Taste of Dubai season is back. For the last two months, our inboxes have been full of “early bird” offers, “exclusive deals” and “last chance” opportunities to buy two tickets at 99AED. If anyone hasn’t heard of Taste of Dubai yet, you’re obviously walking around with your eyes closed, refusing to smell the coffee. It’s on next weekend, and anyone who likes food will probably be there (unless they like Oasis, in which case they’ll be on the sand watching the nice twin bump out all the songs the nasty one used to play around with.)
I’ve been to ‘Taste’ twice before – here, and here. Unfortunately, there’s still no street food section that to me would give us a more accurate taste of Dubai, but there’s a few new restaurants and some other goodies. Which is good, because I’ve had it up to my armpits with Rhodes’ white tomato soup and Rivington’s mushy peas. But I couldn’t taste them anyway – this year, I’m not around. I’m going to be embarking on an olfactory tour of the Barossa, doing some pretend grape harvesting (I don’t really work that hard), and scoffing back way too much purple Shiraz. I’ll be back next week, and you can tell me all about it, but just so you get it right, I’d like you to try and get through some of my checklist.FoodAll the dishes are going to be smallish portions, but even so, most people probably won’t fit in more than about 6 or 7. Planning is in order people – those port-o-loos are not fit for use as vomitorium – it’s too small and stagnant in there, and you’ll just start a chain reaction with anyone who has a weak stomach. I’ve been to a couple of previews, and these are my picks of the bunch.
- Prime 68 (Marriott Marquis) Lobster Bisque – a very creamy example of this seafood soup, with intense caramel flavours from the bourbon used (rather than the usual dry sherry or madeira)
- Sonamu (Asiana Hotel) Gimbap – Vegetables and cooked egg are placed on sesame seasoned rice. The ingredients are then rolled in dried seaweed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
- Toro Toro (Grosvenor House) Ceviche de mariscos a la creme de rocoto – Raw prawns, scallops and calamari cooked by acid in the citrussy ‘leche de tigre’ marinade with corn, onion and rocoto pepper
- Rivington Grill Coronation Chicken – A scary melange of chicken, mayonaise, curry and sultanas prepared 50 years ago for ER’s errr…. Coronation. Served cold. It’s an iconic dish, and I’m hoping Rivington Grill can do it well.
- Rang Mahal (Marriott Marquis) Bhuna Baigan Aur Simla Mirch – Roasted Aubergine with peppers and dribbly Burrata, coriander, garlic and kasuri salt. A fusion of Italian and Indian that works very well.
- Izakaya (Marriott Marquis) Edamame Dumplings – soft steamed dumplings filled with creamy mashed edamame beans and served in a delicate miso dashi stock
- Seafire (Atlantis) Tenderloin Wellington – Atlantis’s uniquely imported beef in pastry with truffle mash
- Mango Tree Massaman Gai – super soft and luscious chicken braised in massaman peanut/curry sauce served with steamed rice.
- Carluccio’s Penne Giardiniera – Carluccio’s penne pasta with courgette, chilli, garlic & deep fried spinach balls. I order this every time I go to Carluccios – just can’t get enough of it.
- Da Shi Dai Bang Bang Chicken – Shredded chicken & vegetables with spicy peanut sauce. Simple but always good.
- Armani Ristorante (Armani Hotel) Fregola – pasta that looks like large cous cous balls, served with crab, shrimps, carrot, ginger and chives
- Asado (Palace Hotel) Cabrito Asado con Papa Morada de los Andes – Baby Goat (don’t get me started on this) with purple potato from Los Andes
- Prime 68 (Marriott Marquis) Slow Braised Short Ribs – a tender baby brick of beef with creamy aged cheddar polenta and refreshing gremolata
- Frevo (Fairmont the Palm) Brazilian Macae Chocolate Cake – The real deal for chocolate lovers, Macae Chocolate is known for its melt in the mouth property and complex flavours. Seriously special chocolate.
- Thiptara (Palace Hotel) Tab Tim Grob – Red rubies (water chestnuts with a special treatment) with jack fruit & palm seed in sweet coconut milk, with crushed ice. Light and sweet – wonderful textures. If you love sago or bubble tea, this is a must.
- Edo Cafe Concept (This will be in the Exhibitors area near the Chef’s theatre) Mochi – creamy ice cream (or other frozen sweet treat) wrapped in a thin dough made of glutinous rice flour.
