New executive chef Renald Epie, son of celebrity chef Gilles Epie, adds French flair to the Fairmont Dubai restaurant
Thankfully, though, there’s no shark pickled in formaldehyde at One&Only The Palm
It’s said that art often reflects life, but less often does sea life reflect art. That, however, is the broad picture at 101 Dining Lounge and Bar, the big alfresco fish of One&Only The Palm’s dining destinations.
Don’t be fooled by the slightly utilitarian name – far from being a generic all-day-dining spot, 101 is next to the resort’s private marina, a short walk away from the main hotel.
A significant art exhibition inspired a shift from an Italian menu to a fitting seafood theme, although unlike the architect of said show, the results are subtle and without attention-seeking silliness.
French chef Yannick Alléno, a man whose restaurants have picked up Michelin stars with the frequency that most of us eat hot meals, was spellbound by Damien Hirst’s exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable.
If you didn’t know about the link, then you would be none the wiser from looking at the menu, which includes zero explanatory content.
As the chef himself tells us, though: “I want to indulge guests with a creative cuisine in this astonishing dining lounge on the marina. Modernity through a utopian world coming from an imaginary scheming world, inspiration from a village discovered from the abyss.”
The dishes the menu contains aren’t directly out to emulate Treasures from the Wreck’s fantastical fakery, then. The exhibition in Venice in 2017 presented what were purportedly ancient Greek treasures, but were actually a collection of post-modern pokes at the planet produced in contemporary confines.
Neither, thankfully, does Alléno serve shark pickled in formaldehyde in any tribute to The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, one of the controversial works that propelled Hirst to fame in the early 1990s.
Alléno’s intention, instead, is to use cooking techniques such as smoking, salting, and fermentation to present fresh, sustainably-sourced seafood in a modern, artistic way. And in that, he certainly seems to succeed.
My starter of marinated lobster, with lemongrass, sesame dressing and caviar, could nod to the exhibition, too: its circular formation almost reminiscent of Hirst piece The Sadness, a golden monkey in the foetal position. Gladly, it’s rather easier on the teeth and as fresh as the sea breeze wafting over our table. The dish on which is is served shows off the “fish scale” tableware chosen to accompany the new menu.
My dining partner’s hamachi sashimi with coconut and wasabi gel is presented in a slightly more utilitarian manner, although the chunky morsels are no less flavour-packed for it.
It seems almost impossible to go wrong with black cod, and 101’s poached example, with miso ginger broth, mousseline of green peas and mint, doesn’t disappoint. This skin-off incarnation is generous in portion size, too.
Obsiblue prawn ravioli, dehydrated kimchi and ginger dashi is our other mains selection. My dining partner’s reaction suggests that the dashi (a Japanese broth), in which the fairly meagre helping of ravioli is sat, is the dish’s highlight.
After a helping of pasta envelopes from the mains, we skip the temptation to discover the dessert equivalent – mango ravioli with exotic fruits and Thai bouillon.
We don’t entirely eschew fruity fun, mind you: the marinated kiwi in tomato caramel with roasted pine nut cream jumped out from the dessert menu for its seemingly strange taste combination. In reality, the tomato element is scarcely detectable in either hue or on the tongue; the pine nut cream, meanwhile, has an enjoyable touch of crème brûlée about it.
Hirst’s establishment-baiting extremes are nowhere to be seen on 101 Dining Lounge and Bar’s new menu, then, but in culinary terms, a spirit of invention is alive and well when you take a deep dive into Alléno’s dishes.
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