Roberto’s Dubai takeover: Exquisite Italian-Asian fusion

(Photos: Zeid Odeh/Jordan News)
I was invited this week to an event hosted by Roberto’s at the Ritz Carlton, with the restaurant’s Dubai and Jordan chefs working side-by-side to create a memorable shared menu.اضافة اعلان

I had already experienced Roberto’s luxurious dining experience a couple months ago, so when I received the invitation for the shared menu experience, I jumped at the opportunity, with hopes that their signature pistachio ice cream drizzled with olive oil would be part of the menu.

For those new to the place, Roberto’s is a food and beverage venue that always offers a unique experience. It is more than just a restaurant — divided into a fine dining section and a lounge area with upbeat music and a vibrant vibe. The bar is chic and inviting, with a beautiful selection of specialty cocktails.

Last time, I dined in the fine dining area, so this time we chose the lounge area to try out everything the place has to offer.

The first course: Whetting our appetitesThe cuisine could be described as Italian-Asian fusion — an interesting combination to say the least.

I saw in that moment, and in my cacio-e-pepe moment, the intriguing thought process of chefs who break the boundaries of dishes and food norms, crafting a very distinguished dining journey.
First on the menu was the Stuzzichini, from the Italian verb for “whet your appetite”. In other words, this course consisted of appetizer bites, including tuna tartare, wagyu tacos, and fried cannolos.

The tuna tartare was served on a salty cracker, mixed with mustard, shiso leaf (Asian leaf from the mint family), and oscietra (Ossetra Sturgeon) caviar. Flavor-wise it was on-point. The mustard balanced with the tuna was not overpowering, and cracker brough crunch and saltiness, while the Shiso leaf elevated the bite. The dish was served on a bed of fennel and corn seeds, giving a rustic feel and a slight hint of fennel, which made for an exciting blend of flavors.

The tacos were filled with wagyu tartare and topped with coriander, lime, and microgreens. I was happy to see the tacos served with beef tartare instead of tuna as a start. The combination of flavors in this amuse-bouche was also spot-on. However, I would have preferred a little less mayo on top — if the swirls of mayonnaise were switched with droplets, it would still add creaminess but would not overpower the dish.

The last appetizer was the fried cannolo with spinach and sour gel. Cannolo is Italian for “little tube”, evoking the Italian pastry “cannoli”. Cannolo is a smaller version — a savory dish filled with spinach and a sour gel on top. This was an excellent vegetarian option that would be perfect for a canape-style service.

Overall, the Stuzzichini were very well thought-out. We were off to a good start.

The second course: Out-of-the-box appetizersThe second course began with an octopus dish and a miso avocado dish.

The octopus was slow-roasted and served with artichoke and cacio e pepe sauce, a parmesan and pepper sauce that is usually served with pasta. Some say it is the origin of alfredo sauce but without the cream, where the parmesan plays a role in making the liquid from the pasta water creamy. In this case, it was quite surprising and out-of-the-box to think of cacio e pepe beyond its traditional role in pasta, as part of a hot appetizer dish.

However, the artichokes for me could have been substituted with another ingredient that was more sustainable and fresh, rather than canned. (Artichokes are usually in season from March through May, and Jerusalem artichokes are available through August.)

Moving on to the miso avocado served with crackers: It was a great sharing dip with a very interesting blend of flavors, given that guacamole commonly goes under the radar for creative interpretations, besides the occasional unadventurous dusting of paprika.

I saw in that moment, and in my cacio-e-pepe moment, the intriguing thought process of chefs who break the boundaries of dishes and food norms, crafting a very distinguished dining journey.

The third course: Thoughtful mainsComing to the entrees, first up was a ravioli stuffed with burrata in a cherry tomato sauce. What I loved about this dish was the freshness of the burrata within the ravioli. Thankfully, it was not mixed with other cheeses to overpower it, and I loved that the sauce was not weighed down with herbs. The dish spoke for itself: light, balanced, creamy, and delicious.

A saffron risotto was then served with a slow-cooked veal shank ragout. Saffron can be overpowering even though it is an elite spice; it can give a bitter taste if overused in a dish. That was the case with this dish, which was difficult to soak in when confronted with the strong, overly pungent saffron flavor. The risotto was also slightly overcooked — a pardonable offence due to the fact that Amman palettes tend to prefer well-cooked risottos.

While slow-cooking tough meats helps in breaking down their hard connective tissues and making them tender — and as nice as it is to see a veal shank ragout — the shanks could have cooked slightly longer to turn out a little more tender.

The chargrilled lamb rack, black cabbage, and roasted cauliflower made up the meal’s main entree. Looking at the perfectly medium-rare piece of lamb on this plate made me appreciate the technology behind a sous vide machine, which ensures that meat is perfectly cooked to a specific temperature all throughout. The black cabbage was enjoyable, the creamy cauliflower puree was buttery-smooth, and the roasted cauliflower was well-cooked. This dish truly hit the mark in terms of flavor and presentation.

The final course: Dreams come trueWe had finally reached my favorite part of the meal: dessert. I had been waiting for that pistachio ice cream to make its grand appearance, and it finally did, in all its glory. Chocolate mousse was also served, along with tiramisu, a passionfruit cheesecake, and profiteroles. I was surprised that the chocolate mousse was served alongside ice cream, since they do have similar textures. But interestingly enough, it worked.

We could not decide on a favorite, since all the desserts were delectable — the only thing I did not like about the desserts was sharing them!

The final verdictIn my opinion, the whole experience of dining at Roberto’s, with this unique culinary-fusion menu, can only be truly appreciated by those familiar with different cuisines and cooking techniques. In general, I am rarely surprised by a dish that bugs my cognitive thinking process, yet it happened a few times during this journey in the most delicious way.

If you are looking for a more relaxed environment for your Roberto’s dining experience, the ambiance of the lobby dining area is upbeat. A final note: the service was friendly and hospitable — from the security check at the entrance to the busser clearing off the tables.

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