Friday, April 30, 2010

Dante - Grand Millennium Dubai, Al Barsha

In a nutshell: great food, fantastic service and reasonably priced.

In Dubai we are so used to eating at restaurants where you need to wave your arms in the air for 10 minutes to get anyone’s attention, where the waiter has to ‘ask the chef’ about any questions you have on the menu and where the quality:price ratio does not quite add up. Well not at Dante!

We ate here about 2 weeks ago and when we arrived last night one of the staff, Dinesh, met us at the door, recognised us and welcomed us back. Salvatore, the restaurant manager also recognised us and checked on how we were enjoying our meal regularly throughout the evening. All of the staff from the barman to the live singer were genuinely friendly and welcoming. Top marks for warmth of welcome!

The restaurant is a fine dining Italian but it manages to avoid the stuffy feeling of some fine dining establishments. They also have outside seating (where I plan to eat next time – weather permitting) with plants and a wall fountain. The ceiling has cherubs painted on it and candelabra-style chandeliers, not in the tacky sense though. At the entrance is a large bar area with a pre-dinner seating area. The only shame was that the restaurant wasn’t busier, it was only about half full on a Thursday night. Best of all though, the restaurant is not chilled to arctic temperatures.

A live Italian singer performs in the restaurant. Whilst she was really good (and she came round all the tables to speak to diners and ask them if they had any requests), we all felt that the restaurant is not that big and live music can make it a bit hard to talk. If you were sat at a table right next to the singer then I would say talking would be virtually impossible.

Service is speedy and efficient and we were able to catch a staff member’s eye whenever we looked up for assistance. We were asked if we wanted a breather between courses and couldn’t even manage dessert because we were so full! All the questions we had on the menu were answered without any hesitation by the staff and it was clear that excellent training on what each item is has been given to the team.

The menu offers a wide variety of choice. Starters include soups, salads and various Italian specialities. Pasta is available in either starter or main size and pizzas are made in a pizza oven actually within the restaurant. Mains were the usual mixture of meats, fish, seafood and poultry. What I really liked was the fact that each main course comes with an accompaniment so you’re not forced to order additional side orders which can add a significant cost onto your bill.

The food presentation was perfect: not overly fussy but enough to look special. A simple caprese salad was made original by its tangy vinaigrette, my melon and parma ham had a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds over it and the charcuterie plate was so fresh that you couldn’t help but finish it all – even though the portion was really a bit too big for a starter. Apart from the charcuterie, the other starters were of a good size and left you with room for your main course.

Lasagne can sometimes be too creamy, but Dante’s lasagne had just the right level of sauce to be rich without being sickening and my husband had to admit it was one of the best he’s had. The prawns with asparagus were served with in-season thick asparagus that was soft and didn’t have that chewy texture that asparagus can sometimes have and a ‘solverino’ sauce (anchovies, olives and garlic). The lamb cutlets came on a bed of mashed potato with shallots and were perfectly cooked to still have a slight pink tinge in the middle. My grilled salmon was delicate and flavoursome, my only complaint was that the asparagus accompaniment was a tiny portion related to the size of the salmon and I had to order an additional side of mixed vegetables (grilled Mediterranean veg). The only other improvement that could be made is that the food should be served on hot plates, our plates were room temperature and so the food did go a little cold.

I can’t eat garlic and pepper (as in black pepper, not capsicum!) and I’ve lost track of the number of times I inform a waiter of this and then have to send my food back because it’s covered in pepper. I didn’t have that problem last night. All my food came as requested – in any case black pepper is offered at the table with a huge pepper grinder. When I ordered the extra vegetables those were also delivered to me with the words ‘and they have no garlic or black pepper’. Sigh of relief…

We had no room for dessert but the desserts included parfaits, Italian ice-cream and sorbets and of course tiramisu. I asked for a peppermint tea but they only had Moroccan mint tea or fresh mint leaves in hot water. They had no problem providing me with hot water for me to add my own peppermint tea bag though. The liqueur coffee was rich and strong and had chocolate shavings on top of the cream which then melted into the coffee…I don’t drink coffee but I was told it was divine. The only delay of the evening we had came with the Arabic coffee as this was served quite a while after the other hot drinks had been delivered to our table.

So what was the price for this fantastic meal? The total for four people was Dhs 1,157 (Dhs 300 per head) but this includes alcoholic drinks. For the food alone the cost was Dhs 750 which is less than Dhs 200 per head for a 2 course meal. Not bad at all! We are Grand Club M members (the Millennium loyalty programme) so we had 25% off our food and 15% off drinks which brought the total meal price down to just Dhs 910 (just over Dhs 200 per person including drinks).

Overall, starters range from Dhs 40-60, pastas as a main course range from Dhs 65-80, pizza is Dhs 70-80 and main courses are Dhs 110-140. Additional accompaniments were Dhs 25 each and desserts Dhs 40.

Definite thumbs up. A great start to Bon Appetit!