Nov 23, 2013

A year round treat everyone will love, Chocolate Honey Almond Tart

I first made this quick and easy dessert over the summer when I was throwing an impromptu tea party.  Not much of a baker, I found inspiration through one of Giada De Laurentiis's recipes on line.  I modified it to my personal taste and style, and  figured this would be easy enough to execute, but would surely please any palate.  Since then I have had many requests for this delicious dessert, and genuinely enjoy making it for friends, family, and loved ones. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature, plus extra for coating the pan 
1 packet McVitie's Ginger Nut Biscuits, 8 ounces-ounces total
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup orange blossom honey
340 grams of Lindt 70 % Dark Chocolate (melted slightly in a double boiler)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
Place the McVitie's Ginger Nut Biscuits and almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture forms fine crumbs, about 15 to 20 seconds. Add the butter and pulse until incorporated. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan, whisk the cream and honey together over low heat until the honey has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to just below a boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the mixture is smooth. Pour the chocolate filling over the prepared crust. Sprinkle the salted almond croquant (recipe below) around the edges.
Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or preferably overnight.

Loosen the tart from the sides of the pan by running a thin metal spatula around the edge. Unmold the tart and transfer to a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve.

Salted Almond Croquant

1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted, and crushed slightly
1/4 cup of sugar  
1 tbsp water
Line a cookie sheet with a layer of parchment paper.
Pour the sugar and water into a saucepan and set over a medium heat. Swirl the pan from time to time until the sugar dissolves, but don’t be tempted to use a utensil to stir the liquid as this can cause it to crystallize.
Reduce the heat to very low and simmer gently until the liquid forms a pale golden caramel.
Tip in the toasted almonds and cook gently for 2-3 minutes until the caramel is a rich golden color (be careful not to let the caramel turn too dark because it will taste bitter) then immediately pour onto the parchment paper and sprinkle with a pinch or two of sea salt.  Set aside to cool.
When the almond croquant is cool and hard, place it into a plastic food bag and bash with a rolling pin until you get a rough brittle