- Asado (Palace Hotel) Helado cacero de Malbec y Dulce de Leche – Malbec (red grape used in wine production) and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
- Thiptara (The Palace Hotel) Thod Maan Goong – Thai deep fried prawn cake served with diced cucumber, peanut, sweet chilli sauce. Not very exciting, but deliciously moreish
- Gaucho (DIFC) Empanadas – Provolone, mozzarella and cheddar with onions and a touch of oregano
- PF Changs Dynamite shrimps – yeah, we’ve all had them before, but hard to go past. Large battered nuggets of prawns in spicy sauce.
- Ronda Locatelli (Atlantis) Pizza – Not explaining that one. If you don’t know what that is, go home.
- Indego (Grosvenor House) Masala Dosa – Probably Dubai’s most expensive dosas at 20AED a pop, but made by the chefs at Indego, I’m expecting something special. Thin and crispy rice pancake filled with curried potato and served with coconut tomato chutney.
- Carluccio’s Arancini di riso Siciliani – saffron risotto rice balls stuffed with Buffalo mozzarella
Again, there’s going to be plenty on offer, so pace yourselves.
- Hour one – Coffee from Raw, and plenty of mineral water. Put your name down for a session at the MMI beverage theatre.
- Hour two – head to the MMI theatre for an educational drinkie. I like the look of ‘Speed tasting’ at 7pm-8pm Thursday, Fuller’s ales at 1-2pm Friday, or maybe ‘Viva Italia’ at 3pm. There’s a Sake session at 6pm. On Saturday, maybe have a bash at the fun session ‘who’s wine is it anyway’ – a blind tasting at 5pm. Single malts from Macallan are on after at 6pm.
- Hour three – Cocktails with your entrees! Siddharta or Fogo Vivo, followed by more mineral water.
- Hour four – Glasses of vino at various participating restaurants – there’s a nice couple at Gaucho to look for. Then keep your hands free for eating mains.
- Hour five – sweet plum infused sake at Izikaya and some dessert. And then lots more water.
- If you’re still there at hour six – a little rest and a crisp white from Nederberg in the ‘Wine Garden’, then back to coffee, which will act as a digestif and give you more room for more food.
If you like it interactive, there’s a few things to aim for in the Kenwood Cookery School. If I was going to be there, I’d like to pick up at least one of the following:
- Thursday 1740-1820 Tom Egerton from Grosvenor House
- Friday 2200-2240 Atul Kochhar Celebrity Chef and founder of the Marriott Marquis’s Rang Mahal
- Saturday 1600-1640 Alessandro Salvatico Armani Ristorante
For those who just like to watch, the Chef’s Theatre will be going non-stop. But try to head there for
- Thursday 1940-2010 Gary Rhodes, Celebrity and connected to Grosvenor House – always a good one to watch.
- Friday 1730-1800 Giorgio Locatelli, another celebrity who knows how to perform (from Ronda Locatelli), also apparently a lovely bloke. Then later try and catch the three lads from Rivington Grill, 2050-2120 Simon Conboy, Chris Leicester & Scott Stokes
- Saturday, you’ve got to catch Nick Alvis at 1320-1350 Table 9, and BBC Good Food Chef of the Year
Next, you can Dine in the Dark with Andy Campbell. Intriguing. Who knows what he’s going to do to you when you’re safely blindfolded? Maybe you’ll eat escargot for the first time?There’s something going on the entertainment stage at all times, but try and time your session in the wine garden to coincide with the fire dancers at 8pm Thurs, and 7pm and 9pm on Friday and Saturday. Or, because Dubai loves a copy, maybe the Counterfeit Beatles at 5:15 on Saturday.
So there’s your bible. Now, the particulars.
- Taste of Dubai runs from Thursday 4pm to midnight, and Friday and Saturday it opens earlier at mid-day.
- It’s at the Media City Ampitheatre
- Cheap tix are all over – as it turns out, that was actually your last chance, and you now have to pay a grand total of 60AED each. But you have to pre-order for that (here) otherwise you’ll pay 80 at the door. Once you’re inside, you will then have to pay for the dishes and drinks I mentioned above (ranging from about 15AED to 40AED), but most sessions are free – you just have to remember to sign up as soon as you get in.
- If you want a little extra, you can get a VIP pass, which includes a goodie bag, access to the VIP enclosure (lots of seats for tired legs), 2 free drinks at the VIP bar, and 3 free dishes from any participating restaurant. OR, you can go a little further still, and buy it through Lime and Tonic, who will through in a tour with the super hottie chef (am I allowed to say that? I’m sure he can cook too…) Paul Frangie. Both are 220AED.
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