Steak, burgers, oysters, and a good pizza. All in the day’s “work” for a group of Dubai food bloggers?
On a hot and steamy day in June, along with fellow foodies, I embarked on a culinary safari at the Atlantis hotel on the Palm Jumeirah.
Normally, I quite like the decor of the Atlantis – colorful panels of underwater seascapes with seahorses, tropical fish, turtles, sting rays, etc – but that day, having indulged in too much vino the night before (on a rare night out with Scotch), it was a bit of sensory overload especially on a Friday afternoon as it was thronging with hotel guests and tourists.
I had to plop myself down on the nearest bench while attempting to make decent conversation with S from kooksfood, resisting the urge to plop my head down on my lap, and silently willing my two Panadols to kick in fast.
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Soon, the rest of our group arrived and we were introduced to our Atlantis hosts/safari tour guides – Amanda and Tarik – and then we were whisked to our first tasting stop of the afternoon – thankfully to a serene, deserted (except for staff, of course), and dimly lit restaurant – Seafire Steakhouse & Bar.
We were welcomed by the restaurant manager, Cameron, and the hotel’s Exec Chef, Sasha. As I tried to listen in on the proceedings, I was suddently distracted by tall glasses of peach mojito mocktails and Jack Daniels. I opted for the former…and the latter.
Now before you think that I’m some sort of alcoholic trying to rid her hangover with more drinking, let me explain that these were Jack Daniels marinated slow-roasted beef ribs. Super-tender and super-sweet – I was starting to feel better already.
We were also presented with forkfuls of beef carpaccio with garlic croutons and sliced celery (I could have done without the strong taste of the celery but the garlic crouton was a nice touch for added texture and flavor) and mini beef tartares served on thin crackers and topped with poached quail eggs.
The beef tatare were my favorites among the canape selection. Adept at shoving mega-sized maki into my mouth while still looking respectable, these domes of yummy goodness were no match for my eating skills. We were then given a demonstration of how the tartare was prepared: from cutting up the beef, mixing the flavorings, to umm…well…this is where my husband called to say that he had lost his car keys so I’m afraid I missed the rest of the demo. 🙁
While my headache appreciated the calmness of the restaurant, the dim lighting did prove to make photographing the food difficult. It’s no wonder that many of us gravitated towards the open kitchen where the lighting was more suitable and we could watch and snap the food being prepared in all its stages.
Returning from the kitchen to the demo table, I saw that a tasting of the different cuts of “Atlantis beef” was in progress. We were explained how the Atlantis hotel has its own breed of cattle from Queensland, Australia (300 days before slaughter, the cows are exclusively grain-fed to achieve marble perfection) and how Dubai regulates the maximum amount of time that beef can be aged (60 days) which is coincidentally how long it takes for the cuts of beef to arrive via sea from Australia.
We were served samples of sirloin, ribeye, and tenderloin to chew on and compare. When the beef is excellent quality, all it needs is basic salt and pepper seasoning, a good sear, and medium-rare would be ideal which is what the beef we tasted were cooked to. All the cuts were fabulously tender, tasty and juicy but I like a bit of fat in my steak so of the three cuts I preferred the ribeye – especially where the fatty parts crisp up into heavenly bites of lipid love.
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Reluctantly leaving the carnivore haven behind, we moved on to the next stop of our safari which was The Burger Joint – hurray, more meat!
The Atlantis has recently opened up a new casual dining venue – TBJ for short. Chef Sasha gave us a briefing about the outlet, explaining how the ground beef used for the burgers is also Atlantis beef, that the fries were made in house (twice-fried as they should be), and then we were escorted into TBJ to begin sampling.
So that we could try all the burgers on the menu, we were presented with burger shots, or mini-burgers, of which I was able to try the “old School” and the “Cheesy”. For sliders they were both very good and I liked the spiciness of the TBJ special sauce. But a slider isn’t representative of the real deal so I’ll have to return another day to try the full-size version to truly experience the burgers and see if they are to up to my standards.
I tried a few of the fries and found that I liked them very much – I prefer these TBJ skinny fries to the thicker variety served elsewhere. These were perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and even though I’m not much of a fry person, I still found myself eating a small handful.
Here is a slideshow of the food and ambiance:
I’m quite picky about my condiments so I was disappointed to see that the mayonnaise on the tables were Hellman’s that is produced in the UAE. It’s nothing at all like true Hellman’s from the US. I would say that it tastes like the fat-free version but with all the calories.
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Our third stop for the day was Rostang, the French Brasserie from two Michelin star Chef Michel Rostang. As our tasting station was at the back of the brasserie, we ambled past the bakery section with its assorted French pastries, sweets, and fresh bread – all made in-house.