"Peruvian Alta" cuisine presented at The Act Dubai

The Act Dubai is one of a kind venue featuring eclectic decor, an animated staff, and some of the most unusual performances I've ever seen.  I wasn't really sure about what to expect in terms of the quality of the cuisine at this supper club style concept, since the focus is usually more on the entertainment than the food.  The Act Dubai serves up a "Peruvian Alta" menu created by Chef Roberto Segura Gonzales.  He describes this as contemporary Peruvian.   Having a long standing flare for the culinary arts, Chef Roberto's passion "grew from his soul" at a young age and evolved throughout the years.  He now brings to Dubai a cuisine from his native country with a modern spin to captivate the diverse palates of the region.
On the menu one will find the items categorized from ceviche, tiradito, ensaladas (salads), enrollados (rolled items), de las calles a la mesa (street food), del fogon (from the fire/stove), and accompanamientos (sides).  The extensive variety made it difficult to decide, but nonetheless we narrowed down our choices based on some suggestions and flavor combinations that sounded the most appealing.  To begin with we enjoyed this Pulpo al Olivo, octopus with olive sauce, rocoto sauce, togarashi, herbs and olive oil.  Clearly inspired by the Japanese influence in Lima, this dish captured the best of both worlds.  The olive sauce with its sharp, salty, semi-bitter taste contrasted beautifully against the sweet octopus and spicy rocoto sauce. The presentation alone was a work of art, presented on the long black stone platter with edible petals, herbs, and a balance of gorgeous colors, this was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. 
Considered the national dish of Peru, ceviche was next on the menu.  This one in particular was made with salmon, coconut, Peruvian mango, and the famous aji limo chilli (a super hot chilli from Peru).  Plated in a gorgeous antique style vessel, the ceviche was fresh, clean, and sweet.  I enjoyed the quality of ingredients used here, but would really have liked a touch more coconut and chilli to enhance the ceviche eating experience.  The Leche de Tigre floating on the bottom of the plate was a sign that the ceviche had been marinating for just long enough.  This liquid contains the run off  of fish juices, lime, onion, chillies, salt, and pepper and is considered a hangover cure as well as an aphrodisiac in Peru.
Highly recommended by our waitress were the camarones con maracuya, a signature dish at The Act listed under the "Street Food" category.  Coated in red quinoa, deep fried and served with a passion fruit and rocoto reduction, no wonder this item was a favorite amongst guests and staff.  The crunch of the quinoa along with fresh avocado puree and a touch of the sweet and tangy sauce resulted as crowd pleasing dish. The sauce, although on the sweeter side for my liking could have used a bit more heat.  The flavor of the prawns was subtle, but the accompaniments and final execution brought everything together.  This dish was served as a main course, but it could've been enjoyed as a starter to whet the appetite and to prepare the palate for the authentic flavors of this Peruvian style feast.
Another main that came as a suggestion by the staff was the arroz con pato, a refined take on a classic dish.  The confit and roasted duck with coriander wet rice and a reduction of nectarine and orange played on a variety of flavors, texture, and colors.   The final dish pictured below was playful and appetizing,  although the duck was slightly overcooked and dry, this dish had the potential to be so much more.  I could imagine the beautifully roasted fatty duck breast, seasoned tendrils of rice and sweet citrus sauce all harmonizing  together in the perfect bite. 
For dessert we had just a few to choose, but the suspiro stood out as one of the more enticing options.  The caramel ice cream with coffee sponge and mixed berries is another interpretation of an old Peruvian sweet called the Suspiro de Limena translating to, "a Limean woman's sigh".  It couldn't have been more accurate, because upon first bite, this unassuming little scoop of ice cream took my breath away. The cool caramel against the warmth of the coffee sponge and the nutty cocoa powder all played into each other magically.  Simple in execution, it was the perfect way to end this meal against the back drop of the unusual performances at The Act.
Overall an evening spent at The Act will be filled with fun surprises every hour, whether it's the bouncing seven foot tall rabbit man creeping up behind or the gravity defying acrobats that swirl around the stage. Let's not forget the Peruvian treats prepared at the hands of Chef Roberto who has redefined South American cuisine for the Dubai market.  The quality of the food in this atmosphere is above standard and has changed my perception of dinner theater with a menu that is worth a try.

The Act is open every Sunday and Thursday from 9pm-3 am.  Make sure you call ahead for reservations to this unique dining and entertainment experience!

Nov 17, 2013

Wonders of the Tuscan Grill at Center Cut Steak House Ritz Carlton DIFC

Last week I had the unique opportunity to attend a gourmet masterclass and dinner with a couple of seasoned food industry professionals at the Center Cut Steak House in the Ritz Carlton DIFC during the 5th Italian Cuisine World Summit 2013.  Chef Cesare Casella and master butcher Simone Fracassi delighted us with their passion and knowledge of all things Italian plus an evening dedicated to the craft of selecting, preparing, and savoring the finest cuts of meat.  

Chef Cesare owner and executive chef of Salumeria Rosi restaurant in NYC, famous for his pocket full of Rosemary, created a special 5 course meal reflecting his authentic Italian style of cooking paired with the highly coveted and in-season Italian white truffles.  Master butcher Simone Fracassi educated the group of culinary enthusiasts with an introduction to the Italian art of butchery and his precise methods of grilling meats from his native Tuscany.
 The first menu item for the evening was the Scottiglia in Bianco con Tartufo, a marinated vegetable salad, slivers of tender cooked beef, and truffles.  The delicate tendrils of fennel, carrot, and mixed greens paired with the thinly sliced cuts of beef was refreshing to the palate.  With the excellent quality of olive oil coating  each ingredient along with a sprinkling of sea salt and shaved truffle, it's a dish which makes you appreciate the simple things in life.  With just a few key ingredients (and of course truffle), we were enjoying an uber elegant salad, the perfect way to begin a meal.
Since the menu was themed around top-grade meat and proteins, it made sense that the next course was a beautifully executed Battuta al Coltello con Procini e Tartufo, also known as Steak tartar.  The Beef was tenderized by hand using a rustic technique of being "beaten with a knife".  Served with shaved truffle, Parmesan Cheese, sea salt, and rocket, this dish allowed the meat the shine.  The silky smooth yet firm texture of this fresh red meat melted in my mouth in all the right ways.  Coated in the extra virgin olive oil and served along side the toasted Tuscan bread,a perfect bite allowed each ingredient to distinctly stand out against the next. 

