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Over-the-top décor and tasty Italian treats

With DIFC a veritable beehive of top restaurants, one wonders whether any venue opening in nearby (albeit slightly out-of-the-way) Trade Centre would be given so much as a second thought by anyone in search of a high-end dining fix. Such musings accompanied us on our visit to Donatello Restaurant & Lounge, yet another venue to give itself a ‘lounge’ suffix in an attempt to convey an air of sophistication.

Whether the Italian Renaissance artist would have deemed the restaurant that has taken his name as sophisticated, we’re not sure – we were too preoccupied by how brown the venue was. It certainly wasn’t ‘bad’ brown, but the copper-coloured furniture and shimmering brown drapes made us feel as though we’d stepped into an ad for a chocolate bar. Other than its russet hues, we were taken aback by just how big the restaurant was – its size accentuated all the more by the relative lack of custom on the night we visited. However, it had only just opened, so we can only assume it will garner more guests in the coming months. But, for the time being, we had the full attention of the staff, who ferried obnoxiously oversized menus and piping hot bread to our table.

The extensive selection of Italian dishes were written in a luxurious serif font that somehow made each and every dish – from the bruschette miste to the bresaola punta d’anca to burrata Pugliese – sound luxurious and delicious. With the guidance of the waitress (as I say, the number of options was generous), we eventually settled on the insalata di moscardini con patate (baby octopus salad) and the ravioli ripieni di coda di manzo (oxtail ravioli) to start.

We weren’t left to our own devices for long. Our starters were spirited to us with the utmost alacrity, a service that was complemented by the salubrious contents of the salad: soft octopi strewn amid zingy capers, diced potatos, and Gaeta black olives – a simple, refreshing combination that made a welcome contrast to the heavy, elaborate surroundings.

My date hadn’t fared quite as well with the ravioli. The six green bundles of pasta and oxtail were well made, though the flavour of the oxtail and the fresh pasta was stifled by the ricotta and marjoram jus, which tasted little different to run-of-the-mill chopped tomatoes and Italian herbs.

The omnipresent staff ensured that our plates were whisked away as soon as we’d finished and mains were trotted out of the kitchen in good time. Once again, it seemed I had better luck in ordering than my date – her filetto di branzino al forno con aglio e rosmarino (roasted black sea bass fillet) was presented amid a pretty pile of asparagus and roast potatoes. However, the fish itself turned out to be flaky, the flavour a little flat and the overall dish could have benefitted from a drizzle of something or other to add some much-needed moisture.

I, meanwhile, was enjoying my costolette d’agnello alla griglia con verdurine tornite – delightfully tender lamb chops, glistening with jus and revealing a rosy-pink interior at the lightest swipe of a knife. The accompanying baby vegetables were fresh, crisp and crunchy, while the roasted potatoes gave substance to the dish.

Though our mains may have been a tad inconsistent, Donatello proved itself no slouch in the kitchen department. As we picked through a dessert of chocolate fondant and chocolate ice cream (to match the setting), we concluded that Donatello has promise – especially if its lunch menu and bar promotions catch on with the workers in World Trade Centre. But why the restaurant is decorated with such faux opulence, I don’t know – something lighter and more contemporary would have better suited the business district location. As it stands, Donatello already feels dated so soon after opening.

The bill (for two)
1x Insalata di moscardini
Dhs84
1x Ravioli ripieni Dhs80
1x Filetto di branzino Dhs160
1x Costolette d’agnello Dhs165
1x Chocolate fondant Dhs50
1x Chocolate gelato Dhs45
Total bill (including 10% fees and 10% service) Dhs584

By Oliver Robinson

Time Out Dubai , 2 April 2012


For more information about Donatello Restaurant & Lounge click here.

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