Restaurant review: Nassau
Head Chef Silvena Rowe is well known for her long-time emphasis on using fresh and organic produce in her dishes
Ok, here's the caveat first. If you haven't been to this side of town before, then it may not be quite as easy making your way to Nassau in the dark on a Thursday evening through the greens of Jumeirah Golf Estates.
When the lights are out and the stars have finished teeing off at the home of European Tour's glamourous season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, it does become a bit of a 'finding Neverland' expedition with little help from a bumbling Google Maps. But when you do get there eventually, you realise soon enough that all of that little journey was just part of a nice build-up to what, for us, turned out to be quite an enjoyable Mediterranean evening.
The first thing that strikes you is the name and you notice that this fine dining spot by popular Dubai chef Silvena Rowe has got nothing to do with the Bahamas capital that serves as a popular cruise-ship stop known for its golden beaches, offshore coral reefs and the famed Atlantis Paradise Hotel. In fact, it's a great escape to a Mediterranean coast, far removed from the Caribbean, where some great food and a unique setting will take you on a fascinating culinary tour of the South of Europe via the Levant. And what makes it special is Rowe's personal touch that she draws from her own Bulgarian-Ottoman heritage.
Take the creamy black truffle-scented Labneh that comes with seasonal baby vegetables, leaves and basil oil, for example, or the 48-hour slow-cooked Ottoman-styled shoulder of lamb. Both a staple of the Levant, but both with an interesting new twist that fuses culture and history dating back to the start of the Ottoman cuisine refined in imperial Constantinople (or today's Istanbul, as we know it). And the kitchen team, knowing chef Rowe's philosophy, does it by sourcing fresh local produce and by regularly working with sugar and gluten-free dishes for a guilt-free indulgence.
The menu is impressive overall, with a range of Wagyu varieties as mains and plenty for vegans and seafood lovers, including the risotto with wild mushrooms and creamy mascarpone and a grilled jumbo shawarma-styled marinated king prawns that will give you a taste that's closer home. Then there are sorbets and mocktails too to revive your senses after a hard day's golf in the sun, served in a palatial space with bright interiors, vibrant flavours and a high ceiling, whose crafted wooden planks took me to a Caribbean holiday home. And that's only because it's called Nassau!
Ambience (5): The story of Nassau begins right at its doorstep. You can't help noticing the grandeur brought on by the dim golden lights of the low-hanging chandeliers, giant arches and an overall classy décor dotted by high walled mirrors from the moment you step in until you are guided to your seat.
Taste (4): Head Chef Silvena Rowe is well known for her long-time emphasis on using fresh and organic produce in her dishes. At Nassau, that taste does come alive - be it in the black truffle labneh, thanks to the seasonal baby vegetables at play, or the crispy prawn dumplings with sriracha aioli. It's the same for the golden seabass fillet, mildly spiced and served with tomato chili pickle. But soft and mellow, it's the shoulder of the lamb, slow-cooked Ottoman-style for 48 hours, that sums up the magical story of taste here.
Service (4): The team of Nassau is made up of a diverse group of nationalities. So, if you have a thing for picking up or practising languages over a casual conversation, Nassau is the place to do so while you are served with a smile and a lot of warmth. As for me, I now know how to use Zdravoto to start a conversation with a Serb!
Presentation (5): The presentation and plating of dishes at Nassau is a reflection of the rich three decades-plus experience of Chef Silvena, star of many a TV show, including BBC 1's popular Saturday Kitchen, US Food Network's "Chopped", and Masterchef Bulgaria. And such is her magic that even the very simple and guilt-free Nutella tiramisu here looks ready to be picked up, true to the real meaning of the classic Italian dessert's name.
Value for Money (4): A full-blown three-course dinner for two at Nassau could cost anywhere between Dh600 to Dh800, but it's the whole experience of dining inside one of golf's most hallowed destinations and at a fine diner run by a TV celeb chef that you are paying for.