The small little mound you see on the left hand corner of the photo was made on special request by the master butcher, Simone Fracassi.  He wanted people to fully understand the quality of meat being consumed, so to humor him Chef Cesare prepared a small taster portion of the meat with just a dash of sea salt and a touch of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Course number three as you can see captures a dish described as the ultimate comfort food not just in Italian culture, but all around the world, Lasagna!  This particular form takes it to the next level when prepared with a white sauce including mince meat and truffle.  Rich, hearty, and absolutely divine are the only ways to describe a well done lasagna.  Since I have not indulged in this quintessential Italian treat in so long, it makes me happy to think I waited for just the right one to come along, it was love at first bite! The savory warm flavors of the creamy sauce along with the freshly made pasta rounds and the incredibly well seasoned beef mince proved to be a winning combination. I only wish Chef Cesare could stay in Dubai longer for me to go back fro seconds of this one dish alone.  I guess next time I have a craving, I will be booking myself on a plane to visit the chef at one of his 2 restaurants in NYC, Salumeria Rosi (He also has one in Paris and in Parma)
The last of the main courses to arrive was one for the books, in Italian simply called Il Ricco e Il Povero (The Rich and The Poor).  On one side of the dish we have the meticulously cooked medium-rare Fiorentina style steak with sea salt and zolfini beans (considered one of the most precious Tuscan legumes) representing the "rich" alongside that was the braised Fiorentina-style beef with mashed potatoes representing the "poor".  Having tasted various forms and cuts of delicious meat on this particular evening, sometimes it just comes down to a nicely cooked piece of steak that take that experience one step closer to gastronomical bliss. The execution of this final plate was not only creative, but demonstrated the all around skills of this culinary master at work. A successful dish and evening with the finest examples of the Tuscan grill.
 No meal would be complete without a little Dolce.  Because the trademark of Chef Cesare is the rosemary I was expecting more of it throughout the meal, low and behold it came through in the final course, dessert. This was one of the most unusual flavor combinations I've ever tried, the Semirfreddo di Pinoli e Rosmarino, (caramelized pine nut and rosemary semifreddo, with honey glazed figs).  Although I was incredibly full at this point, I did make the effort to taste this unique sweet.  The crunch of the pine nuts encased in the creamy rosemary scented frozen custard along with the sweet wholesome figs were a treat for the heart and soul.  Tapping into my taste buds in the most unusual way, this was a dessert I won't soon forget. 
The entire evening from beginning to end was second to none.  The impeccable Ritz Carlton hospitality and the one of a kind experience by these Italian culinary masters left me wanting more and more. I am grateful to have been a part of it, and only hope these photos and post do this meal justice.  I look forward to returning to Center Cut Steak House for a taste of the regular menu as well, but these memories will last me a lifetime.

Oct 24, 2013

Jumbo Lump Crab with Meyer Lemon Pasta

 Serves 4
  • 1lb. Fresh Spaghetti (or 1 box of dried spaghetti-cooked according to the packet directions)
  • 2 lb fresh lump crab meat, picked over for shells and pieces
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 large shallots, chopped fine
  • 3 sticks cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup meyer lemon juice
  • salt, pepper
  • parsley
Begin by cooking pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions.  Drain pasta, and reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water.  Set pasta aside.

To make the sauce first sautee the shallots in 1-2 TBL of olive oil in a medium-large saucepan.  Now add the wine and vinegar .  Boil until the liquid reduces to half the amount.  Reduce heat and begin to add the cold butter one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously, until all of the butter is incorporated.  Turn the heat off and add chives, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt (a generous amount of salt) and pepper.  Mix in most of the crab meat, reserving about 1/2 cup to top pasta with. 

Pour the sauce in a large saute pan and add the pasta.  Heat through and add the cooking water from the pasta a tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce, if needed.  Check for seasoning and adjust as needed.  Plate the pasta and top with the reserved crab meat, fresh parsley and lemon zest.  Serve immediately.