We were greeted by Damien, the Sommelier, who gave us an overview of the restaurant concept and Michel Rostang’s affinity towards bistro style. Then he deftly passed around with a plate of Tête de Moine cheese. Swiss cheese in a French bistro? Yes, but Tête de Moine is from the French-speaking side of Switzerland so could it be considered French in some way?
To me, they look like the flowery Chinese snow mushrooms that my mom often uses in herbal soups. Creamy and rich tasting – it was a struggle to move on but the oysters were beckoning.
I love oysters but there was a time BC (before child) that I had them almost weekly in Dubai and for some reason unknown to me, Dubai restaurants mainly import French oysters – namely Gillardeau, Tsarskaya, and Fines de Claire (which to me are all firm, fleshy, nutty, sweet, with a strong though not unpleasant aftertaste) that the sight of a French oyster even at a grocery store made me sick. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with fine French oysters. It’s just that my taste buds were screaming for something different.
So it was with a bit of tentativeness that I tried one Gillardeau and one other oyster (from Brittany I think) and to great relief I felt no ill effects and even enjoyed the flavors of the Gillardeau oyster once again.
There was also an onion soup station but that seemed to be overshadowed by the cheese, oyster, dessert and wine tasting stations.
By the time I finished the oyster tasting, I was ready to call it quits to save room in my tummy for our last stop which I knew was going to be pizza but then fellow blogger Sally uttered a magical command: “You must try the foie gras pate.” Actually, I’m not 100% sure if she said those exact words or if the look of pleasure on her face while savoring a piece of pate paired with red onion marmalade silently communicated those words to me.
Oh alright then, twrist my arm.
After having a taste of the pate for myself, if I could, I would have run off with that foie gras terrine and red onion combination to stuff myself slly. It was seriously that good. But having done that before (stuffed myself silly with foie gras, not run off with pate) and feeling the consequences, I decided to refrain.
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At our fourth and final stop of our culinary tour, we strolled next door to Ronda Locatelli, another restaurant from a Michelin star celebrity chef. As we entered the restaurant and approached the huge central oven, we were immediately treated to a pizza making demo by the pizzaiolo complete with pizza dough tossing and spinning.
Having attempted many times to make this kind of pizza at home in my measly little electric oven, I’ve become more and more aware of all the details that go into making a perfect pizza.
For those that are interested: The flour for Locatelli’s pizza dough is imported from Vigevano, a small town in Northern Italy near Milan, and is double-zero (or “00”) grade meaning that it is very finely ground flour. The dough that is made at the restaurant is proofed for 3 days. The oven in the restaurant is a combo unit: gas (to maintain even temperature) and wood (to impart flavor).
The Neapolitan pies that came out of the oven reminded me of one of my favorite pizza places in NYC (Patsy’s on the Upper East Side). I love the simplicity of the pizza Margherita with the freshness of fresh basil – plus nothing beats a great pizza seconds out of the oven.
Chef Alessandro and Diego, the restaurant manager, did such a great job at answering all of our inquisitive food questions. As the topic veered towards black truffle season – POOF – 3 black truffles, a bit larger than golf balls, magically appeared for us to smell, touch, and photograph the hell out of.
I was sniffing the truffle to imprint the scent into my memory and was amazed that it didn’t smell like what I thought it would. I guess I had imagined the powerful scent of white truffle oil but these black truffles were more subtly-scented yet very earthy and woodsy. And as I kept putting a knobby truffle to my nose for more whiffs, I really don’t know what possessed me to do it, but the next thing I know I’m shoving the whole damn thing (bigger than a golf ball remember?) into my mouth just to get a taste of the inside.
Okay, I know you are thinking, “No you didn’t!” or “Nah Uh.” And you’re right. I was only kidding. I merely kissed the truffle (Why? I blame it on the residual alcohol still in my system). There was absolutely no truffle eating to be had that day.
Anticlimactic? Sorry. I try to avoid jail time and being thrown out of restaurants if I can these days. You know, since I’m old. And I have a child now which = responsible.
Right, moving right along to the desserts. I tried to say no but was convinced by Mishti from Stovetop Dancing to try a mini tiramisu and boy was I glad I did. That tiramisu might have been mini but it was big on happy flavors.
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And that concluded our culinary safari at the Atlantis hotel and it was truly a lovely afternoon and a great opportunity to meet some new bloggers and big thanks to the Atlantis team and of course to Sally for organizing.
Disclosure: I enjoyed this complimentary dining experience as a guest of the Atlantis, The Palm.