The third chapter of Enigma at Palazzo Versace has arrived, and while I was consumed with curiosity on who the surprise celebrity chef will be this time; and on the edge of my seat in anticipated wonder on how this chapter could possibly outdo the Vanguard Chapter and Journey of A Nordic Chef chapter, Enigma pulled a white rabbit out of their hat again. What really sets this chapter apart, is that this time there is no Michelin starred chef on the table, but instead Palazzo Versace decided to recognize and promote the talent they were harboring in their house all along, and have Chef Yunus Emer Aydin lead this chapter. Chef Yunus has been the liaison between the Enigma team and the visiting teams of both the previous chefs, and has front-lined both the previous chapters.
I must confess my wee bit of disappointment when I first heard that the current menu will be a Turkish inspired one. Don’t get me wrong, but part of the excitement that resulted from from Enigma was the ability to try new cuisines and flavors that were previously alien to me. I would later discover that my disappointment was extremely misguided, because this was nothing like the traditional Turkish food us Middle Eastern denizens all know too well. The menu comprised of Turkish ingredients and flavors, but was as avant garde as Quique Dacosta’s menu, and some of the combinations of ingredients and flavor profiles were as unusual to me as the ones served by Bjorn Frantzen. You mustn’t take this chapter for granted in the least, for it is just as impressive –even more in some cases– as the previous chapters, and like all chapters at Enigma, it is only but temporary and to be changed in 3 months.
M and I decided to share one tasting menu (priced at AED 600), and we ordered a couple of extra ala carte items and desserts. We started off with two types of freshly baked Turkish breads with a fresh tomato dip. It was really hard to pace myself because freshly baked bread truly is my weakness.
In a newly revamped Enigma that looks very Ottoman this time around, we tried the Bordum Mandalinali Karides, which was a giant mandarin marinated confit Aegean shrimp served with fermented lemon cream, green apple sorbet, and a basil seed cracker. This was a chilled and very refreshing starter.
Simultaneously, we received the starter from the tasting menu that pulled all stops and sent home all the other starters in the world. This was the biggest, fattest, juiciest, most tender and most delicious octupus tentacle I’ve ever had cleverly named Ahtaboot. IT was even better than the glorious octopus at The Artisan. This bad boy Aktaboot is slow cooked at 78 degrees for a good hours, and served with avocado puree, and a citrus sauce made with finger lime and orange powder. If you’re salivating yet, we can never be friends.
Next up we tried (from the ala carte menu) some Homemade Pastrami with pear puree, eggplant pickles, spicy dip, rocket leaves and olive cheese crackers. It wasn’t the most memorable dish, and while I absolutely loved the olive-cheese crackers, they were far too crumbly to hold the weight of even half the toppings. Delicious on their own, but unfit as a base for the pastrami and condiments.
Back to the tasting menu, where the next course was a Goat Cheese and Smoked Eggplant soup. Anyone who reads my blog regularly would know by now that I loathe Goat cheese, but this soup starred two of M’s favorite ingredients, so he was a happy camper.
What I absolutely loved was the Beetroot Cous Cous, served with duck confit, fresh herbs and asparagus. A beautiful shade of magenta but just the right amount of that earthy beetroot taste, this plate of cous cous was wiped clean in no time.
While M thoroughly enjoyed the main course from the 7 Spices Lamb Neck, slow cooked for 36 hours at 68 degrees; I savored a vegetarian main course called Sebze Dolma. The later comprised of 3 kinds of mushrooms with asparagus, onions, and orange powder, served in a frothy mushroom “cappuccino” broth.
The wowing didn’t stop here though, for next came the most unique rendition of a seabass fillet. The Levrek was crusted with hazelnut meal, and served with spinach and caramelized endive. This was the most unique “breading” I’ve had on a piece of fish, and it was such an interesting flavor profile, which I couldn’t help but associate with Nutella– but in the best way possible!
For dessert we pretty much went all out and ordered 2 items in addition to the one in the tasting menu. While the dessert included in the tasting menu was clearly more crafty and intricate, I ended up liking the other two better– perhaps because I was in the mood for something chocolatey. This in no way means that the dessert in the tasting menu is poorly thought out though, because it was light and airy and quite appropriate for someone who has just eaten the full (and very filling) tasting menu.
The entire meal was extremely pleasurable, both in terms of what I ate, and also in terms of the company I had. I am yet to have a single less-than-awesome and extremely memorable experience at Palazzo Versace. It is officially my most favorite hotel and the love just continues to grow.