An unexpected Japanese gem at the top of the Radisson Royal

Despite the hustle and bustle below on the central artery of Dubai (Sheikh Zayed Road), it felt like we were sitting on top of the world at this sky high restaurant destination. Located on the 49th floor of the Radisson Royal is an elegant Far Eastern experience brought to you by a culinary master.  Executive Chef Song is Korean by ethnicity, but trained in Japan where he honed his skills in the art of Japanese style of cooking.  With meticulous precision and a highly developed palate, this chef pushed the limits with  just about everything you could imagine. 

After perusing the menu, I noted some items I thought would really put chef Song's skills to the test.  The first item, described as a Foie Gras with black truffle/leek, asparagus, orange and *Zzuma dressing sounded intriguing.  With the exception of a hand full of modern Japanese restaurants (including Zuma in Dubai) most of the foie gras dishes I've enjoyed are at French style eateries.  I thought it would be especially interesting to see this particular execution with the listed combination of eclectic ingredients.

*later we came to find out "Zzuma" dressing was a traditional Japanese Teriyaki sauce with added sugar, that has been caramelized.  
 Arriving at the table with a small glass covering, our inventive appetizer was "smoked" for an added effect and aroma.  I find the smoke more of an aesthetic element which adds the wow factor upon presentation.  It doesn't actually contribute to the over all taste of the dish, but makes for more of a sensory experience. However, this dish didn't need much in terms of tricks since the quality of the ingredients and execution spoke for itself.

The perfectly seared medallion of luxurious foie gras, coated in the ever so sweetly caramelized teriyaki sauce, with the delicate burnt orange segments and asparagus spears all came together harmoniously.  The final touch of the leeks and pink peppercorns on top added the freshness and a slight kick to balance out the dish.  Not only was this extremely satisfying to my palate, but a visual masterpiece by Chef Song.
The next items to arrive at the table were a selection of Maki rolls plus a sweet soy and seafood consomme. The maki were rolled and presented creatively on the plate along with the appropriate garnish.  Fresh and balanced with the soft well seasoned rice, nori, and seafood accompaniments, they all possessed their own unique profiles and represent authentic Japanese with honor.  The seafood consomme was subtle in flavor and might have been better served first, before the meal.  The fragrant broth with hints of ginger and soy were a magical combination, but after the powerful foie gras and flavorful variety of maki, it couldn't hold up at against the rest of the items on the table.   
Our next course was ordered reluctantly from my side, having seen this item featured and reformatted across the UAE (similar to the Miso Cod trend), people have rarely done it the right way.  And even though the mention of "wasabi prawns" tends to make me cringe, my guest insisted on an order of these.  Dramatics aside, when this dish arrived the table I was completely blown away!  The little crunchy prawn nuggets on top of the velvety (perfectly balanced) wasabi mayo was truly an unexpected treat.  Topped with fresh daikon tendrils and a chiffonade of seaweed, Chef Song thought of everything and has created something very unique with a dish I had completely written off.  The perfectly crisp texture of the tempura batter was just the right amount of coating for the sweet prawns cuddling inside.  What really stood out was the play on textures and flavors here, and although the wasabi was present, it was not overwhelming. 
For the main course we decided on the wagyu beef with a miso leek sauce, which came highly recommended by the staff.  What I found particularly interesting is that the staff did not ask a temperature for the meat, and in my eyes, that is breaking one of the cardinal rules in order taking etiquette.  UNLESS of course, the chef prepares it based on his recommendation, which was exactly the case here. Presented in what looked like a dried tobacco leaf, the wagyu tenderloin was cooked to a perfect medium. The savory and tender chunks of seared red meat paired with the sweet and salty miso leek was a heavenly combination, and an experience I look forward to going back for.
 The culinary team and front of house staff at The Radisson Royal hotel are top notch.  The restaurant not only specializes in sushi but they have an entire floor dedicated to Tepanyaki style of live cooking as well. Spanning over 3 floors, ICHO is not a small operation.  The price points are on par with other similar eateries in town, so you must prepare yourself for a higher end experience if dining in this elegant venue with a view.  Because it's still new on the culinary scene of Dubai, it will take some time for them to gain the recognition they deserve.  I highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a modern Japanese experience that "thinks outside the box" with creative culinary skills when it comes to execution and plating.

