March 28, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Open the doors to R Trader (or Rogue Trader as per what I routinely call it) and you’ll find yourself stepping into something very different from the brightly lit mezzanine of Al Futtaim Currency House from which you entered.
We arrived on a Thursday evening, entering to the sight of a gaggle of guys and dolls crowded around the dimly lit bar and scattered around the lounge; the sound of jazz and smell of cigar smoke hanging heavy in the air. The R Trader concept is prohibition era, and this is very apparent as soon as you step inside – there’s great atmosphere on offer as you enter into the bar side of the venue. If you are looking to mix and mingle and you’re a financial type or looking to meet one, look no further. The dining area is around the corner to the left, and the theming is a a tad less coherent in this area – a little too heavy on the purple and florals for my liking – I would have loved to see something more masculine and dark to really give the prohibition theming some spunk.
We started with a cocktail, mine a ‘Dead Cat Bounce’ – the obvious choice for a crazy cat lady, or maybe not…dead…cat…either way, it was pleasant enough to finish but being very melon focused, for me it didn’t incite a second order. The paper straw contained in mine (the others at my table had plastic straws) was nearly mush by the time I finished the drink which tends to lend a cardboard flavour. Once upon a time, I too fell in love with paper straws and their pretty patterns, excited about buying them for my wedding until someone informed me of the sad, limp fate of every paper straw – so now I’m all too aware of this pitfall. On the whole, the cocktail list leant towards the whisky and bourbon side of things.
The bread that arrived to start with olive oil and butter was on point, lovely. Next our appetisers – tuna tartare, beef tartare and ‘Not a Moussaka’. I’m told the tuna tartare (consumed by other diners at the table) was very nice, and I myself can vouch for the fact that the beef tartare was stellar. The tuna arrived with popadoms on top as a lid that are cracked at the table, and the beef is also accompanied by a type of deep fried crisp that was a good foil for the meat. We were told it was on the very spicy side – I didn’t find it too spicy at all, just delicious. Loved this dish.
Our third entree let the side down however, even though it looked skillfully crafted with it’s fine layers of tomato and aubergine. It was indeed ‘Not a Moussaka’ but it also was ‘not edible’ for me due to the overwhelming saltiness of the large amount of feta and olive crumble. I couldn’t manage a second bite sadly. The strong olive flavour seemed to be in the tomato/eggplant ‘moussaka’ part of the dish too so it just proved to be too much for me.
Saltiness was certainly a theme in the cooking at R Trader – I usually add a ton of salt to my dishes and I didn’t need to touch the salt grinder all night here, perhaps the dishes were even a touch on the salty side for me. Not enough to be an issue for me, but it might be a little too salty for folks who don’t have a huge salt addiction like I do. Might pay to mention to your waiter what your preference is in terms of seasoning level.
Next up were three delicious mains. The Duck Siu Mei featured four succulent pressed squares of duck breast, quince and a bao filled with duck and a hoisin sauce. This was a pretty tasty dish – I’m a sucker for hoisin and duck, such a classic combination.
Venturing further into the international realm, next was the BBQ Welsh Lamb that despite it’s country of origin, was actually Indian in inspiration. This dish featured onion bhaji done ring style, aloo gobi and chaat masala. The spices and accompaniments were tasty, the lamb was tender if not a bit more powerful in flavor than what I’m used to with NZ lamb. This dish was a fave of my dining companions!
The 12 hour braised beef cheek – well, let me say that beef cheek is always a favourite of mine and this incarnation was no disappointment. Melt in your mouth tender and flavourful. The potato mash covered in a slice of raclette (much better than raclette I’ve had in the past) was good but I’m just not a fluffy potato mash person – but maybe the target audience of Brits here is. To be honest I’m not a fan of potato at all so I’ll declare this opinion personal in nature. I would have preferred kumara (sweet potato), some roasted baby purple, orange or yellow carrots, peas to bring colour and a tad more sauce to just make this dish slightly less dry – the mash did contribute to that however. Loved the pickled onions on top and presentation was pleasing when it hit the table.
Our main courses were accompanied by a lovely Malbec that opened up as the night wore on. Or, perhaps that could have been the effect of multiple glasses, but whichever it was, we enjoyed it. I think after perusing the list, it was the Santa Julia.
Dessert time! This is an area that R Trader really excels in I have to say. We were brought a dish that was a symphony of chocolate – and this one has a hidden kick! The mousse contains none other than…drumroll please….jalapeno juice! We’d guessed chili but we were a little off the mark. We enjoyed the sojourn to South America with this dish and the heat of the jalapeno was a great match with the chocolate. The churro wasn’t quite as good as I’ve had at other Dubai establishments (Tesoro knock these out of the park) but at the time I felt it might have been better broken up into tiny churro balls perhaps for something different and ease of eating.
The next dessert was my favourite dish of the night – Mango, Coconut Sorbet and Yuzu. Mango and coconut is one of my all time favourite flavour combinations and my tastebuds were so happy to see this dish arrive. It was sublime from start to finish. The crack of the crunchy casing that held the hidden mango icecream, the smoothness of the coconut sorbet, the familiar yet tart yuzu granita that just livened the party up a tad. Great balance, great flavour, just freaking great!
Post dinner we went upstairs and checked out a rather cool venue hidden behind a discreet door and a keypad where you have to have the code to enter. We have the code but we promised not to tell…not yet anyway! Keep your eyes peeled for some cool events coming up in this venue, it’s one to watch.
To round up, the new kid on the DIFC block is off to a great start, but it’s still finding it’s way and identity as one would expect. In my opinion it can be hard finding a signature if you’re choosing to go international ‘greatest hits’ with your dishes, as many Dubai establishments tend to go down this route. But I’m confident R Trader can get there and become a new winner amongst the DIFC crowd.
My top R Trader picks are the Beef Tartare, Duck Siu Mei, and Mango, coconut and yuzu dessert. Still on my must try list however are the delicious sounding foie gras starter and cauliflower truffle main as these were the dishes that piqued my interest most off the menu. In the meantime though, I think I need to go and investigate R Trader’s vibrant bar and lounge scene further…