Last Sunday my friends and I wanted to go out to town (and basically paint it red). We dug out out little black books, made a few calls, and Good Guy Asia Asia welcomed us with open arms, despite a very short notice of only an hour till our ETA. I was ridiculously excited, because not only had I been aching to try Asia Asia (thanks to all the rave reviews of their Friday Brunch), but I couldn’t think of a better crowd to visit such an allegedly hip place than with TableNo.7, Atozaatar, TheEmireati.
We paraded in to Asia Asia feeling like the baddest food bloggers in town, because we were at the arm of Zoe Bowker, who is a VERY big deal. A local food (blogger) celebrity, if you may. It’s common sight to see her chilling with the World’s 50 Best chefs like it’s no big deal, and she’s on the judging panel for Esquire Middle East’s 50 Best Restaurants, so just dining on the same table as her is quite the honor.
The first thing I had to do as soon as I walked in was give my eyes some time to adjust, as the restaurant is very, very dimly lit. If you’re worried about that fresh zit, or having forgotten to wear the second earring or not having enough time to do your make-up, fear not, because no one will be able to see you anyway.
Atozaatar and TheEmireati ordered the tasting menu. You can read about their experiences here and here.
Tablenumber7 and I shared an assortment of dishes. Here’s how they fared:
Tuna Tataki marinated in sweet ginger soy, served with shaved asparagus and celery “chimichurri” , crispy terragon and honey pear sorbet. As elaborate as the description was, was just how underwhelming flavors were. There was nothing chimichurri about the unseasoned celery and raw asparagus, and the pear “sorbet” tasted like store-bought flavored yogurt. I never thought I’d meet a plate of tuna tataki that I wouldn’t love, and then I met this.
Luckily, the unfathomably disappointing tuna tataki was followed by this basket of sweet potato dim sum, one of the best things we had that night. The random sprinkling of pomegranate arils was quite misleading though, as I was expecting to find some in the dim sum.
Crispy-fried eel, another favorite from the night.
The oddest “Pecking” duck ever. Ladies and gentlemen, this was….deep fried. I’ll just leave it at that.
Crispy duck rolls: SO SO good! If I had to go back to Asia Asia, I’d order these for sure.
The sweet potato chunks (I forget what they were exactly called), were another favorite. This was a case of “mmm so good, I want to eat more, but I can’t because it feels so heavy”. I loved they were first baked, then battered in potato starch and then fried to a crispy-ish exterior, and the creamily soft interior, and the hint of truffle oil.
Easily my favorite thing that night: The beans. This was the only thing I had that didn’t make me feel like it could have used more seasoning or more texture or more acidity.
And then we had these. The “beef” gyoza. I was expecting luscious, slow-cooked, pulled-apart, flavorful, juicy beef. Instead, we found a completely under-seasoned kofta/kebab (!) inside the wrapper. It was so bad that one of my friends couldn’t even tell if it’s beef or lamb. even the shaved black truffle on top could not salvage this train-wreck of a dish. I also had (and hated) the Chicken Chili Har Gao, which was again made with chicken mince rather than finely hand-chopped chicken breasts (or even thighs), and terribly under-seasoned. I would suggest a serious reevaluation of the chef and his understanding of Asian food.
The controversial dessert. Azuki ice-cream. Everyone hated it. I loved it.
Other questions that come to mind include “why was there escargot on a Pan-Asian menu”, and “why was said escargot rested on mounds of salt?” I guess I’ll never know. I can’t help but feel that Asia Asia isn’t for serious foodies and is serving up a pop version of Pan-Asian food.
Whenever I dine at a high-end restaurant, I am more critical of the food and overall experience because if one is to pay premium, one should expect premium, in either the execution and delivery of the food, or the overall experience, and preferably both. The bill for the 4 of us amounted to AED 3070, which is not a cheap meal. This meal was comped for us by the PR, but unfortunately even then I wondered if the calories I consumed were worth it or not. Sadly, in more cases than not, the answer was no. Would I be recommending Asia Asia to any of my friends? Highly unlikely. I wonder if their brunch is still as good as everyone claims for it to be, and I wonder if perhaps dining out on the balcony of the top floor of Pier 7 perhaps adds to the overall experience and makes the brunch more enjoyable?
Do let me know if you’ve tried Asia Asia, and what you thought of it.