Peruvian magic, Lima Dubai

For two years City Walk has been the hottest neighbourhood in Dubai, immensely popular among locals and especially charming at night. It’s unsurprisingly the result hard work and smart marketing. Free, spacious underground and outdoor parking, edgy design, futuristic lightening, street art and a rare opportunity to explore places on foot contributes to City Walk’s fame. However, only a few had enough time and patience to discover the hidden gems of this district. One of them is incredible Turkish restaurant that serves freshly baked bread and out of the world Bakhlava (Babaji). Only a few days ago I discovered that a glass of red is not taboo at City Walk either.

PB135911.JPGTo be honest, Lima, a new Peruvian restaurant is slightly off he beaten path. That’s why I produly call it “a hidden gem of City Walk”. Reach the square and the head towards Al Wasl street checking places on your left. Once you spot a few steps leading up, you are probably on the right path. Google maps are extremely helpful.

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The first thing you’ll notice is lush greenery. Lima’s cosy outdoor terrace is covered in plants and bushes, creating the feeling of a little oasis in the center of urban Dubai. Step in and be surprised once again by the warmth and authenticity. Expect smiles reaching out to you from every corner.

I started my night at Lima on the first floor, right at the bar where Max and Luis were creating the best traditional Pisco Sour I’ve had in my life. Mixing bartending and story telling, Luis conveyed me of fables of past and present, and in a few minutes I was very aware of Peruvian dining rituals. Equipped with a drink I lost myself to the Latin tunes, nestling in a cosy hanging chair made of wood. The DJ’s booth at the opposite corner was barely noticeable but his work pushed my soul to dance.

An hour later, all set with aperitifs, I made my way to the cevicheria, placed in a way that all cooking magic would be visible from anywhere at Lima. While I watched salmon being gently sliced, chef Diego Sanchez has appeared at the counter and I couldn’t resist but speak to him. Quick and very very charming, he talked me through the variety of ceviche dishes served at Lima and his passion to tweak traditional recipes introducing new flavours and tastes. A challenging task in Dubai, he thought. A big fan of a change I quietly disagreed, because only a silly girl would argue with a great chef while he is cooking for her.

Chef Diego Sanchez started when he was just 17, a fact recognized by me as a huge achievement. With a little candid smile and eyes sparkling with passion, he immediately wins over his guests, capturing respect and attention. His charm continue with the taste of his dishes, perfected to the ultimate beauty in taste and presentation. I couldn’t stop applauding every time he appeared from the kitchen, adding a fantastic touch to the whole dining experience.

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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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Chateau Blanc, Dubai

This landmark villa on Jumeirah Road is a magnificent white castle neighbouring Kite Beach on one side and Jumeirah Public Beach on the other. Complimentary valet parking assures your trip to Chateau Blanc will be a stress-free.

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Started by Chef Lal De Silva in Indonesia, the brand expanded to the Middle East and transformed into Chateau Blanc, a family run business. With a fully operational kitchen, elevator and a fantastic sky view terrace with reclining roof, Chateau Blanc has stepped outside the boundaries of the fanciest French patisseries.

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The ground floor of the villa features panoramic windows, comfy sofas, shelves with house-made goodies and hand painted wall art. Murals resemble the facades of Vienna, Paris, Florence, Venice, St. Petersburg and a few more places around the world known for Baroque architecture. Baroque motives spread across the vast array of pastry, artisanal chocolates, 3D cupcakes and “decorated to serve” cakes.

All desserts are crafted from the finest ingredients and traditions. To preserve the quality, all cakes to order are decorated a few minutes prior to serving or delivering.

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The last floor of the villa is a newly opened terrace to enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea or snacks and fragrant shisha in the evening. There is a bar, non-licensed but nonetheless busy, mixing signature drinks, juice, smoothies and fruit mocktails.

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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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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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