Food review: Dinner is the show at Asil Dubai
There may be a stage up front, but the recipes take the limelight here
Providing ample quirkiness, when an eatery boasts a live clarinet player as its star attraction, it should sufficiently pique your interest to mosey on down. How could you resist?
A much under-appreciated instrument, we can only applaud Asil at the Rixos Premium in JBR for giving the woodwind classic its chance to shine and, before entering, hoped the more offbeat decisions may have strayed from the entertainment into the cooking too. For what the restaurant promises is a fusion of Turkish, Lebanese and Moroccan recipes.
Forgive us for sounding cynical, but living in the region for well past a decade, we couldn’t imagine how these particular cuisines could any longer surprise given their ubiquitousness throughout the UAE. However, as the player took to the stage and the first few notes of The Godfather Waltz descended upon a full dining room compelled into hushed reverence just as a host of imaginative starters were placed on the table, we knew we were in for an extraordinary experience.
The first hint really should have been the establishment’s opulent décor. Carrying the pan-Middle Eastern theme to the nth degree, rich fabrics and glittering chandeliers provide a regal backdrop straight out of a ‘50s movie epic. Begin your culinary journey and it wouldn’t seem out of place to expect Elizabeth Taylor in full costume to stroll through. The knowledgeable staff also play their part in transporting you to a bygone era where the Nights were arguably more Arabian and the food imbued with the flavour of adventure.
The first course comprised cold mezze. ‘So what?’ you may scoff, yet this was no ordinary introduction. The selection contained one out-of-the-blue addition — the Gavurdagi salad — which elevated a wonderful assortment to a memorable one. Sat alongside the house special and must-try hummus and delicious vegetarian stuffed vine leaves, the mix of fresh tomato, green pepper, red onion, parsley, Ezine cheese, walnuts and pomegranate molasses, was out of this world. Bursting with palette-tingling vibrancy, coming from a patron who rarely orders salads when out (thus bestowing the verdict with somewhat more heft), this has to go up there as one of the greats.
To follow, the hot mezze again possessed an unrivalled dish. Regular visitors to Turkey will be intimately acquainted with manti: tiny parcels of meat enrobed in a wafer-thin dough, baked and served with tomato concasse and a garlic and yoghurt sauce. Some, though, could be new to the mini ravioli type concoction. Whatever your position vis-à-vis the pasta, go to Asil to try it. It’s simply delightful.
Fit to explode, more appetisers came our way including a full kebab platter, which was perfectly grilled, buttery and well-seasoned, although we wouldn’t say as unique as the aforementioned items. The chef pulled it back for dessert, however, with their trademark kunefe — a pudding as enchanting as the music playing throughout the evening.
Where: Asil, Rixos Premium Dubai
Best dish: Manti
Av. Cost. PP: Dh200