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Haute Eat: Pompeii

Tucked away within the onslaught of the towering sky rises of Dubai’s Jumeriah Lake Towers is a quaint Italian restaurant evoking the charm of a family-style trattoria on a street in Rome.  With a name which undoubtedly points to a lesson in ancient Italian history, Pompeii also proves to be a noteworthy course in hearty Italian classic dishes coupled with a distinct contemporary twist.

A step inside the walls of Pompeii brought back memories of cozy brick oven pizzerias in New York City or a favourite restaurant in Italy where you’d be waited on as you were part of the family. JLT’s new Italian joint drew the same sentiments. My guest and I were immediately greeted by Cheryl Vaughn, the bubbly American owner of the restaurant who quickly seated us and went over the menu in passionate detail. We started with a refreshing Cucumber Cooler, a sweet drink made with cucumber juice, lemon and honey and an Italiano Garden Salad bursting with enticing green ingredients – cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and celery tossed with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and toppled with slivers of sun-dried tomatoes.

We were then encouraged to try the Parmigiana di Melanzane or Eggplant Parmsean. The dish arrived daintily presented with oven baked eggplant wrapped around delicious insides of freshly cooked plum tomatoes with parmesan and mozzarella cheese seasoned with basil, oregano and drizzled with pesto oil. Heartening and deliciously satisfying while also veering away from the heavy side, we were hooked after our first taste. On the side we were served a few slices of the restaurant’s brick oven pizza – quite a balanced combination of chewy and crispy crust with wonderfully fresh and innovative toppings. Be sure to get creative while there and try the Polla Spicy Pompeii topped with marinated spicy grilled chicken, grilled chili pepper and sun dried tomatoes, or the Pompeii Pesto made pesto and Italian tomato sauce, mozzarella, grilled vegetables and sun dried tomatoes.

For the main course, we opted for the Saffron Risotto made with Carnaroli rice with saffron and lemon, pine nuts and herbs. Decadently smooth and creamy, this dish boasted of clean and fresh summery taste. And finally, on to the dessert which was we accepted with glee upon seeing the arrival of large square of Tiramisu and a Watermelon Granita. Having indulged in plenty of Tiramisu after many years spent in the country, Pompeii’s version was top. What one doesn’t often realize, is how challenging it can be to master a balance between a creamy consistency and one which is not too soggy. This one scored right. The Watermelon Granita incorporated an interesting blend to this traditionally Italian drink with the use of icy watermelon juice mixed with lemon and the region’s renowned rosewater. Very sweet and nicely cooling.

Pompeii earns high points for those who want a delicious and heart warming meal set amidst charming surroundings and friendly staff.

Pompeii, JLT, Cluster T, 1 Lake Plaza, +971 44539390. To order, call 800POMPEII.

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014