourite is the trestle table seating in front of the Indian and Asian sections) and choose from the menu. Now that’s not one menu, but eight, yes you read right, 8 – Mediterranean, Italian, Japanese, Asian, Indian, Grills, Luxury and Beverages. The Nicoise salad from the Mediterranean menu is divine  – aside from the usual ingredients, the team have used watercress instead of lettuce, lightly seared the tuna and popped in a handful of melt-in-your-mouth quails eggs. My friend lunched from the Asian menu – chicken in Thai red curry with kafir leaves (not as spicy as she would have liked), plus side dishes of chilli fried green beans (the highlight) and steamed rice. My berry berry juice concoction was freshly squeezed, as was the lemon and mint juice. Lafayette Gourmet, FooDiva says well done!

Looks like Dubai Mall’s on an F&B roll, Kino’s Cafe has opened its doors in Kinokuniya book store. With a magnificent setting overlooking the fountains and Burj Khalifa, you can’t help but take a seat by the French windows with your favourite book. Given the store’s Japanese theme, it’s no surprise the specialities are green tea inspired. I only had time for a quick cup of sencha, but I’ll be back to try out their food.

A bientot,

FooDiva

x

FooDiva Rates Red Door

3 Oct

Dubai, October 3rd, 2010; Well you certainly can’t miss it…Red Door is Galeries Lafayette’s first eaterie (located on the first floor by the escalators) and operated by Fauchard. Needless to say, red abounds and given it’s my favourite colour, I was keen to try out the new venue. Amongst all the red columns, the floor to ceiling windows stare out to the Sheikh Zayed skyscraper landscape. Settle into a banquette table if you can, and digest the extensive menu….salads, pastas, risottos, grills…more dinner than cafe lunch (without the alcohol). We tried the bresaola and avocado salad (plus some naughty hand cut french fries on the side) as well as the vegetable risotto. All passed the FooDiva test. Service was prompt and efficient, admittedly aside from our trio there was only one other table, OK it was Sunday lunch. Clearly Red Door needs to up the PR ante, but with word of mouth it will soon be busy.

Just above is Galeries Lafayette’s new delicatessen that officially opens its doors later this week. I took a sneak peak and wow it certainly does impress – on a par with its Parisian counterpart and Selfridges food hall. Yes Dubai will finally have its own food hall – FooDiva can’t wait!

I’ll be back later this week reporting from Egypt…Cairo, El Gouna and last but not least retracing by Greek roots in Alexandria. A bientot.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva goes tribal…

19 Sep

Dubai, September 19th, 2010: Whilst you eagerly await my surprise (yes it is coming), my plan is to share the odd Dubai foodie experience with you…starting with Tribes, a new African grill steakhouse that opened earlier this month in Mall of the Emirates’ glam new fashion and foodie arena.

Brought to you by the creators of South Africa’s famed Meat Company, Tribes promises an all-out-meat experience. When we rocked up, it was packed…admittedly a Thursday night, but given that all things alcoholic are not available, it’s great to see a new venue pulling in the crowds so early on. And you can see why…the ‘tribe’ staff do a fabulous song and dance literally. Dimly lit, with wonderful African wooden and leather furniture, all that’s missing is the odd tipple and cigar. A huuuge menu, mainly focused on beef, lamb and chicken, given that the other wonderful African animals have not been shipped over…seafood also prevails, and plenty of veggie options too. I would recommend the ever so juicily marinated hanging beef skewer – certainly tender enough but oh it will never compare to my Japanese Kobe or Wagyu – am having withdrawal symptoms as I type. Service is outstanding – the tribe, straight from the African continent, talk you through the menu and are fully versed on every dish. Do try it out when you’re next in MOE – makes a nice change from the usual cafe venues, and they do lovely salads too!

Meanwhile, I am longing for the new Asha’s to open next door – those that are familiar with the Wafi outfit, will be glad to see it open this side of town, even though you’ll have to skip the delicious cocktails.

Just as an aside, and I know it’s not new, but a mention has to go to Traiteur’s (Park Hyatt) champagne-filled Friday brunch, with unlimited Veuve Cliquot Grand Dame. Dishes are laid out beautifully in the open plan kitchen, with many cooked a la minute – highlights are the fois gras creme brulee (yes I died and went to heaven!), and the mini tartare with quail egg. I am not normally a snail fan, but les escargots infused with garlic were divine. Ooh and the eggs benedict with your choice of spinach, smoked salmon or honey roast turkey.

A bientot!

FooDiva. x

Come Dance With Me…

12 Sep

Dubai, Sunday, 12th September: I know this update is not foodie but I wanted to share this video with my non-Dubai friends…the dancing fountains continue to mesmerise me every time I visit, especially when it’s to my all-time favourite Andrea Bocelli tune.

For those not in the know, click here to view the world’s largest dancing fountain at Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest tower!) in Dubai. Water jets shoot as high as 150 metres – equivalent to a 50-storey building.  The music is the signature piece of world-renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, Con te partiro (With you I will leave), but for the Anglophones the song is otherwise known as Time to say Goodbye. Well in my case, it’s not goodbye but a bientot. Enjoy!

P.s – on a foodie note and with my Far Eastern experience still top of mind, do try out Ping Pong at Dubai Mall (overlooking the fountains of course!) for delicious dim-sum, and one of Dubai’s best tea selections. Bon appétit!

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