Eat, drink and party Argentinian way! Asado, Downtown Palace, Dubai

The Spanish verb “asar”, to grill or to roast, has travelled across the continent and transformed into much more than a way to prepare meat. In Argentina, Asado is an important part of local culture. It’s a party where cooking is considered to be a ritual with secret techniques, century-old recipes and purposeful steps. This tradition dates back to the times when gauchos (cowboys) used to sit down to slow dinners over a wood fire and a cup of tea after a long day herding.

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The Downtown Palace has recreated the atmosphere of the traditional Argentinian roast in the most passionate way at Asado, a restaurant with fantastic views of Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain and the blue waterfront.

 

The Grape and Harvest lunch at Asado on Fridays and Saturdays is inspired by the rich fertile soils and blooming meadows of the Pampa region. Sweet corn, chicken cooked in banana leaves, various crunchy chips and salads are displayed in a tempting way indoor and outdoors.

 

A live band sets the mood, adding a bright Latin American touch to the party.

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There is a counter with a giant shark-like tuna where the freshest ceviche is made to order.

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The traditional feast consists of sausages, seafood, ribs and deliciously smoky chunks of meat, slow roasted over charcoal and wood for hours. Everything is served with salsa on the side and sauces. Female chef Josefinna Vallve, who recently joined the team, has introduced new exciting dishes to the menu.

 

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Cafe Bateel 10 years

Starting of as a producer of gourmet dates and chocolates in 2007, Bateel has rapidly transformed into a well-known brand, loved for traditional Arabic coffee, French pastry, Mediterranean cuisine and luxury gift boxes packed with tempting goodies.

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To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Bateel chefs designed a seasonal menu available at all branches including their flagship store in JBR. That’s where I went for lunch after spending the morning at the beach.

Being right at the beginning of this popular neighborhood, Bateel JBR is quicker to reach than the rest of the development due to less traffic. Customers get two hours free parking at Murjan Tower 1 and there is indoor and outdoor seating with free WiFi.

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The menu introduces several signature dishes designed for the occasion, seasonal variations of all-time favorites and a few call backs from previous editions.

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The 10th anniversary menu consists of locally sourced ingredients with a focus on regional flavors rather than traditional Mediterranean cuisine. This trend is continued, adding mildly spiced curry, saffron and tabbouleh to otherwise conservative dishes.

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Superfood tuna salad pleasantly surprised me with a dash of roasted garlic that wasn’t listed in the description but was hidden among the fresh lettuce, house-cured olives, avocados, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes and slices of beautifully pink tuna. Seasoned with light apple vinegar, it was an ideal choice for a starter as it triggered an appetite for more. Apparently it was available on the menu in the past, and if you are looking to try a completely new creation, the Bateel Palm salad is a great alternative.

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Lobster rigatoni made of slowly cooked Canadian lobster in light creamy curry sauce was delightfully fragrant. Fresh coriander leaves added lovely drops of green colour and perfectly balanced the zestiness of the lemon.

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Sea bass served on a bed of saffron risotto was tender and tasty. Large asparagus cooked in a pan added crispness and tartness to the dish.

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My dessert, paired with dark coffee, was made of premium beans and as delightful as the whole lunch. A Tarte Azelia greatly benefited from bits and pieces of roasted hazelnuts and the Emoji Tartelette and Passionfruit Strawberry Tart had a lovely contrast of sweetness and sourness that were just excellent.

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Hoi An of Dubai

Have you heard of the ancient town of Hoi An? Referred to as the Venice of Vietnam, with its narrow water canals, it was once the crossroads of the spice trade. Hoi An now is loved for oriental architecture influenced by the neighbouring countries Japan, China and Indonesia. Today the city has developed into a popular tourist destination, opening its streets, temples and local businesses to the curious eyes of the world. To experience Hoi An in its brilliant glory, arrive when during a full moon which adds mystery to the local night scene, where hanging lanterns shine to their brightest and the streets are overwhelmed with buzz and flavours… You can imagine my excitement when I discovered a little replica of Hoi An in Dubai, a Vietnamese restaurant in the Shangri-La Hotel.

The drive to Shangri-La on Sheikh Zayed Road is busy in all directions with Thusday partygoers. But! Curiousity is a strange thing, particularly when fed by hunger. I patiently navigated the traffic, craving authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Complimentary valet parking at Shangri-La was a nice reward for an hour of hustle, and in a perfectly fine mood I walked into the warm welcoming lights of Hoi An.

