Food review: Open kitchen, full stomachs at Dubai's Mercato Centrale
Authentic Italian flair rules the roost at this BurJuman eatery
Few nations take their food as seriously as the Italians, which probably explains the reason you can spy 'il bel paese's' finest decorating high streets from Beijing to Bogota. Dubai is no exception, in particular boasting some of the most vibrant pizzerias outside Europe (not just our opinion, but one held by a Dubai-based Milanese race car driver we recently had the pleasure of meeting).
Mercato Centrale at BurJuman looks to replicate the experience you'd find back in the old country brick for brick. Located on the mall's prime Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Street stretch, the panoramic street level windows not only provide an excellent people-watching vantage point for customers, but allow passersby to gawp inside at the quaint well-appointed dining room and open kitchen complete with native chefs busying themselves preparing every dish from scratch.
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Sat at our wooden, sidewalk view table, we had no idea of the feast in which we were about to partake. The head cook waved us a cheery greeting and subtly inquired after our preferred tastes. Fish was the response and they returned to the stove, unbeknownst to us concocting an appropriate seasonal menu. In the meantime we made do with freshly-made focaccia and pickled vegetables washed down with a iced dark berry smoothie aperitif. Almost instantly the first course arrived: a grilled octopus tentacle with roasted peppers and a ever-so-slightly piquant mayo, alongside a 'farmer panzarotti' or a deep-fried pocket of pizza dough filled with veal ham, ricotta cheese, parmesan and mozzarella. The octopus was nothing short of exquisite. A smidge charred, the crispiness of the skin balanced perfectly with the plump meat and, mixed with the capsicum, created a delectable smoky sensation. The panzarotti was fun and understandably delicious (who can resist sizzled stuff with cheese?), though perhaps a little heavy for a starter and could suffice as a meal in itself.
Next up, continuing the 'pesce' motif, came our choice plate: fettuccini with courgette and prawns in a cherry tomato sauce. Light, substantial and bursting with zing-tastic flavour we could devour this dish any time of the day. The accompanying beef cheek ravioli also deserves a good mention, but if you're heading out for lunch right now, go for the former and wrap up a tiramisu to go.