Haute Eat: Armani/Amal

While its unlikely that we equate Armani with Curry, Armani/Amal, the hotel’s Indian restaurant pulls it off nicely and brings a touch of the Far East  the hotel’s subdued yet elegant ambiance. The evening commenced as soon as my guest and I entered the lobby where we are immediately served a welcome cocktail – a pungent and refreshing watermelon juice made with black salt. Escorted to our table overlooking the Dubai Fountain and the sparkling lights from the Dubai Mall and the Address Hotel outside, we were content and at ease.

Looking around me, I was not surprised to see that the structure of the decor was in line with the rest of the hotel – the understated color palette, dim lighting and smooth, simple lines. And yet, there was something strikingly different about Armani/Amal – there seems to be a warmer glow perhaps due to the slightly thinner fittings which allow more light to be brought in. The open kitchen, a detail found also at other outlets such as Armani Ristorante, provide for an intimate and personable setting. The tables are spaced out nicely; they’re not too close and not too far away, but on the night that I reviewed the restaurant there was a great lack in guests – perhaps due to the fact that we visited as the long and hot summer months came to a close. Still, I can only imagine the buzz and cheer which sets into the space when the tables are filled, perhaps similar to an Italian trattoria.

Friendly and informed staff, as is experienced throughout the hotel’s outlets, soon brought out the menu and advised us on our meal. We were provided with an amuse bouche to cleanse the palette made of ground flour cake – it was sweet and slightly bitter. We were told that the theme behind the menu mixes the cuisine from all the states of Indian – possibly a kind of Indian fusion. It nonetheless gives guests a way to experience the culinary art of India to the fullest. We chose a white wine from the Sula Vineyards in Nashik, one of India’s foremost vineyards – slightly sweet and smooth on the tongue, we were told that this wine would go best with what was to come.

We stuck with the chef’s recommendations and opted for the starter platter comprising a range of tastes and textures. The Malabari Rattan made of seared scallops, wild mushroom and asparagus chaat was delightful – nice and moist and chewy, the dish was light and full of flavor. Jhinga Achari, Tiger Prawns with pickled spices were another hit and encompassed more spice than the former. While I can’t pretend that I am an expert in Indian cuisine, looking down at my plate and onto the colorful variety of concoctions I suddenly, for a moment, became more intrigued in how to identify each dish than in its consumption. We called the waiter over several times to ascertain the elaborate names of what was before us. While my taste was certainly keen and could undoubtedly recognize specific ingredients, the range of spices and flavorings that Indian cooking uses is foreign to most who have no experience with the great art of this nation’s food. Flavorings are so strong that at times they override a food’s natural taste – it is, of course, still there, adding to the overall experience.

A new wine was brought out for the mains – an Indian Shiraz which was a bit spicy but not too full. A nice platter of main dishes was then brought before us. The Goan Jhinga Masala of Tiger Prawns with chilly vinegar, kokum and coconut was lovely – creamy, moist, chewy and slightly spicy. A selection of Naan breads was also served along with a variety of different rices – perfect additions to balance sharp tastes of the different dishes. The Dal Makhni, a creamy black lentil enriched with butter was utterly smooth, rich and creamy. Among the dishes we were served was also Aloo Gobi made with potato and cauliflower with ginger and cumin; this is the one Indian dish I’m most familiar with and the I have never taken a great liking to. While not my favorite, Amal carried out well its execution – the ginger and cumin was just tangy enough and the firm potato gave a nice variety of texture to the other smooth and creamy-like consistency of the other dishes. Lastly, the Meen Moilee of seared sea bass, coastal flavoured crab meat with Moilee sauce was lovely, a bit sweet and spicy – just enough to give our taste buds a kick.

Save the best for last, as the saying goes – our dessert was in the form of a magnificent Pistachio Kulfi of Indian pistachio ice cream with traditional falooda. Beautifully presented with a twisting sweet crust spiraling up from the dessert, inside the white circular structure was chocolate mousse. We always like surprises and this one was utterly tasty.

Armani/Amal is delightful, even for the inexperienced eater of Indian cuisine such as I. More than the importance of remembering each dish’s title, it’s the taste that counts and the service offered and both were top-notch at Armani/Amal.

Armani/Amal, Armani Hotel, +971 48883888 www.dubai.armanihotels.com