For more information on ICHO check out the Radisson Royal website:

Oct 21, 2013

A French Inspired Tarte Flambee done Saba Style

  • 1/2 cup Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 2 TBL whipped Egg
  • 1.5 Tablespoons Cold Water
  • 1 teaspoon White Vinegar
  • 1/3 teaspoon Salt


In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 1.5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Form a ball out of the dough and place the dough into a large Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten the ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bag and place it in the freezer until you need it. (If you will be using it immediately it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.

Preheat the oven to 218 C (or 425 F)  

When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll the dough, starting at the center and working your way out. (Sprinkle some flour over top of the dough if it’s a bit too moist.) If the dough is sticking to the countertop use a metal spatula and carefully scrape it up and flip it over and continue rolling until it’s about the diameter of your  pan.

With a spatula, lift the dough carefully from the surface of the counter into the pan. Gently press the dough against the corner of the pan. Go around the pan spreading the dough to make a clean edge.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper, brush with an egg wash and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack.  

Once the tart has cooled layer the *toppings and cover the entire base if the tart starting with the caramelized onions, then the zaatar roasted tomatoes, evenly spaced dollops of creme fraiche, and chopped fresh parsley. 

  • Carmelized Onions
  • Zaatar Roasted Tomatoes
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Fresh Chopped Parsely  
Zaatar Roasted Tomato
1-2 tomatoes cut into 4 even slices
1-2 TBL Olive Oil
1-2 TBL Zaatar
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. 

Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and pepper.  Lastly add a generous amount of zaatar to each.  Place in the oven and roast for 10-15 minutes. 

Caramelized Onions

1 Whole Onion (Brown)
1 TBL Butter


1 tsp Brown Sugar

Pinch of salt 

In a Medium sauce pan at a medium high temperature melt the butter, now add the EVOO and then the onions.  Cook for 1-2 minutes at this temperature, and add the brown sugar and a pinch of salt.  Reduce the heat and cook for about 20-30 minutes at a low temperature stirring frequently.  The onions will turn slightly brown and caramelize.

Sep 5, 2013

Refined Chinese at Hong Loong, Sofitel The Palm

Chinese food was always on the top of my list as a young foodie growing up in suburban Massachusetts.  It is universally appreciated by all generations of my family, so we call it the "go to" cuisine of choice.  Mind you my palate has developed quite a bit since those days as I began to explore other Asian delicacies.  Since moving to Dubai around 3 years ago, Chinese food really began to fall off the radar as an option because there really weren't many quality restaurants of this type in town.....until now!

When I first learned about Hong Loong (translation: Red Dragon) restaurant at the new Sofitel on The Palm, I was intrigued.  This hotel brand is synonymous for quality and is heavily driven by their F&B outlets.  Having already experienced modern French at Studio Du Chefs, it was evident they paid immense attention to detail, so I had a feeling the Chinese concept was going to deliver in all respects.  

At the entrance we were greeted by the Happy Buddha statue, that gave me a feeling of warmth and excitement. We then proceeded to the hostess, who walked us into the restaurant, which was quiet on this particular evening.  Due to it's soft opening phase the hotel has been slowly working at promoting their F&B concepts, and have said they want everything to be perfect before they have their official launch of the hotel in November2013. 
The very talented Malaysian chef Eddie came out to greet us, and gave some of his recommendations for the evening. He briefly informed us about his training and explained that after many years in the industry he had mastered the art of Cantonese fare, particularly perfecting his craft at Zheng He  in Madinat Jumeirah. We didn't waste much time to order and decided to go with a variety of tasting size portions to maximize on this authentic Asian experience.  

