December 31, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Ahh, The Artisan. After a long time pining over a visit to this restaurant, a gap finally came up in my schedule and I was more than excited to be taking hubs to a restaurant I just had a feeling would deliver the goods. The real deal. Italian like it should be.
Let’s just say (spoiler alert, please don’t stop here – but if you’re hella short on time, I’ll forgive you) it’s good. Really good. A Dubai off-shoot of the three starred Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence, this is a restaurant that is class from woah to go. Or maybe that should be go to woah. Or well, when it comes to The Artisan, I think woah to woah is more suitable. It’s a stunning restaurant. Perhaps I’m partial as it looks a lot like my bedroom, but it’s just chic in a way Dubai usually doesn’t do. It’s chic in an understated way…to be honest, I couldn’t quite capture the essence of it on camera. But trust me, the soothing grey, gold and marble palette is delightful. It’s really one of the best fit-outs in Dubai right now in my opinion.
There’s regularly changing artwork on the walls, as I suppose a venue called The Artisan should have, but I couldn’t really get into the instalment that was in place when I was there. Hmmm. Props for supporting local artists though. Side note however: I’m no art critic. I may or may not have uttered a ‘meh’ at the Mona Lisa, so don’t take my opinion on art as gospel. Unless my husband paints it, in which case it’s fabulous (no, it’s really quite good. Really).
What I’m really here for is the art on the plate, and the palate. It’s more the latter that The Artisan specialises in. From the start, service is on point. Friendly with finesse, just how I like it. The ‘artisan’ element shines from the start, with stunning olive oil (two choices) and aged balsamic (24 years if I remember correctly) direct from the one and only appropriate source, Modena.
Drinks are certainly not an afterthought here – from the moment you lay eyes upon the illustrated cocktail list you can see the passion The Artisan has for beverages. We tried many of the playful cocktails – playful both in presentation and ingredients – and they were all fabulous. Our favourites included….
Tanqueray Gin, Choya Umeshu, Plum Marmalade, Agave Syrup, Lemon Juice
Jameson Whiskey, Jose Cuervo Tequila, Green Apple Juice, Fresh Ginger, Lime Juice, Sugar, Mint
Matusalem Classico, Ypoica Cachaha, Passionfruit Puree, Nettle Cordial, Bitters, Lime Juice
The Polynesian is rather stunning in presentation as well as flavour, served up in a shell, and The Anonymous doesn’t disappoint with it’s large orchid garnish. The Mismatch sounded, well, exactly what the name says on paper, but in a surprising turn of events it was rather addictive! I can also recommend their red wine cocktails – we tried one with a side of effervescent frozen grapes which was really different, unlike any cocktail I’d had previously. The Artisan team are really slaying when it comes to cocktails, this might be the most impressively creative list I’ve seen in the city.
If wine is more your thing, you’re also well catered for. I was rather impressed and surprised to see The Artisan has wine flights! Being a mad oenophile, I love a good wine flight. Mmm…wine flights. Definitely give these a go – white and red flights are available. Love it!
What we tasted…
Assaggio di varie mini Pizze Gourmet – 50
Assortment of home made mini pizzas gourmet
Burrata di Andria e Pomodori arrosti – 94
Fresh Burrata with delicious roasted tomatoes
Oh the mini pizzas…to call them by such a name sounds much too pedestrian, as these are definitely gourmet. Gorgeous sun dried tomatoes atop perfect focaccia..and the truffle mini pizza…oh don’t even get me started. Even though I’m feeling a tad carb conscious and just nibble at the truffle and parmesan saturated portions, it’s so well worth it.
The burrata? Well, it’s pretty close to heaven. Yes, burrata doesn’t have to be cooked , yes, it can be ‘simple’ for sure – but the key is in sourcing the best burrata (from Italy, natch) and dressing it correctly. It’s easy when you know how, but so many Dubai institutions do it wrong. Not so here. Delish.
