If it wasn’t for the full view of the Burj Khalifa in the back ground behind me I could easily feel as if I had arrived in a India having somehow managed to time travel from my place in Dubai to India in a short 20 minute journey. As I pull up in front of the hotel to valet park my car, I receive a warm greeting from the doorman dressed immaculately in clothes reminiscent of maharaja and as I get out of my car and enter into the hotel warm memories of holidays past chase through my head. I pinch myself as a reminder, that I am indeed in Dubai and yes, you read it right, I’m at The Oberoi which has recently opened in Dubai. Quietly I might add but not without flair in the hotel itself or in the restaurants. Situated in Business Bay with a fantastic view of the BurJ Khalifa this new hotel opened in June.
From the moment you arrive at the Oberoi, you feel like you are in a familiar place. I’ve visited a few of the Oberois whilst travelling in India and to me they epitomise excellent service, and bring back many a happy memory of great food, a fantastic location and usually a fine cocktail or two enjoyed whilst soaking in the atmosphere of an indian holiday in a stunning location. Usually a stop at the Oberoi signifies the end of a holiday as I tend to travel more 1 or 2 stars with a rucksac on my back for the majority of my holiday, pausing only to enjoy fine dining and treats at the end of the holiday.
I was invited to dine at two of the Oberoi’s restaurants Umai and Ananta and on each occasion, we started the evening off in the Lobby Lounge Bar on the ground floor where the helpful bar staff are always willing to whip up a nice cocktail or two for you. Happy to recommend drinks for your taste, they are also happy to tailor the drink to meet your palate (no syrup or added sugar for me) or indeed to make up a drink not featured on the menu, my drink of choice a frozen Strawberry daiquiri. Each drink is served with a smile and a nod of recognition from the lovely bar tender.
Moving on to the food, each restaurant features open kitchens and offers dining with a capacity for about 50 diners in each restaurant, I have to admit I like the feel of each restaurant, intimate and cosy yet enough space to move around freely and not to be overheard by diners on the next table.
Umai focusses on Pan Asian cuisine and we were treated to a menu to showcase some of treats from the menu from around the region. Our meal started with a selection of Sushi and Sashimi which had been flown in from Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. I headed towards the sashimi plate and tasted some fresh fatty tuna with hot wasabi and a wasabi pickle along with other sushi selections including Sea Urchin and Salmon. Moving on through the menu, this time towards Korea, we sampled Abalone and Crab soup which was flavoursome and subetely smokey before moving onto Cantonese dim sum served in individual bamboo baskets and accompanied by an extremely spicy chilli dipping sauce. We also sampled a crispy Chicken Wanton served in a sweet & sour sauce with squid ink crisp which was an unusual combination successful both in terms of look and taste appeal.
Guests get a real sense of authentic theatre and entertainment whilst dining at Umai. We were treated to a tea pouring display by a lady wearing beautiful red silks who twirled a long spouted teapot around before expertly pouring hot tea, some clever smoking of glass domes covering the smoked eel dish, whilst some of the team rolled their own sushi and watched as the chefs prepared some more unusual sushi dishes including finely sliced octopus tentacles complete with suckers. I’m told that this happens every night, so if you go be prepared to get up and be involved.
The final part of our savoury tour and the final part of our entertainment took us to Kansai Teppanayki which involved some amazing tender wagyu beef cooked by the teppanayki chef prepared with a sense of theatre and drama as he chopped and tossed the wagyu beef around the teppanayki hot plate as we sat next to the grill watching him put on a show before allowing us to taste cubes of succulent beef which had been finished off with a dash of coco-cola. The Wagyu steak delivered to our table later was one of the best steaks I’ve had in a long time.
Our final course brought us to sample Mango and Shiso Cheesecake served with some extremely flavourful pearls of mango puree which had been given the molecular treatment and were like mini pearls of pure juicy mango yumminess as they exploded in your mouth.
With a focus on Indian cuisine this was bound to be a favourite of mine. Indeed some of my indian friends say I have a more Indian palate than them when it comes to enjoying spicy indian food. Following a selection of different Lassis, with mango and saffron being my favourite, we were treated to a platter of tandoori treats including a Herb marinated chicken and red masala prawns which were flavourful, succulent and delivered on taste.
Our next course consisted of a Thali platter with rich Spicy Lamb Curry succulent and moist Murgh Makhani, a delightfully rich butterly melt in your mouth Dahl Makhani and a beautifully rich Fish Mooli as well as a cauliflower dish, raita and yogurt. To accompany we were served a variety of indian breads and chef delighted me by making me fresh South Indian Parotta. When I asked if they parotta on the menu, the answer was no, it’s not on the menu, but give us five minutes and we will make some for you. What arrived was truly memorable, crisp, rich coconut flavour and delightfully flaky the parotta delivered on taste and texture which took me back to my trips to Kerala where I indulged in many a parotta to mop up the rich gravy of a fragrant southern indian curry. It seems like no request is too difficult to be fulfilled.
Like Umai this is a participative experience and guests were encouraged to watch the chefs prepare dinner at the open kitchen or indeed to take a tour of the kitchen and to watch the kebabs being cooked in the tandoor, all adding to the authentic Indian experience.
Our dessert also delivered on taste and looks, accompanied with a glass of fresh green mango juice . With mini portions of some of my favourite Indian deserts, think Gulab Jammon, Ras Malai and a beautiful sweet yet smooth Payasan, we were treated to a sweet treat which delivered on taste but thankfully not on epic portion sizes. Our meal ended with some subtly spiced Masala Chai and some Indian Coffee.
The Oberoi opens its doors in Dubai (gulfnews.com)