First to arrive at the table was this simple amuse bouche, a fried lychee topped with sweet prawn. I am fond of lychee but have only enjoyed them in dessert or drink form.  It was unusual to see it in a savory dish, and deep fried on top of it.  Texturally it worked and paired beautifully with the sweet prawn.  The light touch of spicy honey and coriander brightened it up even further and prepared our palates for the delightful meal to come.
Next up was a medley of dim sum,  we ordered a selection of the most popular items from the menu. Served with three different sauces, a light soy, vinegar & ginger, plus chili, we were spoiled for choice on where to begin with these little dumplings. I started with the prawns with black truffle, my favorite of the four, then came the crispy taro root with shredded duck, which still lingers in my mind. The last two were the XO beef and chicken with quail egg, in both cases the meat was over powered by the sauce and other ingredients. I wasn't crazy about either of these two, but the with a little more work and experimenting in the kitchen, no doubt they have the potential to come together. 
This seafood broth with crab and enoki mushrooms came highly recommended by Chef Eddie. He informed me the broth takes nine hours to develop and consists of everything from lobster claws to prawn tails and crab shells. The rich taste had so much depth and with a velvety smooth texture, it was a great example of the chefs skill set coming into play. Not to mention his quirky creativity when it came to plating this exquisite soup which floated on a cloud of dry ice to the table.
From the next course, the item that really stood out to me was the Mantis shrimp with a garlic and spicy chili sauce, a pop of flavor and the most unexpected tender texture.  This particular crustacean is consumed in select parts of the world including Japan, Vietnam, China (Cantonese cuisine in particular where it's called *"pissing-shrimp"), the Mediterranean, Philippines, and Hawaii.  These interesting looking sea creatures are a unique breed.  A cross between shrimp and lobster the cooked flesh of this shellfish is oh so delicate and delicious! Paired with this deep fried bun, this was a melt in your mouth dish reminiscent of the famous Singaporean Chili Crab.

* apparently the shrimp shoots a jet of water when it's picked up emulating the act of urination.
Our main course consisted of a couple of signatures including the black bean shrimp.  One of the most popular styles of Chinese food preparation is using Douchi, this fermented, salted, soybean sauce.  Commonly paired with seafood and vegetables this flavorful ingredient is sharp, but with bitter and sweet undertones. The jumbo shrimp coated in the delectable sauce was cooked well and this dish allowed both of these key ingredients to compliment one another.
However, the star of the evening was the black pepper beef, another quintessential Chinese favorite.  Marinated for over 12 hours and cooked to a perfect medium temperature this tenderloin was just heavenly.  The cubes of beef were tossed in the pungent pepper sauce and wok seared which allowed the beef to be slightly charred on the outside yet remain with a pretty pink center, which I rather enjoyed, but also came as a surprise (Perhaps in the future, the waitstaff could communicate this point to the patrons to avoid any complications).  Plated carefully on this long oval platter with the delicate green tendrils, crispy garlic chips, and a drizzle of herb oil, chef Eddie had thought every detail through.
 The last part of the meal was of course dessert, and from this evening's dining experiences so far, I was too full to be able to enjoy dessert wholeheartedly.  However, my guest did catch a glimpse of something which he enthusiastically planned his evening around, the mango mousse with champagne jelly, pomelo, coconut cream, and sago pearls.  Consisting of all his favorite items, this bowl of sweetness really hit the exotic dessert spot for him.  I enjoyed the medley of flavors and appreciated the creativity, but it didn't really do it for me. When it comes to Asian food, I always prefer the savory over the sweet.
Hong Loong over all was a treat! I really had no idea what to expect walking into this chic new Chinese restaurant on The Palm, but what a pleasant surprise indeed. The staff genuinely take pride in their work and represent the establishment with flying colors.  Chef Eddie in particular not only understands the importance of modern technique paired with traditional flavors, but he also takes into consideration the presentation which essentially completes the dish.

Hong Loong is a newcomer to the Dubai culinary scene, but it will quickly make its mark amongst the classics very soon.  The over all quality is top notch with a divers menu and appropriate price points for an establishment of this caliber.  This restaurant has a lot to offer, so whether you are staying at the hotel or making a special trip out to this part of town, you won't be disappointed with your dining experience here.  

