3 weeks is how long it had been since I went for a tasting with M, so I wanted for the end to this hiatus to be worth the wait. No, M wasn’t traveling; he was in Dubai – as was I- but this month has just been that crazy. Last Thursday, we got dressed up (by that I mean he wore a jacket), and paid our respects to the chilly weather with some al fresco dining at the Armani Deli which sits at the foot of Burj Khalifa.
As I walked into Armani Deli, I truly hoped that the food would be good and that this wouldn’t be a case of overcharging just for the brand name and location– luckily, I would later have my fears dispelled starting with the breadbasket itself. We were warmly welcomed by the hostess who was readily expecting us, and led across the black and white checkerboard floor to the outdoor seating on the terrace that granted us an unobstructed view of The Dubai Fountain show.
For those who may not know, The Dubai Fountain in the Burj Khalifa lake in Downtown Dubai a.k.a The Center Of Now is the largest choreographed fountain system in the world. It was designed by the same company that masterminded the fountains at Belagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas, and has become a must-visit spectacle for every single tourist that sets foot in Dubai. I’ve been living in Dubai for nearly 3 years now, and I still can’t help but stop and relish the fountain show and glittering lights on Burj Khalifa if and when I happen to be passing by at the right time.
While we went through the menu, the fountain show started so of course –like the perpetually excited Fountain groupie that I am– I had to stop everything and Snapchat it. Our very patient server–Maureen– did not show any signs of irritation. The menu was diverse but not overwhelming, with prices quite justified for the location, service and especially the execution and taste of the dishes.
The bread basket comprised of an assortment of soft fresh bread and rolls, accompanied by artichoke dip, olive oil, parmesan wedges and Kalamata olives. What’s worth mentioning here is how simple the accompaniments were, but how incredibly they shone due to the mere superiority of their quality. The olives were some of the best we’ve had of Kalamata; the parmesan was sublimely buttery, and the olive oil tasted as if it had been cold-pressed in Jordan just before being sent out to our table.
M started off with some cauliflower soup. The first thing worth mentioning is that the portion size was huge. If one is in the mood for a light meal, a helping of soup and some bread can easily suffice. Secondly, it was hearty, comforting, and downright delicious.
Meanwhile, I started off with some healthy salad of avocado, lime, spinach and grilled chicken. On the one hand, the salad packed no oomph and was nothing to write home about, but on the other hand I couldn’t stop eating it.
As soon as M and I heard there is white truffle being offered at the Armani Deli with the fresh, homemade linguine, heavy breathing ensued and we just had to order one to share. Best. Decision. Ever. The beauty of fresh, hand-rolled pasta is in it’s simplicity. 3-4 ingredients is all it takes to bring all the boys to the yard. I feel that only the worst, dry and instant pastas need to be over-droused in sauces. This little mound of love was generously topped with slivers of white truffle (an entire gram), and if this was all we had for dinner that night, we still would’ve gone home as a couple of happy campers. This was a rather expensive plate of of pasta, priced at AED 100, plus an extra AED 80 per gram of white truffle and/or AED 40 per gram of black truffle, but it was also easily the most memorable plate of pasta I’ve ever had so hey– quality over quantity, son.
For mains, M ordered a tenderloin steak that despite being done well (M was in a well-done mood– don’t ask me why but please do accept my public apology to the chef and the farmers, and the cow), was still surprisingly juicy and seared beautifully.
I wanted salmon because it came with celeriac– which I’m a sucker for– but then I saw seabass on the menu that was breaded, crusted in sun-dried tomato and then grilled. Sun-dried tomato crust! Heavy breathing? Make that hyperventilating! This was such a show-stopping entree, that words cannot do justice to it, and I’m not even going to try. The sautéed vegetables on the side complemented the tender, flakey fish beautifully and this was the most sophisticated moreish entree I’ve had in a long time. This is a piece of fish everyone should try in their lives.
Dessert was -sadly- forgettable, but the tea (Weekend in Venice by TWG) was sheer bliss. We walked to the dessert display in the restaurant to pick out what we’d like, and -frankly- I was more excited by the array of fresh breads and pasta on display despite being full and well-fed. We had a white chocolate cheesecake, and a chocolate pear mousse thingie. M liked the former better, I liked the latter better, and I guess it all just boils down to a matter of preference because it was literally white vs black.
Our meal at Armani Deli reminded me of an article I read recently on the premium a gastronomist is willing to pay for smaller, more satisfying portions of beautifully presented food, as opposed to large diner-sized helpings of mediocre food that’s intended more for feeding the stomach than the soul. If you’re int he mood for a semi-casual date night that is bound to impress but won’t entirely break the bank, Armani Deli is highly recommended and will not disappoint.