Thursday’s date night took us to Vivaldi, a romantic Italian restaurant at the Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel.
Alfredo Russo, Vivaldi’s Michelin-starred consultant chef, happened to be in town at the time. Say cheese!
The restaurant itself is stylish and dim with comfy chairs in relaxing hues of cream and blue, with gorgeous windows overlooking Dubai Creek where you can watch the dhows glide by. There’s a DJ playing chilled out music from his Mac.
The menu appears to have been written by a modest copywriter. The descriptions are humble and not overwhelmingly descriptive. There are one or two dishes which sound unique – such as the radicchio salad with sliced beetroot, gorgonzola ice cream, walnuts, and 15 year aged balsamic – but more common are basic descriptions like eggplant parmigiana, tomatoes and leaves salad with garlic and olive oil dressing, mixed fish carpaccio on ice.
In reality, the food was far more inventive than the menu suggests. I ordered the “beef “tartaccio” (tartar and carpaccio), parmesan foam and rocket salad” which arrived as a big soft pink ball on my plate. It was a mound of simply seasoned steak tartar, sprinkled with a few rocket leaves, with a dollop of parmesan-flavoured foam, some parmesan slices, covered in super thin slices of carpaccio.
My date had the “burrata cheese, wild broccoli cream and flatbread crostini”. The burrata was a lovely, fresh, soft, milky white ball of mozzarella encasing a creamy, wet centre. His cheese was a bit more adorned with dots of green puree and a few shards of wafer sticking out. Both starters were super, leaving me anticipating the mains.
But the mains were memorable for a different reason. I had ordered the lobster risotto (lemon scented lobster risotto with fine Italian herbs) as they had two entire pages dedicated to risotto and I figured it must be a speciality. Though Alfredo was around and popped into the kitchen briefly to greet the staff, he definitely wasn’t overseeing the chefs as they were preparing my risotto. It was about 2 minutes shy of al dente, undercooked and crunchy, unless this is some form of nouveau cuisine that I’m not yet aware of. It looked nice with the meat of a lobster claw nestled in the centre, though perhaps a tad too soupy. The flavour was just fine, but the texture was just not quite right.
My date ordered the veal Milanese (traditional Milanese breadcrumbed veal escalope with potato puree) which was simple and homely. Oops, no photo!
On the service side, this needs a lot of work. Over the course of the evening, we had about 5 different servers, none of whom was coordinated with the other. When I asked the first server what she recommended, she drew a total blank and was unable to suggest a single thing (warning sign?). Over the course of the evening, I found myself repeating the same thing to a different face each time (No more wine for me, thanks).
When we were served our mains, we were asked by the server if we wanted pepper, and then she disappeared never to be seen again. A few minutes later, a different server asked if everything was ok. (Um, we are still waiting for our pepper?) Later, one server brought us the menus for dessert then forgot about us. Another server came over to ask if we had ordered our dessert yet because the menus were still sitting on our table (No we’re still waiting).
At the end of the night we were presented with a tree. A baby olive tree all the way from Italy. In a terracotta pot. We both heard that it was a gift. Ok, random. Have we just been given a tree?
And then she pointed out two heavy chocolate balls hidden between the leaves. Now we were confused. Were we being gifted the chocolates or the tree? To save any embarrassment, we ate the chocolates and left the tree.
This sums up the experience of the night. A bit of bemusement, but it’s a Thursday night so we’re also feeling more carefree, relaxed by the shades of blue, chilled-out music and bottle of wine, still starstruck at meeting Alfredo Russo.
So despite the crunchy risotto and sloppy service, we left feeling generally content, though other diners may not be as picky or as tolerant. So long as you don’t have super-high expectations, it’s still a decent option for a date night. Reserve a table in advance by the window.
Vivaldi by Alfredo Russo
Sheraton Dubai Creek
Baniyas Road, Dubai Creek
Tel: +971 4 228 1111