The Dubai interpretation of Hoi An was very visual with colourful lanterns, framed snapshots of Vietnam, wooden banisters, domesticated palm trees and statues of Buddha. Vibrant lights reflected in panoramic windows looked rather exotic. A little candle sparkling through the petals of a textile lotus added an oriental feel to the table.

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A hot towel scented with invigorating jasmine stole my heart, and a serving of crunchy Asian crackers with a side of sweet chilly sauce, my full attention. Without further hesitation I started my food journey with a cup of green jasmine tea served in an emerald-green kettle, which was poured for me with traditional gentleness. A quick look through the menu reassured I was at the right place.

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I decided to leave my appetite in the hands of beautiful Vietnamese servers April and Tam, who passionately mixed dish descriptions with anecdotes. I giggled happily, feeling as I was right in the middle of the midnight city chatting over a cup of tea with new friends. My amuse-bouche was a piece of boneless chicken steamed and seared on a pan and then topped with a yellow flower. Spiced mildly for my complicated taste, it signaled a desire to popularize traditional Vietnamese cuisine by introducing it to a wider audience. Not everyone is a crazy chilly monster like I am.

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I started dinner with a selection of appetizers placed around a spicy house-made sauce. My main course consisted of baby chicken, giant shrimp and a delicious fish, tender inside and crispy out. All food was prepared using traditional techniques modernized to European taste.

The best part of my evening was a bowl of pho soup with herbs, sauces and fresh chilies on the side. I spiced up my pho to the maximum with as many chillis as possible. What a delight!

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Vanitas @ Palazzo Versace in Dubai

Mesmerized by the name, I couldn’t possibly resist a dinner at Vanitas, literally translated from Latin as “emptiness” in reference to earthy achievements and pleasures. In art circles, this term is closely associated with still life “memento mori” paintings, visualizing the worthlessness human desire – power, money, sweet luxuries – through the symbols of rusting metal, decaying silk and burnt candles. Obviously learning the history behind just one word, I was intrigued to visit Vanitas.

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Hoping to explore the gothic side of Palazzo Versace in Dubai, I chose to wear a rather contrasting romantic gown with open shoulders, floral motives and the most cheerful skirt ever made by Dubai based designers at Si Fashion Galerie. Boy, was I wrong!

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Decorated with the freshest and very fragrant red roses, Vanitas restaurant greeted me with a spacious well-lit hall, a prevalence of beige marble floors, wooden parquet, traditional Italian wall art and crystal chandeliers. So chic. So Palazzo. So Versace!

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As the evenings are still quite warm, I sat indoors where the lighting was slightly dimmed, setting a very charming intimate atmosphere. Candles, red velour on upholstery, bright royal blue dinner plates, roses and my beloved Versace prints celebrated life at her brightest, with a clear focus on the art of dining well.

The minute I got into my seat, the dinner had started with arrival of warm and fluffy focaccia bread and beautifully young olive oil.

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The amuse-bouche placed in front of me clearly indicated chef’s desire to experiment with textures, forms and ingredients, and ultimately with the audience. Vanita’s chef intended to transform the stereotypical perception of traditional Italian cuisine to the taste of millennials, hard to impress Dubaians and savvy travellers aiming to create an unforgettable dining ritual.

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While Lucia helped me to navigate through the Italian menu and must-tries, the place filled up with couples, families with well-behaved, well-groomed kids, joyful friends and even a solo diner. When I finalized my order, tables seemed to be rearranged to accommodate all and staff quickly moved from one corner to another prepping for a busy night. It was the generous serving of burrata surrounded by crunchy veggie rolls, lettuce and sweet tomatoes that turned my attention back to the table. What a creamy burrata it was!

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My next appetizer, a plate of octopus with purple potato puree, greens, chips and black olive powder was as tasty as it looked. Chef’s creativity deserves a special compliment.

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A few minutes later my table started to resemble a state feast with the finest china and cutlery, sparkles of gold and stylish Mediterranean touches at every level of detail.

The foie gras was layered like an opera cake with parmigiano ice-cream, grapes filled with tender goat cheese and crispy lettuce that could easily be mistaken for dessert. A really rich one!

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My mains continued with chef’s tendency to surprise. The seafood risotto featured nicely cooked rice with a lovely touch of black pepper. Interestingly the seafood bits, octopus, shrimps and fish were cooked separately and served on the top to add a crunchy texture to an otherwise creamy dish. I asked for extra Parmesan as I’m addicted.

