Restaurant review: Weslodge Saloon

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Restaurant review: Weslodge Saloon
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Uniquely good food, warm Canadian hospitality and a view that's next to impossible to beat, the new Weslodge Saloon is not just a night out, it's an experience

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Published: Fri 20 May 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 20 May 2016, 2:00 AM

"Passionately Original". That's what Weslodge, a popular Canadian import from Toronto - one of many to come to Dubai soon, I've heard - strives to be. Ride up the 68 floors of tower B of the JW Marriott Marquis and you will be greeted by a clash of eras. Bright yellow doors lead you into an incredible view of the city through massive windows that sprawl from wainscoted floors. The walls are full of great monochrome pictures and paintings of hunters and pioneers of old, showcased in antique frames, while the seating comprises of tanned leather banquettes, classic love seat settees with beautiful cushions and very sleek cutlery and crockery. Obviously, it's a saloon - there's also a cattle skull with huge horns to drive home the point - but for some reason, Weslodge in Dubai markets itself as rock 'n' roll chic, which itself is an oxymoron. And, of course, it's buzzing with Dubai's yuppies with hipster beards, who, with their chinos and loafers, belong neither in a hunting lodge nor a rock 'n' roll lounge. Like I said, a clash of eras.
Ignoring the identity crisis, the ambience is quite spectacular. The music is great - fits into the rock 'n' roll vibe, with classics and some postmodern alternative rock thrown in - and the service is excellent. North American courtesy and professionalism is not easy to come by in Dubai, so if you want to see what exceptional service looks like, take notes. Not at all intrusive, balanced engagement with great recommendations that come from a succinct knowledge of the menu and its offerings (including beverages), checking on the table after the food has been tasted, clearing away cutlery and crockery neatly and in a timely manner - these guys check every single box. I hope they stick around and are not just here to train others.
The food menu, like the concept, is also a bit confused. It's not very Canadian - it's mostly contemporary takes on American/Southern classics and some British fare, and the only thing visibly Canadian is the Poutine - and it's not rock 'n' roll chic. But what it is, is very original. You won't find the stuff you see here on many other menus around town and that gets points from us. We tried the Crisp Quail Egg, which is wrapped in merguez and served with truffle red onion jam; the Devilled Crab on Toast; and a Smoky Beef Tartare, with black truffle and horseradish cream. The quail egg was a technicolour dream of flavours and textures: a tiny slightly gooey egg that takes on the spices of the merguez sausage meat beautifully, and the right amount of earthiness and sweetness from the truffle jam makes this a perfect start.
The crab on toast was a bit underwhelming. Maybe a bit more 'devil' and less sweetness, particularly since there are Granny Smith apple matchsticks sprinkled on top. The tartare was my favourite. The horseradish cream gives this tartare a great pungent kick and goes well with the cured egg yolk and black truffle - a great combination of flavours.

Steak and sides
We decided to skip the salads and the large plates, and instead went for the hardwood grilled meats and seafood for our entrées. The whole Branzino - which is a fish from the sea bass family typical to Mediterranean cuisine - disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived. The soft, white flesh pairs perfectly with the slightly spicy jalapeno relish on the side. The Jumbo Prawn, which is a bit steep at Dh75 per prawn, was a tad overcooked, which was the only low in our dining experience. Then we tried the 8oz tenderloin, which more than made up for the prawn. The rosemary veal jus to finish the steak was a server-recommended masterstroke. They also have a 32oz porterhouse and a 40oz (gasp) ribeye. We expected to see some Canadian venison on offer, but, surprisingly, most of the meat is USDA Prime (read: American), with some coming from Australia and Wales (the lamb). The sides are very good, and the Grilled Broccolini and Thrice Cooked Chips we tried were tasty and very satisfying. The portion sizes are good - enough for two, without leaving anyone stuffed. Well, not if you get that 40oz ribeye steak, of course. Do note that it is a sharing concept restaurant.
The desserts are made in-house - up here, they better be! - and delicious. The Gianduja Tart is a citrus overload, but if you like sour or tart desserts, you will not want to miss this. Yuzu curd, segments of lime and a yoghurt sorbet all give you different intensities of citrusy flavours, while the pie crust and little meringues add some balance and crunch. There are also pies on offer that come highly recommended, like the Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Pie.
Weslodge Saloon, despite its mishmash of concepts, excels in giving guests a truly original experience - true to its motto. The food is very good, and we'd love to come back and try the other things on the menu. The ambience is great - who can argue with a view from the 68th floor? - and the service is stellar. We hope that this is just the start of a lot of great Canadian experiences to come to Dubai.

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