Palazzo Versace is one of my most favorite hotels. I’m sure I’ve said it before but a little reiteration never hurt anyone. It’s classy, elegant, and extravagant. Sometimes, you
want need that in your life. You want to celebrate a special occasion or get dressed up for a romantic date night. The Neoclassical opulence with Arabian accents, Pietra di Fiume driveway, high ceilings, breathtaking mosaic floor, and Greek Medusa style decor of Italian furniture immediately welcome you to an experience that will leave you feeling royally spoilt. Don’t even get me started on how royal the service is, let’s just say the Burj Al Arab is overrated.
Last Friday, the Mr. and I were in the mood for a romantic, sophisticated lunch, ergo Vanitas- which has been on my radar for a while- finally got ticked off my restaurant bucket list, and left a lasting impression.
I must admit that I was initially met with almost instant disappointment, as I was warmly welcomed but shown to a table very different from what I had imagined. Instead of the formal and iconic Versace china clad mise en place, and before sat a bare paper placemat on a table devoid of a tablecloth. I was assured, that this is not the norm, but only because Vanitas (which is normally a romantic fine dining venue), is serving breakfast and lunch to the hotel guests in place of Giardino, which is under renovation. I decided it’s not so bad, because it was a beautiful day and the restaurant looked lovely regardless; and quite frankly, the service is always so incredibly warm at Palazzo Versace, that it more than compensated for this slight let down.
We started off with a couple of mocktails. Here’s something you need to know, and I base this conclusion on my experience in 3 different restaurants at Palazzo: their bartenders know what they’re doing. I always tell them what I’m in the mood for; something refreshing, sour but not so much, sweet but not overpoweringly so, berries-always; and the bartender ALWAYS delivers. Satisfaction is always guaranteed.
We started off with a crispbread, chickpea paste and zucchini paste amuse bouche. You might think that chickpea paste would be hommus, but you would be wrong. Both of these pastes were so sparingly seasoned, but still so flavorful. You could distictly taste the magnificent freshness of the main ingredients as they weren’t being masked by anything. That said, they were far from bland or tasteless. I guess it was a very fine line that the chef had to find, and he did.
Next up, we took our server’s suggestion and shared a Minestrone soup. That’s another great thing about Vanitas; M and I wanted to share all the dishes, so the chef plated them separately in half portions, so that we could still enjoy them being presented beautifully. This wasn’t some special exception made for me, but in fact something the chef is happy to do anytime two people want to share a dish. Anyway, this Minestrone was simply fantastic. With fresh ricotta pasta and spring vegetables, and a subtle but pleasant hint of basil in the broth, this was the perfect warm soup for summer.
As soon as I read “hand-cut tuna”, of course I had to order it. The tuna was done three ways: hand chopped tuna tartare and avocado in a shallot boat, tuna carpaccio roll, and a tuna tataki base, all rested on a smear of carotin butter and adorned with avocado cubes and avocado puree. This was a sophisticated and delicious work of food art.
The Parmesan tortellini with green asparagus cream, sautéed asparagus and truffle pictured below was hands down the BEST tortellini we’ve ever had. The dough was perfectly al dente, the filling was flavorful and the sauce was rich and indulgent. Stellar dish.
The next dish was a surprise from the chef and isn’t even going to be on the menu till September. It’s made with gnocchi dough, and stuffed with Pecorino Romano and peppers, and nestled in artichoke puree. It tasted every bit as comforting as it sounds.
The Glacier 51 Cortoccio was the most interesting dish I’ve eaten in a long time. So interesting- in fact- that it could easily belong on a menu in Enigma. The black “spaghetti” was but faux spaghetti, made with egg, fish blend, black olives, squid ink, and cream; it has no flour, and is just blanched in boiling water just before serving. This was rested a top Cuttle fish carpaccio and Cuttle fish Cartoccio, potato fish cake in putanesca sauce, and was a delicious entree with a colorful melange of subtle flavors.
You all know what a sweet tooth I have (and that day, so did M), so we threw caution to the wind and dove into not one, but THREE desserts. First off, we had to try the famed, almost iconic Vanitas Affogato. It was everything I had imagined for it to be, and more. The chocolate ball that enclosed the vanilla ice-cream was rich and creamy. The espresso poured over was perfectly brewed, and the few torn pieces of sponge cake soaked up the mixture of coffee, ice-cream and chocolate beautifully. This was the most breathtaking Affogato we have ever had.
We obviously couldn’t go to an Italian restaurant and not try out the tiramisu, and again, this was the BEST tiramisu, EVER. The layers on layers of sweet and bitter and bittersweet was- for lack of a better word- pure umami. This was so, so, so, SO good.
I’m not at all a coffee person though, and I was in no way expecting for the previous two desserts to be as mind blowing as they proved to be, so I had presumptuously requested the pistachio cherry mousse bar for myself. After already having ordered all three desserts and trying the other two first, I was expecting the pistachio cherry mousse bar to be dwarfed in comparison, but this was another stellar dessert. It sat on a pedestal of it’s own, on the extreme opposite end of the dessert spectrum in terms of flavor, but it was exactly what the name promised it to be.
Overall, it was an extremely enjoyable meal. Andre Gaia, the Chef de Cuisine embraces traditional Italian flavors with both traditional and modern cooking techniques to serve beautifully plated, delectable food that you’ll be honored to get to try.
I’ve dined at three different restaurants in Palazzo Versace by now, and all of them have always delivered a supremely satisfying experience with unwaveringly attentive service. This is the most luxurious hotel in Dubai, no drama. Thank you for your consistent hospitality.
You can make a reservation at Vanitas on 04 5568820