Fiori di Zucchina Fritti, Farciti di Mozzarella di Bufala e Pesto Toscano – 75
Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with Buffalo Mozzarella and Tuscan Pesto
Manzo Battuto al Coltello, Salsa Bianca e Gialla – 95
Beef tartare with a white and yellow dressing
Another two ‘must have’ starters. I’m quite the beef tartare connoisseur, having probably had thirty or so renditions around the world, many michelin starred – but this one pleased. The zucchini flowers though made the hubs rather excited…I do believe the exact phrase uttered was, ‘OMG the zucchini flowers’. The flowers are divine, the sauce is divine, and I’ve had them here once as fries too – in all cases, just say yes to zucchini flowers.
Zuppa di Lenticchie di Castelluccio al Tartufo Nero Castelluccio – 40
Lentil soup with black truffle
Now this dish may be the bargain of the menu. The lentils are sourced painstakingly from Italy for this dish, and it’s not your average lentil soup. It’s so earthly, so unctuous…just order it, trust me you’ll thank me later.
Agnolotti del Plin Farciti di Zucca Mantovana, Salvia, Burro e Mandorle Tostate, con Fonduta di Parmigiano Reggiano – 94
Hand-made Agnolotti stuffed with Mantova pumpkin, sage, butter and roasted almonds, topped with parmesan fondue
Oh, now this dish…this is the signature dish of The Artisan. It’s insanely good. Rich yet delicate and buttery smooth, the crunch of the almonds providing just the right textural contrast. It’s the dish you’ll order on every visit, and recommend to everyone…trust me. (I feel like I’m saying that a lot in this review, but seriously…you can trust me on this one.)
Risotto ai Funghi Porcini ed erbe aromatiche – 95
Risotto with porcini mushrooms and aromatic herbs
Though adorned with some shavings of fresh truffle (which I do adore), this may have been the one dish that didn’t really hit it for me. It was a little, (sorry guys), gluggy for me and felt a tad one dimensional. Not bad, for sure, but not at the level of the other dishes. I’d love to see a refresh on the risotto dishes and some new pairings.
Scottadito di Agnello Marinato con pure’ di melanzana e peperoni arrostiti – 185
Marinated Lamb chops “Scottadito” with aubergine purée and roasted pepper
I do have to say as a New Zealander, I’m horrified at the price of lamb (and meat in general) in Dubai. It’s insane! But, even though this wouldn’t have been my pick from the menu I can say the meat was lovely and treated with utmost respect. Very well done indeed (and I’m not meaning meat well-doneness, our lamb was delivered medium rare as requested) and packed full of flavour. The aubergine puree that accompanied was also excellent.
Il vero Tiramisù
The real Tiramisù
Tortina di Limoni di Sorrento con Meringa
Sorrento Lemon Meringue Tart
Selezione di Gelati o Sorbetti Fatti in Casa
Selection of Home-made Ice-cream or Sorbets
Desserts at The Artisan lean heavily towards the traditional – well, the selection we were served definitely do anyway. All three we tried were classics – tiramisu, lemon meringue tart and ice cream. Personally I would never order lemon meringue tart at a restaurant as I’m not a fan of the dish – but this one I have to say would be right up there with the best. Whenever I’ve seen people taste this dish at The Artisan they have been impressed! If lemon is your thing, definitely don’t miss it. The tiramisu is exactly by the book and well executed as one would expect, but didn’t have me raving – and I wasn’t a fan of the clear bowl presentation. Felt a little too Pyrex for me. I get that the desserts are rustic, but in such a beautiful setting I’d like to see the deserts elevated a little more a la 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana – desserts that are still somewhat traditional in style, but mind blowing in flavour profile.
If you’re a lover of Italian cuisine, (and Dubai definitely is – it’s the city’s no.1 cuisine for dining out) then The Artisan simply has to go on your must-visit list. I’d say it’s a good contender for a star when the Michelin Guide for Dubai is released and definitely one of the best restaurants in Dubai right now – service, food and beverages are all top notch. Don’t wait, just go!