Aug 30, 2013

The Catch of the Day at Radisson Blu's Fish Market

Upon arrival at the Fish Market restaurant in the Radisson Blu hotel Deira Dubai Creekside, we were unexpectedly surprised by our warm welcome.  The restaurant itself is reminiscent of classic "old" resort restaurants with it's thatched roof accents and the bamboo clad walls.  We were seated at table overlooking Baniyas street and the creek on a regular mid-week evening.  There were a few tables scattered about, but through out the evening there was a steady flow of traffic into this established Deira seafood venue. 

My guests and I were eager to get started, and the first experience about this restaurant that set it apart from other places is the fact that they have no dinner menus.  The concept revolves around the fresh selection of fish on display in the ice along the one side of the dining room.  Directly behind the fresh seafood spread are large tanks with the live lobsters featured as the chefs special for the evening, which was clearly written on the specials board. 

Our helpful waitress pointed out some of the house specialties consisting of tiger prawns, king crab, local fish known as Halwa, and the live lobster of course! There were a couple of signature sauces such as  garlic butter, black been, Singaporean style, Thai red curry, and chili paste served with each of the items so we asked for a selection of the items to be grilled and served with the sauces on the side and some to be prepared as per the chefs recommendation.

The first item to arrive were the grilled tiger prawns which we paired with the garlic butter. The natural sweetness of the crustacean with a squeeze of lemon was to my liking, so I kept it simple with this starter.  On the flip side, we also had the Singaporean style sauteed king crab legs, which were very well prepared coated in a spicy, sweet, and tangy sauce. This was literally finger licking good, as we dug into this dish with our bare hands and some essential tools. 
For the mains we enjoyed the items which came highly recommended by our waitress as well as some of the other service staff.  The local Halwa fish was cooked in a Thai red curry sauce and the live lobster was prepared with a chili paste and heaps of onions and greens.  Both of these dishes were full of flavor and done with an authentic flair that clearly demonstrates the skill of the kitchen staff.  They excel in developing these Asian style flavors and my favorite item of the evening was the lobster dish, succulent and savory all in one, it highlighted all the right flavors and textures. 
Everything was served table side by the professional well-trained staff.  They were clearly veterans at this restaurant and had a good handle on how to take orders and serve their guests with ease and efficiency.  With a sense of humor and warm smiles, every moment was anticipated which made this a memorable dinner experience. 

Aug 28, 2013

Chickpea Fries with a Kick

  • 2½ – 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (I used Ancho)
  • 1½ tbs olive oil (plus more for baking) or canola oil for frying
  • 1½ cups chickpea flour
  1. Combine water, spices, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Gradually pour in the chickpea flour, ½ cup at a time, whisking constantly making sure to remove all lumps. Once all the flour is in, whisk rapidly until the mixture is thick and most of the lumps have been worked out, like a thick pancake batter, about 1 minute. Take care to adjust the heat so the batter doesn't boil or it will become too thick.
  3. Remove from heat and spoon into a parchment lined sheet pan, making sure to level.
  4. Place sheet pan in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  5. Once firm, slice into desired french fry shape.
  6. For crispy fries: Add canola or olive oil to a heavy bottom pan,bring to medium-high temperature (370°F ) Cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted utensil to a paper towel lined plate and season immediately with salt.
  7. Alternatively: grease the bottom of a cookie sheet with olive oil and bake the chickpea fries at 375°F for 10 minutes. Turn over, and bake for at least 5 minutes more or until golden brown.  
  8. Serve as a side or snack with your favorite dipping sauce, I served mine with honey chipotle and a lime wedge!

Aug 25, 2013

Studio Du Chefs Serves Up Modern French on The Palm

It's safe to say Dubai has become a culinary and tourism destination for the GCC , South Asian-subcontinent, and beyond.  When I heard about the opening of the new Sofitel Hotel, I was all ears, because I knew a brand of such caliber would have to deliver some good quality food.  After taking a tour of the property and understanding the ethos of the establishment, it was evident that F&B was a focal point for this hotel resort on The Palm.  From modern French cuisine to classic Chinese, they had tapped into a variety of popular concepts that are sure to attract not only hotel guests, but local residents as well.

