Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dubai Restaurant Review: Rosso - Amwaj Rotana

In a nutshell: good but not outstanding food with a painfully slow drinks service

Earlier in the summer we ate at the Amwaj Rotana's Japanese restaurant Benihana and had a fabulous meal. Unfortunately, Amwaj's Italian restaurant Rosso comes nowhere near the standard set by its neighbour and we won't be returning.

In terms of decor and design, Rosso is true to its name and everything is dark red, modern and funky. The music being played was chilled out lounge music, although towards the end of our meal a couple of random opera songs came on - did someone press a wrong button? There is a large bar area as you enter as well as rattan lounge chairs outside so you have a few options on where to sit for a meal. We chose to sit in the main restaurant area which, as seems to be the 'in-thing' in Dubai, has a glass wall looking into the kitchen. Similarly to Prego's at the Media Rotana, Rosso has a wood-fired pizza oven and the bread delivered to the table is a full loaf cooked in a round tin in the pizza oven. A good start until we received our menus which were very plasticky and felt cheap, as though we were at a cafe not a fine dining restaurant.

Our starters were all very good, although my melon and parma ham was served on a long dish with 3 hollow areas. Usually a plate like that would be used if you were serving a starter of 3 different items and each item would then be in its own little hollow. Trying to cut melon and ham on a plate that isn't flat was not very easy and nearly resulted in it all falling in my lap! The cold cuts was a huge plate of charcuterie that was just too much meat for one person to manage. The beef carpaccio was a much more reasonable portion size, as was the minestrone soup. Everything tasted as it should but there were no wow factors or original interpretations such as at Cucina in Courtyard Marriott where the melon and parma ham is served with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

I chose seabass for my main course and advised that I didn't want any garlic or pepper. I didn't realise that would mean I wouldn't be given any sauce for the fish at all; when I asked if I could have a sauce I was given a red peppercorn sauce - bottom marks for attention to detail. I also enquired about what the seabass came with and was told it was only the courgette and tomatoes stated on the menu so I ordered potato wedges which I was told were 100% potato roasted in the oven. When the fish arrived, it had new potatoes as well as the vegetables and the extra wedges were not only coated in some sort of marinade but whilst they may have been cooked in the oven, they certainly were not roasted. I sent the wedges back and asked them to not charge me for them. Simon and my friend Louissa both ordered the chicken but it appeared to be a baby bird that had been flattened out so it didn't look anything like chicken. Although it tasted nice, Louissa found the presentation of it quite off-putting. Dara had a steak which was tasty but not really different to steak anywhere else in the world.

Our biggest gripe of the evening was the shockingly slow drinks service. Simon ordered a Harvey Wallbanger and it took the waitress about 20 minutes to finally tell him that the bar didn't have any Galliano. Louissa ordered a vodka and tonic and it took nearly half an hour to arrive. I ordered a bottle of water and it never came at all. The restaurant was busy but not manic, the bar was not heaving and there were a lot of staff so to me this showed a total lack of training and organisation. Restaurants make huge profits selling alcohol (since there is such an astronomical mark-up) and so failing to offer and serve those drinks means a significant loss of potential turnover for a restaurant. Even if a restaurant isn't too worried about its level of guest service, I'm sure it will be thinking about its profit margin.

The cost of the meal was very cheap because we had our summer promotion voucher from our meal at Benihana (during the summer Rotana gave its loyalty card holders a voucher of 50% of the value of their meal to use against their next meal) as well as our 25% Rotana Rewards discount off the balance. Prices are very similar to other such restaurants with starters at around the Dhs 70 mark and mains of around Dhs 100. Not expensive but value for money is not necessarily the cheapest - it's the best experience for your money and sadly Rosso did not deliver this.


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