Seafood Market's level of customisation makes it a unique - and upmarket - destination for those who enjoy delicacies of the underwater kind.
Anyone who has ever lived by the beach will be able to tell you that the defining feature of good seafood is its freshness. After all, the quality and texture of fish and shellfish deteriorate faster than any other type of food - so much so that it's instantly possible to tell when it's more than a day or two old.
In recognition of this, most seafood eateries around town today boast about the freshness of their fare, and it's not uncommon to see fish tanks situated around restaurants - giving us the impression that our food has shifted directly from the water onto our plates. However, Seafood Market, tucked away in Le Méridien Dubai Hotel and Conference Centre, takes this concept to a new level.
Step into the restaurant and your eyes will immediately be drawn to the ground, where a slab of glass flooring separates you from the colourful fishes that you can gaze upon and walk over. In fact, the moment you walk in, you know you're stepping into a seafood eatery; there's a huge waterfall installation and the walls are covered with fish tanks displaying a variety of extremely exotic (and extremely alive) lobsters.
Even the carpet, patterned with blue waves, gives you the impression of stepping into the sea. It's pretty but a bit too casual, and my dining companion and I opted to sit outdoors, which featured Arabic-themed lighting, wicker furniture and none of the subtle 'fishy' smell that's wafting around indoors.
Why the smell? The concept of the seafood eatery borrows from that of the seafood markets found in East Asia, where customers pick and choose the catch of the day, and have it cooked right in front of them.
You don't exactly get to watch the chefs in action over at Seafood Market, but my dining companion and I were rather excited to line up near a narrow counter displaying the seafood, all placed on ice, and pick what we wanted - and how we wanted it made. Guiding us through the process was our friendly waitress, who made suggestions about the best preparation for our picks.
Now, the place is rather upscale, and the first thing I noticed is that the bill can skyrocket if you're not careful. Seafood has a reputation of being expensive, but even then, Dh100 for an Omani crab (we chose two, and that was just for one appetiser) is too steep. Other appetisers on our list were the Omani jumbo prawn tempura, and squid in a lemon butter sauce.
For our mains, I opted for hamour, grilled (there's no better way to taste the freshness of the meat), while my friend went for a red snapper in an interesting coconut and lemongrass sauce. On a recommendation from the waitress, we also chose a portion of Mix Vegetables, stir-fried in oyster sauce; Egg and Garlic Rice; and Seafood Udon Noodles.
Twenty minutes later, our appetisers found their way to our table, unrecognisable (in a very good way). The crab, which we had asked to be cooked in a black pepper sauce, could only be described as melt-in-your-mouth perfection, and disappeared rather fast. The crispy texture of the tempura gelled flawlessly with the succulent meat of the prawn - yet another win. With all this going on, the squid, with the tangy lemon sauce overpowering the taste of the meat, was sadly sidelined.
We were rather surprised with the portion of rice and noodles; we had expected them to come as sides, but found each portion more than enough for the both of us - and they were both absolutely addictive, at that. Also surprising were the vegetables; consisting of favourites like broccoli and mushrooms, they were moist but not soggy, and as odd as it seems at a seafood eatery, the dish was one of my favourites of the evening.
My order of the grilled hamour was tender and expertly seasoned, although I have tasted better in the past. On the other hand, the lemongrass flavour of the sauce overpowered the taste of the red snapper, something we weren't particularly pleased about. Having taken on more than we could chew, we decided to eschew dessert, but there are options like The Mango Jubilee and a selection of ice creams for those with a sweet tooth.
Seafood Market recently celebrated its 23rd birthday, and with food that fresh and service that good, it's easy to understand why the restaurant is still going strong. The price points may be on the higher side, but if you're a seafood lover - and have the money to spare - it doesn't get much better than this.