The first on my list of restaurants to try at this Polynesian French designed venue was actually the French outlet named Studio Du Chefs.  Constructed with state of the art equipment as well as display screens throughout the restaurant, guests can watch their food being prepared by the highly skilled staff in the open kitchen concept. 
My guest and I chose a seat that was directly in front of the action.  We made ourselves comfortable and familiarized with the area as the service staff brought us cold towels and water to begin..  The outlet manager came over and gave us a brief introduction to the menu and restaurant, followed by our waiter, then the chef.  They were beyond excited to share their recommendations and were purely there to enhance our experience of the modern French meal.  Pictured below is the sea bass ceviche with shaved fennel, radish, caviar,  grapefruit, and orange segments. The citrus burst really paired well with the dish, and the crunch of the fennel was the right amount of texture to compliment the fish.  Overall a refreshingly light composure for the start to the evening.
 The middle course pictured below consisted of a seared scallop served with a sweet potato croquette and puree.  A combination that was such a surprise to the palette, and a disappointment because I had never tried it before! The light aromatic cinnamon spice in the puree along with the buttery scallops and savory croquette presented a harmonious  ballad all on one little plate.  We only received the tasting portion, but had it been a larger entree size serving, I could easily have enjoyed this as a main meal any day of the week. 
Speaking of mains, we moved along through the evening with much anticipation of the last course.  The staff had mentioned several times the Tuna Rossini was not to be missed!  A sesame crusted tuna loin topped with the pan seared foie gras and caramelized shallots, this dish was a flavor overload to all my senses.  The tuna itself was cooked to a perfect medium temperature and the mouth watering fillet of foie gras seeped all its fatty deliciousness right into the hearty fish.  Savory and sweet, this well balanced dish had it all.  Not only does something like this require the technical skill to execute, but it also taps into the creativity of the chef.  The traditional Tournedos Rossini is served with beef, therefore substituting the seafood makes it a completely original item, as the accompaniments and sauce need to be modified.  Memorable and modern, no doubt this is one dish you will go back for!
This next item was another modern interpretation of a classic French dish.  The beef medallions cooked to an exact medium temperature were accompanied by a "Bourguignon" sauce served with a caramelized onion tart topped with pickled radish, tomato, artichoke, and asparagus.  Let's start with the beef, because to me, the gorgeous pink center was the highlight of the plate.  You're eyes are drawn to the coloring and excellent quality of the meat, which was just slightly seared on the outside and roasted to perfection.  Sprinkled with the famously French smoked fleur de sel, tasty doesn't even begin to describe this. 
The beef dish was also accompanied by the elegant geometrically perfect chickpea fries pictured below.   Crispy on the outside, soft and delicate on the inside and seasoned all around, I was in heaven with every bite of this savory side.   It tasted like a combination in chickpea flour and seasoning, a technique similar to making polenta fries. Even though they are highly addictive, I am going to ask Chef De Cusine of Studio Du Chefs,  Alain Rion for the recipe. Expect a kitchen experiment on my blog with these little guys soon, I don't think I can make it to the end of the week without another taste!

At this point I was completely content with our meal, as we had attacked every item on our table with success.  Although we had turned downed the notion of dessert, our waiter did insist on showing us the cheese trolley.  Now if there ever was a French way to end a meal, it would have to be this.  A gorgeous selection of cheese was presented along with an assortment of freshly made jams and compotes ranging from sour cherry to pineapple, apricot, and raspberry.  We both tried a bite of the goat's cheese paired with the sour cherry jam, and that was literally the icing on the cake. Leaving comfortably full and proud that we had managed to make it through most of the menu, I promised the chef I would be back for dessert! 
The sleek design and spacious interior lends itself to a lively ambiance.  The concept for the restaurant is interactive, which means the more action the better.  It actually adds a lot of character to the environment, because it removes the element of pretentiousness, and adds a trendy touch.  The Sofitel property is brand new to Dubai, having only just opened this past July 2013. They are currently in the soft launch phase, but are planning for the Grand Opening event November 2013.  Until then, the restaurants are open to the public, and they are working meticulously to perfect those fine details that make this 5 star resort shine above the rest.  I am looking forward to my return to Sofitel on The Palm, and the next culinary adventure they have in store for me.