Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dubai Restaurant Review: Stefano's, Green Community

In a nutshell: acceptable food, acceptable service but high main course prices

I was really pleased to see a new restaurant had opened within walking distance of our house at Green Community, so we headed over to Stefano's for a relaxed Friday lunch. Unfortunately we weren't blown away by the experience and I wouldn't go back simply because there are better options available within the Community.

Whilst the menu was varied and included all the items you would expect from an Italian restaurant, the prices were similar to those charged at Cucina in the Marriott. This raises serious questions about their market research - in terms of decor, location, service and the fact you can get alcoholic drinks, Cucina wins hands down. The main course prices at Stefano's were actually higher than many of Cucina's prices and their pizza prices were higher than the Pastamania restaurant inside The Market (a 2 minute walk away). Sadly for Stefano's, I really can't see them surviving for long unless they reduce their prices because why pay more for a similar or inferior product?

Although it's not their fault, the artificial lake that they face never appears to get cleaned and right outside their restaurant is where all the scum and dirt seems to accumulate - on the day of our visit we couldn't smell anything but I've walked past before and had to hold my breath from the stench of foul water. They do have indoor seating as well as next to the water so there would be an escape on a bad day. We sat outside at a table covered with a Mediterranean-inspired red and white tablecloth but I felt they really needed to invest in some fly zapper machines because, especially with the stagnant water so close, we were quite bothered by the flies.

I had seen they offered paninis and had decided to indulge myself and have one - that was until I checked with the waiter how they made them and he said they grill the bread but the filling is cold. Is that how a panini is made in Italy? It certainly is not how it's made anywhere in France and that is the panini experience I am still looking for! I ordered a caprese salad instead and whilst it was nicely presented and tasted as it should, there was nothing special about it - I could have made the exact same dish at home myself. At Cucina's the caprese salad is accompanied by an avocado mousse and it is those sort of touches that really make a restaurant meal stand out. Simon had a penne bolognese which he said was very nice but nothing outstanding.

We left with our appetites satisfied but with a feeling of disappointment over the experience. I asked for a comment card when we paid the bill but was told they didn't have any. A restaurant that doesn't actively encourage guest feedback should be concerned - as a side note, I had an email thanking me for my positive article from the Bocadillo manager last week after I had left a comment card with the Bon Appetit! web address, now that is customer service! The staff at Stefano's were friendly but again, there was no 'wow' factor that would make you think that eating at Stefano's was a more enjoyable experience to eating at Cucina.


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