Elegant simplicity coupled with a distinctly Asian flair comes together in Voi, Zabeel Saray’s French colonial-style restaurant featuring the cuisine and spirit of Southeast Asia during the 1920s. High ceilings and glittering chandeliers create an aura of magnificence as soon as one enters the venue. Taken back in time to another culture and era, Voi proved to be a visual and culinary journey.
After being graciously seated, a friendly server came over to explain the menu as well as major influences behind Vietnamese cuisine. Influenced by the Asian principle of Ying Yang – often referred to in the West as the Ying and the Yang, the concept is used to explain how polar opposites or what might appear to be contrary influences, are in fact connected and largely interdependent in the natural world. When applied to the culinary arts, such a philosophy makes use of the five senses each which represent an element in Vietnamese cooking. For example, spicy is for metal, bitter is for fire, salty is for water, sour is for wood and sweet is for earth. The restaurant’s award-wining Chef Pham Xuan Cuong has imbued the philosophy within his cooking inspired by the culinary tradition of Vietnam with a French twist. After such an explanation my guests and I were eager to taste the tantalizing dishes on Voi’s menu.
We began with several dishes from the Start Fresh section of the menu – a refreshing Snow Crab, made with avocado, mango, lime and sesame; a rich Tiger Prawn & Foie Gras with Enoki mushrooms and a lovely Trio of Tuna encompassing tartar, roll and confit. While I cannot claim to be an expert on Vietnamese cuisine, these first bites were heavenly in taste and perfectly sized in proportion. We also chose a few plates from the Keep Warm section – a hearty Crispy Tofu of egg dumplings, cashew nuts and tangy herbs; a nice greasy Fried Vegetarian Spring Roll comprising organic vegetables, black mushrooms and glass noodles and a light “Banh Cuon” Hanoian Steamed Rolls including caviar, mushrooms, Vietnamese fish and shallots. We also opted for a tantalizing and hearty Pumpkin consommé made with roasted pumpkin and Vietnamese herbs.
Deliciously satisfied, we ventured on to the main courses sectioned off appropriately in the menu as From the Sea and From the Land. Succulent French scallops with lemongrass, mid green chili and Asian mushrooms and a lovely Steamed Pacific Cod made with vanilla and Vietnamese coriander constituted our choices From the Sea. While I am not currently a meat eater, my guests relished in two delicious plates From the Land – French Duck “Canette” made with foie gras, asparagus, brussel sprouts and tamarind and Wagyu Beef Two Ways with tenderloin, cheek, carrot and five spices – both of which they testified “hit the spot” not only in taste and preparation but in visual presentation.
Desiring a brief break from our eating escapade, we were presented with a lovely lemon and ice drink to cleanse our palette before moving onto the dessert. An innovative Lemongrass Crème brûlée with caramelized lotus seed, dragon fruit and lime sorbet proved to be an interesting and fruity reinterpretation of the classic French sweet. We also chose a rich Banana Flambée which I instantly loved for its gooey sweetness and banana taste comprising “Halong Bay” Spirit, star anise, cloves and honey ice cream. And lastly, in a more Asian spirit, we tasted the Pandan Leaf Flavored Sago made with passion fruit and pineapple.
A veritable star in presentation, taste and culinary philosophy, Voi is a dream for the palette and a treat for the eyes.
Voi is located in the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on The Palm Jumeirah, +971 44530444