November 28, 2016 / 1 Comment
Ok so I may or may not have had an obsession with the One & Only brand since I was a teenager…so when the opportunity came to check out their fine dining restaurant, STAY, while the executive chef was in town, there was no way I was saying no.
The chef in question is none other than Yannick Alleno, a culinary mastermind who’s work on extractions and fermentation is fascinating. I was lucky enough to attend Chef Alleno’s presentation at 50 Best Talks in New York in June that focussed on how fermentation brings out the terroir of the vegetable – it seems terroir is a concept no longer limited to wine. We sampled fermented extractions of celeriac from different areas of France and the difference in taste was extraordinary! Rather mind blowing actually. He’s written books on both extractions and fermentations (Sauces and Terroir, respectively) so add those to the reading list if you’d like to delve further into his techniques. He’s also the chef behind three-starred Ledoyen in Paris, located in the gardens in the eastern part of the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement, no less. So to say he knows a thing or two about food is an understatement…
Back to STAY (which I’m told stands for Simple Table Yannick Alleno…yes I know that should spell STYA, but hey, creative license?). The table may be ‘simple’, but that’s about it – the service, venue and food certainly feel more at home filed under ‘elaborate’.
What I ate…
Celery and aged avocado millefeuille – 85
Chia seed and jelly turnip
Stew beef Bourguignon style (A) – 230
*Amazing white truffle and fregula dish that isn’t on the menu*
Another that should be popping up on next season’s menu…
It’s a striking venue, dramatic and cavernous. The biggest impression it leaves on you is the sensation of space…and how much that factors into a restaurant feeling luxurious. Much like that business/first class feeling, the absence of having tables sandwiched on top of each other and hearing your neighbouring table’s conversation makes proceedings feel that much more relaxing and special. Things just feel so…calm.
It’s definitely got a romantic, special occasion feel to it, but prices don’t fall far from Dubai norms so it needn’t be relegated to special occasions only. Don’t get me wrong, prices are still up there – think New York – but for the rubbish that gets served up at some Dubai establishments for the same price tag, you’d be far better off spending your dime here.
We start with some delicious breads and snacks (my favourite part about full-blown fine dining restaurants), the highlight being the beetroot macaron that goes oh-so-well with a glass of Laurent Perrier. I can feel myself starting to relax already. Happy place.
Our first course is a vegetable dish that features two of my favourite ingredients, celeriac and avocado. I have a hunch that celeriac is one of Chef Alleno’s favourites too, as it’s frequently used in his dishes and extractions. It does have such a magical flavour though, so I can see why it’s featured so much! It’s a divine dish, so clean and elegant, and one that I feel really embodies STAY and Chef Alleno.
An interlude of ‘cappuccino’ keeps the deliciousness going – it may have been a veloute, it may have been vichyssoise, but names aside it was delicious. Creamy, silky, truffle dusted. Best cappuccino ever? Perhaps. (Though Tickets‘ take on the drink might rival it…)
It’s been a fine affair so far, but the next arrival, our pasta course, was the stand out dish of the evening. I suppose it’s hard(er) to get a dish wrong when it’s covered in fine layers of fresh white truffle shaved at the table, but there was so much more than just truffle to the dish. The truffle, however, was stunning – in fact it’s the first time I’ve noticably smelt such a gorgeous aroma of truffle as a dish is prepared. The host for this delicious truffle was a pile of tiny, perfectly round pearls of fregula pasta (a variety hailing from Sardinia), a showstopper of an ingredient that gave this dish the most insane mouthfeel. It may look just like Israeli Couscous, but eating it was a truly unique experience. Loved it!!
The beef bourguignon that wings it’s way to our table next is visually a fantastic reimagination of the French classic. A bed of wonderfully tender beef is topped by individually placed, delicately prepared vegetables. It’s playful, and I like that. There was an orange note in the sauce that didn’t quite work for me, but on the whole a carefully prepared dish.
There are plenty of options dessert-wise for those with a sweet tooth – in fact, there’s a whole ‘dessert library’. You can peruse the cabinets of desserts and watch your dish finished in front of your eyes if you wish…a nice touch.
Our dessert (selected by the chef) was a new menu item in the making, so it was delivered complete to our table (and I must note, this dish is still being tweaked). A take on the Baked Alaska, the ‘Black Alaska’ was flambeed at the table, featuring apple as the hero throughout. Cold cooked apples sat beneath an ice cold apple sorbet, set alight with Calvados (apple brandy). The aroma of the Calvados took me back to the oaky cellars of Bordeaux, and the combination of the warm flambe with the ice cold sorbet and cold cooked apples was certainly interesting. I think I would have preferred it if the cooked apples were hot though, as I couldn’t help but develop a craving for that ‘apple pie and icecream’ feeling while eating this dish.
Petit fours are another fine dining staple you almost always see at global fine dining restaurants and hardly ever see at Dubai institutions, so I was very pleased to see STAY had gone the extra mile to complete the high-end experience as it should be done. With these delicious bites finishing the meal on a lovely note and a glass of fine bubbles, I do believe all my cares had melted away.
STAY is definitely a place to go, enjoy, and just stay a while. A place to relax, have the expert staff take care of you and let the grand surroundings soak in. Don’t we all deserve to be pampered once in a while? (Or regularly, if you ask me.) Why not pair it with a pre-dinner drink watching the sunset at Jetty Lounge at One & Only Royal Mirage landside and take the (complimentary) boat over to One & Only The Palm? Or even better, just book a night or two One & Only The Palm and stay even longer…
Overall Rating: 8.8/10