December 8, 2016 / Leave a Comment
With Dubai being a city of celebrity chef-branded restaurants, a few times each year we are lucky enough to have the figurehead chefs themselves in town. It’s usually the best time of the year to visit these venues, as the ‘big boss’ overlooking proceedings ensures the best is coming out of the kitchen and often they’ll create a special menu just for the occasion.
Giorgio Locatelli, Executive Chef of Atlantis’ Ronda Locatelli, was recently in town for the Italian Cuisine Summit. Given that he was cooking up a menu inspired by white truffles and Peroni, two of my very favourite things, there was no way I was missing this one.
Being situated in the Atlantis, Ronda Locatelli, like many of the other restaurants in the complex, has a very family-oriented atmosphere. That seems quite the juxtaposition to the celeb chef-led white truffle menu we were about to try, but I was totally open to seeing how it all came together.
Decor wise, it suffers from the same pitfalls as the famous Saffron. It’s bright and bold, but due to the age of the resort (well, hey let’s be honest – it’s young by international standards but an elder statesman by Dubai standards) it’s about time for a do-over. The decor is probably fine for a family style pizza and pasta restaurant, which is what Locatelli spends most of it’s time as, but I’m here to taste some fine cuisine that commands an atmosphere to match to do it justice. The outdoor area however is quite lovely, and I think next time I’d opt to dine al fresco, during the winter season anyway.
We kick off proceedings with a rather superb Peroni cocktail. These things are pretty new, and being a Peroni Ambassador I’ll admit I’ve tasted some great ones…but this one was really fab. It was a twist on the Aperol Spritz, and even though I can’t stand Aperol I really loved this creation. It complemented our breads and dips perfectly, as one of the dips that looked like tomato….was actually fiery hot chili! Let me tell you, that Aperol Peroni cocktail was the perfect antidote to the heat this dip unexpectedly brought. It proved to be a rather addictive combination though, as I finished both in record speed.
On to our first course, and I’m well pleased that it’s a carpaccio. I kinda have a thing for raw beef. Topped with rocket, parmesan, and…but of course…white truffle, it was a thing of beauty made even more exemplary with a douse of the olive oil provided on the table. Yum.
Course two turned out to be courses two and three. A beautiful (and appropriately sized portion for a tasting menu) risotto arrives, a creation made from Peroni and yes, you guessed it – white truffle. No, I don’t think I’ll get sick of the truffle factor in tonight’s menu, or really, any menu. When in season…it would be rude not to, right? I loved this risotto. The only issue was that two minutes later, a ravioli dish arrives. Guys, I get this might be your thing to deliver the two courses at once, but for me it just reduces the impact of both as now neither are going to be eaten at their optimal temperature. Props for portion size, but I like to be able to eat tasting menu dishes one by one – this isn’t a sharing plate scenario. Let’s take the pressure off the kitchen (and the diner) by letting each have its moment in the sun. (For the record, I preferred the risotto though my dining partner felt the opposite.)
With striking similarities to the main meat dish from Frankie’s we’d experienced the night previous, the next course was veal tenderloin with pumpkin puree and wild mushrooms. The veal was tender and much more flavourful than that we’d tasted recently on the Italian Cuisine Summit circuit, and rather lovely. The wild mushrooms complemented the veal nicely, though the pumpkin puree could have done with being a lot smoother and less grainy. Perhaps a different plan of attack was needed when it comes to the puree, it felt like it needed to be passed through a sieve to give it that silky texture that would have felt right at home on this plate.
Dessert features truffle too (naturally), and although I could’t have some of the nut components on this dish I was totally happy with the white chocolate, truffle and liquorice creation that was the star of the dish. I was rather smitten with that combo, again, so many of my favourite things.
A very nice meal food-wise all in all, but the atmosphere did have an overwhelming effect on our dining experience at Ronda Locatelli. On the upside, there are no barriers for families to dine here. If the parents want something a little more special, and the little ones want to scream and eat pizza and ice cream – you’ll be among like-minded company and won’t have to apologise for asking for a high chair. For couples looking for a fine dining experience, you might not enjoy such a hectic environment, with loud live music adding to the din. Our seats on an elevated, cocooned platform were subject to a rather strange acoustic effect, where we could hear the sounds of the neighbouring children’s portable game device and conversation as the soundtrack to our dining experience. My recommendation to The Atlantis would be to split the large restaurant in two – one a more high end, romantic environment suited to couples and groups wanting to experience Chef Locatelli’s cuisine, and the other a family friendly Italian restaurant where all ages can relax and enjoy. I think that would keep both foodies and hungry visitors happy and well sated.
What’s your favourite restaurant at Atlantis The Palm? Let me know in the comments below….