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When I tasted the linguini it took a while to figure out chef’s trick. There was a very familiar softness in both texture and taste. The truth was revealed: the Pasta’s recipe was based on potatoes with a little help of wheat flavour. No wonder I though of homemade gnocchi at the first bite.

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I’m wearing a tailor-made gown with incredible skirt from Si Fashion Galerie.

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Touch of Tajiness @JivaSpa in Dubai

“Finding one’s true self begins with a calm mind and soul”, Jiva Spa’s global philosophy. I couldn’t agree more.

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My first introduction to Jiva Spa was in 2007 at the majestic Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai.  When I stepped out of my car at Taj hotel Dubai, the familiar scent of jasmine and roses brought back all the pleasant memories. I felt at home.

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A man in a Maharaji outfit walked me to the lift and all the way to the third floor where Alfa, Jiva Spa’s host greeted me with a dazzling smile. She seated me comfortably on a little sofa, handing over an ice-cold towel and a cup of hot herbal tea with honey, a combination we truly appreciate in sunny Dubai.

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While I savoured every sip of my invigorating cuppa, we chatted away my concerns and worries, deciding on the perfect treatment. This time it was a deep tissue massage for 60 minutes. I filled a one page form prior to being introduced to my masseuse, or as we Dubaians say, therapist.

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I quickly changed into Jiva Spa’s outfit, a cotton robe and slippers. Up in the treatment room bright lights were dimmed and candles lit; my massage bed warmed and soft music filled space with loveliest sounds.

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I got under the sheets, closed my eyes and completely submerged in the surroundings, letting my therapist work every sore muscle and knot. And she wasn’t shy. She started with stretching my entire body followed by gentle strokes and then powerful moves. I felt blood rushing happily from tips to toes.

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At the end of the deep pressure massage, my therapist applied hot towels to remove extra oil, helped me to dress and instructed me to use the steam room for further after-treatment benefits. I couldn’t agree more (again!). Equipped with another cup of herbal tea, I moved to the steam room and felt absolutely relaxed and in harmony with myself. The touch of Jiva’s Tajiness completely restored my spiritual wellbeing.

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Wake up in Paris and brunch @La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai

Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.

“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.

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In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.

When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.

Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.

Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.

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Break the sky @At.mosphere Dubai

In many ways Dubai is the most eccentric city in the world. Home to driverless subways, the largest malls, warmest sea, safest environment, the most expensive coffee and the tallest building, it always keeps visitors on their toes, overwhelmed with experiences all year (even when thermometer jumps to +50C). The one truly unmissable attraction is the Burj Khalifa, a tower that holds to the world’s record of 828m since 2010. Dubaians believe if you haven’t been to Burj Khalifa you haven’t really seen Dubai. Many opt to book a tour to the top but there is a better and tastier way to experience it, – At.mosphere.

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Located on the 122nd floor, a minute ride on a rapid elevator, Atmosphere is divided into two establishments: a lounge for high-tea, pre- and post-party drinks, and a luxurious restaurant with private dining. Needless to say the view is fantastic from every window.

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Depending on time, weather and position of sun and moon, the view around Atmosphere changes dramatically making it the most exciting destination to explore the ever-expanding Dubai.

Being a frequent guest of Atmosphere’s lounge for high-tea and pre-dinner cocktails, this time I stopped in to experience the newest breakfast menu created by chef Christopher Graham, formerly of Jumeirah Group hotels.

Atmosphere states the dress code as casual, but I prefer to wear a slightly ridiculous outfit because my photo memories are expected to be spectacular!

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The interior resembles the vibe of London decor with polished wooden panels, reflective aluminum columns, shiny glass, panoramic windows and patches of warm red light here and there.

The new breakfast menu consisted of pre-set dishes paired with eggs as well as tasty delights like organic greek yogurt parfait, waffles, crepes, jams and vanilla butter (with real crushed vanilla).

In terms of cost, it’s quite flexible. The minimum spend is AED 200 per person (window tables are subject to availability upon reservation). A special 35% discount is offered on Decadence Menu (yumm) for guests with a valid Emirates ID card.

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Day & Time: Daily, from 7am to 11am (last arrival time is 10am)

Price: Decadence Menu – AED 325 per person (UAE residents can enjoy 35% discount with their Emirates ID), Prestige Menu – AED 525 per person and À la carte – Dishes start from AED 60. Children below 5 years can dine for free (ID required with date of birth). Children aged 6-10 years are entitled to 50% on Decadence Menu only (ID required with date of birth).

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