Restaurant Review: Nine7One, The Oberoi Dubai
There are various tales floating around related to the origins of the biryani. Some say that the dish was brought to India by the Mughals. However, Chef Saneesh Varghese of Nine7One, The Oberoi Dubai, who has trained under Michelin-starred chefs, and is a master storyteller when it comes to culinary tales — offers us a version that’s quite believable.
“It was Mughal ruler Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz who, after noticing the soldiers looking malnourished, advised the royal chefs to come up with a dish for the army that would provide them with nourishment and strength. The result was a meat and rice combo dish called biryani,” explained Chef Saneesh.
“The name of the dish actually comes from the Persian word Birian (meaning fried rice) and Birinj, meaning rice,” added the widely travelled chef, who has a memory bank full of stories about his food exploits that he loves to share with guests who are happy to chat. However, we must say that his culinary expertise is as interesting as his food tales — and the lip-smacking feast he prepared for us during our visit to Nine7One’s Courtyard certainly warrants a return trip.
The restaurant offers a multitude of Arabic, Asian and Western cuisine options that will satisfy diverse palates and Chef Saneesh’s fusion take on traditional dishes enhanced the dining experience.
With the pleasant weather, we preferred to be seated outdoors in the Nine7One’s Courtyard, a quadrangle that has all the elements of Feng Shui or Vaastu. At the centre is a water pool with fire emanating from torches in the pool’s corners.
The Courtyard lies in between two towering blocks — the hotel and the business centre — so ambience-wise, you can envisage having a meal out in the open, but, of course, if you prefer cosier surroundings, you could choose to dine indoors.
The water body is the focal point of the Courtyard’s décor. Tables and chairs have been placed neatly, keeping social distancing in mind, all around the squarish pool. A large waterfall inside the restaurant will make you feel relaxed while eating as the sound of the water falling from 10 feet calms your senses.
The menu featured a mix of international dishes, including those from different regions of India. We left it to Chef Saneesh to whip up his top dishes for us. Soon, our table was loaded with Green Peas Galettes (flat cakes or tikkis), Shrimp Al Ajillo Charcoal Avocado, and Basil and Ginger Fish Tikka for starters. This was followed by Tawa Lamb Chops, Chicken Tikka Masala and traditional dhaba-style Dal Makhani for our mains.
The taste, textures and presentation of the dishes were top notch, and the freshness of the ingredients that the chef brought out in each dish was notable.
The Green Pea Galettes, as an amuse-bouche, was a nice take on the traditional Indian tikkis (potato cakes usually served as snacks or starters). Served with delectable coriander chutney, it made for the perfect start.
Though all the mains were worth writing about for the innovative take on traditional recipes, it’s the Tawa Lamb Chops that caught our fancy. We’ve been fans of grilled chops for years, but this particular presentation was unique. It blended an aromatic, ‘bhuna’ minced meat preparation done on a Tawa (skillet) and served alongside juicy char-grilled chops. Full marks for this presentation and the burst-in-your-mouth flavours.
A special mention must be made of the Dal Makhani, a simple, slow-cooked black-lentil dish that has stood the test of time at this place. It’s believed that if you haven’t tried the classic Dal Makhani at the Oberoi’s, then you haven’t tried anything at all. And the rich, creamy and buttery dal packed with flavour and aroma lived up to its reputation.
The title Nine7One, we’re told, refers to the eatery’s nine cuisines, served seven days a week at one destination.
We ended the experience with Palada Payasam, a traditional South Indian sweet dish made from rice flakes that’s popular during festivals. Though we’re not great fans of sweets, we were convinced by Chef Saneesh to give the dessert a go. It was unlike the payasams we’ve tried before, and here’s the secret to this soul-satisfying dish. The milk is cooked for several hours to make it creamier until it attains a caramel colour. Moreover, the rice flakes used in the preparation were made of unpolished variety, adding authenticity to this Kerala favourite. The hours spent in making this delightful dish was surely worth it and we couldn’t help asking for more.
Ambience: Modern, serene and incorporating all the classical elements of water, fire and air, enclosed in a courtyard flanked by the towering structures of The Oberoi hotel and the business centre.
Taste: Every dish lives up to the property’s reputation of serving some of India’s finest cuisine. Be it their tender Lamb Chops or their popular Dal Makhani or Chicken Tikka Masala, every dish had the Oberoi mark of distinction stamped on it.
Service: Courteous and warm staff are at hand to attend to your requests. Chef Saneesh is more than glad to step out of his kitchen to chat with guests and share his stories.
Presentation: Indian dishes are generally known to be low on eye-grabbing garnishes and decorations, while the taste is of utmost importance. At Nine7One, the simple presentation did not take away from the rich dining experience.
Value for Money: At an average of Dh70 for a starter, Dh120 for a main dish and Dh45 for dessert, and Dh40 for a drink, it’s money well spent on some seriously delicious cuisine.