Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Second Review! Gordon Ramsay's Verre at Hilton Dubai Creek

Welcome to our second review! The chef, the psycho, the 6-foot blond bad-toothed Brit, the nightmare himself, Gordon Ramsay's Verre Restaurant, Hilton Dubai Creek (and umm, no, that's not him - that's Matt Pickop, or "Fake-but-darn-good Gordon Ramsay").

Before we start, I want to get something out of the way. This place is good, and extra tasty - but the heaping helping out traffic you get en route to Diera is a LOT of work. So do yourself a favor - make it a long dinner. The drive back isn't nearly so bad, but if your table is before 9pm (ours was at 7 - I know, I know), then you are toast.
This meal was subsized by my dear sous chef brother, Chris (stand up and take a bow!), but would have been worth it otherwise. I've read a slew of reviews on Verre in anticipation, and the range from glowing a few years back to problems with service more recently.

I can tell you that they were most likely all right - I'll piece together the story of what I see as a restaurant just about back to the top.

First off, they were unable to find my brother's voucher - not unforgiveable, since it was a gift 3 months ago and we didn't give them any notice. However, after a bit of back and forth with the manager, he agreed to comp my bill for the voucher and try and work it out later. Well played! As for the rest of the service, here is where our story begins. It appears that in the haste to fix the service in the restaurant, a number of finer points were passed over in favor of a strong broad stroke. The entire staff is very courteous, and very clear-spoken, and very attentive - all marks of a good recovery. The problems start small, though. Our first round of wine was forgotten - when we asked for it again after the amuse, we were told they ran out, but had a wonderful substitute. That arrived quickly, and we were off.

The bread guy was very fast - all 8 times he came by. The last time was during sorbet, just before our soufflet arrived - nevermind that we didn't want bread the last 4 times. It seems nobody told him when to STOP offering more roles. Kinda funny. While we were working on our starters, they tried to bus the plates - we said we weren't finished, and the waiter smiled, nodded profusely, and took our plates. I almost had to chase him down to get the food back, but he was great after that.

Which brings me to my point - everyone is very attentive, so if something isn't right the first time, it's fixed quickly. But it's not quite right the first time, yet :)

Making up for all of this ("GET TO THE POINT!") is the absolutely spectacular food. My one complaint is that when they use truffles, they use A LOT of truffles. I like truffles, but this was a little much. Katie had to put the lid on the sauce because she was about to keel over and die. But on to the good stuff! A blue crab and cold corn soup was to die for - literally, because there had to be some serious cream in there. The scallops I had as a starter (seared watermelon, ginger infusion, caviar, satueed pork belly) were easily the softest scallops I've ever eaten. They felt like a seared marshmallow. The pork belly was good (not that I care for that kind of thing), and the sauce excellent. Katie's RAVIOLO OF RISOTTO, lobster meat, and salmon (yes, you read that right) was like eating fresh off a fishing boat in Maine, to say nothing of making ravioli out of fresh risotto.

Moving on to the main course, we were told the beef wellington for two was going to be medium rare. A bit about medium rare in Dubai - I eat steak tartare all of the time, and I've sent my medium rare back to be cooked 3 out of the last 4 meals. Cold in the middle, still black-and-white-spotted-cow on the outside. It's ridiculous - like they're trying to conserve energy and make my steak "green". It was green. Now it's supposed to be pink. But alas, this one showed up blood red again - but wait! What's this? A deceiving amount of heat and deliciousness - it actually looked cold and rare, but tasted just right. Basically, the opposite of an underripe orange gassed to be the right color.

The sommelier, Simone Luca (who is definitely our new best friend), was amazing - he pulled out a bottle to go with the beef that he actually imports HIMSELF. As in brings in 4 bottles from Italy off of the plane in his bag. I asked him where to get it, and he asked me when I was going home next. We'll pass along the info as soon as we track it down ourselves - in the meantime, he recommends "Perfect Pairing" by Evan Goldstein (he actually brought the book out to our time) for a little try-at-home wine chemistry.

So, dessert. We ordered a raspberry mint soufflet to split (our sommelier friend said "Who splits a soufflet?", I asked "Who doesn't???"), and I wish we had two. Instead of a sauce, they serve a fresh mint ice cream scoup on top that melted down through a hole in the middle, and "sauced" the soufflet on the way down. FANTASTIC. I want one right now. Even Katie, hater of all seeded fruit, wanted another one. Instead, we rolled out of the restuarant, into a cab, and back on home.

Definitely repeatable, decor is nice but not unique (great for a state-side restaurant, but Dubai ups the standard, keep up!). The cost keeps it out of every-day dining (except for, you know, the crazy rich people who were dining there as "weekday food") - our dinner for two with apps, beef wellington, and enough wine to keep you busy ran almost four $$$$. Still, the food was worth it!

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