Note: I was invited to Marina social for a tasting. I did not pay for this experience at Marina Social, however the views and opinions within this post are entirely my own.
The biggest challenge most “fine dining” restaurants face in Dubai is repeat customers. I say “fine dining” in quote end quote because fine dining in Dubai is mostly defined by the total spend per person. More often than not, fine dining experiences are for special occasions, and with so, SO many options mushrooming everyday -and so much to try in so little time- chances of revisiting the same place are pretty bleak unless you’re super impressed. Marina Social is one “fine dining” establishment that is elegant enough to make for an ideal “special occasion” venue, yet quirky and laid back enough to drop by at after work for some (of the best) pizza– and this is probably why you’ll never hear crickets chirping there and the house will always be in full swing.
With the weather having cooled down and the demand for al fresco dining at it’s highest heights, the chances of finding an empty table on the Marina Social terrace without a prior reservations are as slim to none.
M and I recently revisited Marina Social because it is without a doubt one of our favorite restaurants in Dubai–and by that I mean in the top 3! This time around, we went for the Feed Me menu (4 courses each), and Chef Tristin once again knocked our socks off with a completely different line-up of some new additions to the menu and some old successes that we had yet to try.
I was floored the first time we went to Marina Social, floored again when I went a second time and had their pizza, salad and apple tatin; but this time I was completely blown away. It’s as if these guys just keep getting better and better– and I didn’t think it was even possible to improve on such a spectacular menu.
I recently read some research in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of Marketing Research, in which Pierre Chandon, the L’Oréal Chaired Professor of Marketing, Innovation and Creativity at INSEAD and Yann Cornil, Assistant Professor of the Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, talks about how when it comes to eating, pleasure is inversely related to size. It is at its maximum in the first few bites of the food. Each additional bite becomes then less enjoyable and it is the last bite which determines the overall impression of how much we enjoyed the food. When people choose portions based on value for money, or the fear of being hungry, they end up choosing one of today’s supersized portions which are just not that enjoyable to eat toward the end.
Here’s what we had this time around:
Chips and Dips:
Onion crackers with parmesan aioli (on the left)- loved this. Sweet potato chips with malt mayo- it baffles me how they make these chips so paper-thin and crispy.
Yellow Peach Salad with Goose Ham and Labneh. This was one of those salads that makes your eyes roll to the back of your head. It was savory and sweet but neither overly so; refreshing but not quite tart. The candied walnuts added a hidden crunch that came as the most pleasant surprise. Absolutely loved, loved, loved this salad which left nothing to be desired, except -perhaps- an encore.
Yellowfin Tuna with cucumber, avocado, radish and wasabi. The wasabi was barely detectable and although I got a whiff of lime zest, I was really looking for some tartness and acidity to cut through the richness of the tuna and avocado. I guess that because this isn’t a very unusual combination of ingredients, when I read the description in the menu, I was expecting a very usual flavor profile from this dish, and felt it lacking the umami.
Mama Mia! Parmesan foam; fresh, home-made linguine; shaved white truffle. This easily could have been the death of me and I’ll never understand how I didn’t just die and go to heaven considering how utterly complete my life was after this dish. Happy tears, sand angels, the whole nine yards.
Ricotta and Lemon tortellini in crab sauce with pine nuts, rocket, and parmesan. I remember enjoying this but also realizing how it was dwarfed by the extraordinary simplicity yet brilliance of the previous linguine.
Tiger Prawns with Pok Choy salad and chili crab dressing. This might just have been the first time I ever enjoyed a grilled Tiger Prawn. These poor babies are almost ALWAYS overcooked, but thankfully that wasn’t the case at Marina Social, where the prawns were tender and succulent. The Pok Choy salad was legitimately spicy; it’s saltiness added tons of value to the prawns, and I couldn’t get enough of it! If you get a bit of everything in each bite, you’ll have won yourself possibly one of the most harmonious bites in the culinary race.
Veal short rib with Yorkshire pudding, warm sweet corn and onions, and veal reduction gravy. The short rib just melted in our mouths.
The veal gravy was served in a crazy oversized container; very whimsical but I wasn’t surprised.
The Mr.Whoopie. Marina Social’s soft serve that kept me up many a nights. This time around, the previous Black Forest inspired soft serve was replaced with a more seasonal one. Pumpkin icecream, honeycomb, candied pumpkin seeds and white chocolate sauce. The verdict? Disappointment. It lacked gusto and whenever I heard “pumpkin”, I hear “pumpkin SPICE”. This had no spice and I felt let down.
Actual Black Forest with cherry ripple ice-cream and PLENTY of chocolate shavings. Mind blown.
Another previous favorite went through some reconstructive surgery and the Rhubarb Souffle that also kept me up many a nights now became the Banoffee pie souffle with dulce de leche and milk & chocolate ice-cream. Verdict? This was actually pretty good, especially if you’re into bananas.My favorite part (as usual) was the candied nuts.
One of the things I love about Marina Social is that the courses arrive at a leisurely pace, allowing you to truly enjoy the surroundings and the view, and get plenty of conversation in. Thank you Peter, for serving us with as much gusto and suavity as always. Thank you Chef Tristin, for continuing to knock everyone’s socks off and keep us coming back for more. Marina Social: highly recommended once and forever.