Giorgio Armani’s designs present clean, simple and minimalist lines reflecting a refined and understated sense of elegance. His first hotel in Dubai boasts the same. But when it comes to cuisine, there’s no simplicity to be had – Armani Ristorante features a superbly extravagant array of innovative Italian specialties.
Upon entry into the Armani Hotel you’ll be whisked away along dimly-lit small corridors opening onto quaint lounge and cafe areas colored in the the hotel’s signature soft gray and cream tones.The scene is otherworldly: you’re in the world’s tallest building drifting through carefully devised spaces with minimalist decor accompanied by staff dressed in the same, often hauntingly simple, attire which seems almost reminiscent of the 1950s-style flapper dresses and simple black suits. My guest and I arrived at the Armani/Ristorante – a series of circular tables with an imposing dimly-lit lamps with floral-covered lampshades were lined-up one after the other.
We were seated and greeted by Specialty Head Chef Alessandro Salvatico who warmly guided us through the menu recommending an assortment of dishes. Meanwhile our charming sommelier from South Africa, Marene Wentzel, assisted us with a selection of wines suitable for each dish. We served an amuse-bouche consisting of puree and leak – it was smooth and a bit salty – a delicate preparation for what was to come. We chose a Tartare, mela verde, salsa alla carota, granita allo zenzero (Raw scallop tartar, green apple, carrot sauce and ginger granite) – slightly sweet, the scallops were moist and perfectly chewy and the usual addition of ginger provided a fragrant taste. The Terrina in crosta di amaretti, pera caramellata ed espresso al naturale (foie gras terrine in amaretti crust with caramelized pears and espresso) – a divine slice of richness, the combination of foie gras with caramelized pears and espresso was mouth-watering sweet, salty and deliciously smooth all at once. Lastly on the starters, we were in for a treat with the Rossi e blu caviale, ceviche, frutto della passione (red and blue raw shrimps, caviar, ceviche and passion fruit). My guest and I looked at each other in sheer delight as we daintily moved from black shrimp to red helping ourselves to the small amounts of accompanying caviar, ceviche and passion fruit. The black shrimp was from New Caledonia and boasted a smooth and silky texture – it was combined nicely with the salty taste of the black shrimp. It was explained that the red shrimp came from the Mediterranean – its taste was more fruity yet still boasted the same silky texture. During this procession of delicacies we were served with a Sylvaner Resérve, Domain Weinbach, France, 2007 – a light white wine boasting generous fruit and floral notes – a perfect pairing for the rich and succulent bites which were served.
For the main course we chose the Gnocchi di patate allo zafferano, crema di spinaci e broccoli, bagnacauda (saffron potato gnocchi, spinach and broccoli cream with bagnacauda sauce) – always a more heavy pasta, this gnocchi was smaller than usual in size and bursting with flavor from the variety of ingredients and the bagnacauda, which is a typical warm dip to be served with vegetables from the Piedmont region of Italy. We also taste the Alle erbe, patate, carciofi e salsa di olive emulsionata (a herb-baked halibut fillet with potatoes, artichokes and tapenade sauce). While I’m a big fan of halibut and also of artichokes, this dish was tasty but somehow not as striking as the gnocchi or our starters. The fish was nevertheless cooked just right and the sauce was certainly savory – the plate just didn’t seem to have as much of flair as our previous servings. With these dishes we were given a Sauvignon Blanc, Dog Point, New Zealand, 2010 – a refreshing Sauvignon perfectly matched to accompany our fish and cheesy gnocchi.
Up to this point we had been excellently fed and within sumptuous surroundings. But the icing on the cake was yet to come. We were soon presented with La Sfera – a sphere of vanilla, violet creme brulee and cassis sorbet. It was so beautiful to look at that we dared delve our spoons into its carefully concocted surface. Chef Salvatico soon came out and asked how everything was and, looking at us marveling at La Sfera, he explained how he had gone to Venice and was so greatly intrigued by the Murano glass-blowing that he decided to translate the technique into a culinary creation. The dessert is like a ball of glass or an egg – upon breaking it, all of its tasty ingredients come to the surface. Divine in taste and creation, it’s sweet but not too heavy and when paired with a nice dessert wine – such as the Moscato Passito, Araldica, Italy, 2006, which we were served, a delicate aftertaste lingers daintily on the tongue.
Armani/Ristorante receives top scores for ambiance, cuisine and service; without a doubt it is one of the best Italian restaurants in town and worth revisiting many many times.
Armani/RistoranteArmani Hotel, Burj Khalifa +971 48883444 www.armanihotels.com