Haute Eat: Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor

India’s most renowned celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor has opened his third restaurant in Dubai – Signature at the recently launched Melia Hotel.The chef, who is also an entrepreneur, author and TV personality, operates Options in the World Trade Center and Khazana in Al Nasr Leisureland in Oud Metha. What will a third restaurant bring to Kapoor or to Dubai, we might ask? It is nevertheless the first Signature restaurant opened by the chef anywhere in the world and in that sense promises to hold something special for guests – something exclusive and inherently Indian.

My guest and I ventured into Kapoor’s new restaurant replete with wood and stone-paneled walls, Contemporary standalone sculptures and dim lighting and made our way past gray crinkling curtains to a table in the back of the venue. On our way we spotted a quaint and elegant stone terrace, which had it been a bit cooler, would have been the perfect spot to enjoy our meal. Friendly staff soon waited on our table and explained the concept of Kapoor’s menu – while largely traditional in preparation, each dish does have a modern edge. We were advised to choose from the summer menu and were soon brought a welcome drink of refreshing sparkling lychee thandai – a north Indian drink made especially when hot from condensed milk, almonds, cardamon powder and sunflower seeds. It was immediately thirst-quenching and very tasty.

We started off with several starters – Dahi Ke Tawa Kebab, delicious deep-fried yogurt patties with pomegranate chutney, lime and onion confit and Lamb Seekhpa, Gilafi seekh with Peppermint skewers. We also tried the Basil pepper hamour tikka with raw mango salad – an immediate favorite, the hamour was smooth and succulent enhanced by the addition of fresh basil and sweet mango. It’s of comfort to know that Signature’s Chef Akshay Nayyar trained under Sanjeev Kapoor in Mumbai. While the dishes are in keeping with Kapoor’s recipes, Chef Akshay Nayyar gives them his own special twist.

The restaurant specializes in gharha or earthen pot-style of cooking with specialty dishes promoting a natural and earthen flavor. One of the most popular mains is the lemongrass butter chicken which arrives in a thick and velvety sauce topped with zataar and sun-dried tomato olive naan – exquisite. We also tasted the fish curry with lentils simmered in coconut. The fish was smooth and juicy and the lentils with coconut provided a slightly sweet and hearty flavor.

Having consumed plenty of enticing Indian dishes, at this point we desired something light for our desert. The Gulab jamun – round balls made of milk solids and covered in sweet rose water-scented syrup. We also tasted the Raw mango and cumin Kulfi, a popular frozen dairy sweet which is slightly chewy and often likened as the equivalent of ice cream.

While we certainly consumed a great deal of food, we didn’t feel full at the end. Intensely satisfied and pleased with the surroundings and the experience, all we can say is that Signature is definitely worth the trek to Bur Dubai – for Indian cuisine at its best.

Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor at the Meliá Hotel, Kuwait Street, Port Rashid +971 43868111