Dinner parties in Dubai
Which of three prominent Dubaians scored highest in the kitchen? Discuss this article
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Organising a dinner party can be a minefield at the best of times. Add to that an extra complication – a guestlist of people who have never met – and you have a potentially tricky recipe on your hands. So when Time Out decided to throw a dinner party, we thought we’d ease the burden by leaving the cooking to someone else: we invited three prominent Dubaians over for dinner and asked them to prepare one course each. We then asked our guests to pass judgement on one another’s culinary masterpieces, with Eating Out editor Penelope Walsh acting as referee and compiling the scores. How did our celebs get on? Let’s find out…
I arrive at the venue – The Rib Room in Jumeirah Emirates Towers – feeling like an anxious matchmaker and wondering what to expect from my guests: Colombian-born, Dubai-based singer Fatiniza,
Dubai One TV presenter Layne Redman and Dubai 92 DJ Tom Bushell. But for all my fears, it’s only a matter of minutes before the ice is well and truly broken (after all, our guests’ professional lives require a degree of self-confidence).
It soon transpires that I’ve made the ultimate, and inevitable, dinner party faux-pas. Being something of an omnivore myself, I haven’t thought about dietary requirements of my guests, yet it turns out Layne is a vegetarian and Tom is allergic to nuts. While they can eat their own dishes in safety, both face two potentially inedible courses. Luckily for his fellow diners, Layne has a policy of eating meat only when absolutely necessary (ie now).
Tom, who is in charge of the starter, produces slices of prosciutto, pre-sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves. It doesn’t look as though it’ll make a knockout impression. Yet rather cleverly (and insistently), he enlists the help of The Rib Room chef Ganesh Venkiteswaran to arrange these failsafe ingredients into restaurant-standard presentation. ‘He can do the first one, then I’ll copy it,’ Tom announces. To my surprise, Tom does a fairly good job of replicating Ganesh’s efforts – judging by the look on Fatiniza and Layne’s faces when the dish arrives, the extra help on presentation has done Tom some favours.
Tom’s starter is generally well received and, personally, I enjoy it immensely: it’s a light, fresh and summery start to the meal, although it was a mistake to pre-slice the ingredients. It is, however, a classic and reliable combination and it would have taken a lot of energy to ruin this otherwise effortless starter.
Conversely, I’m impressed by the effort that Fatiniza has made. For her dish of chicken breast with home-made honey and mustard sauce and Mediterranean-style potatoes, she has also prepared asparagus (bringing parmesan cheese to sprinkle over it), and a side salad of spinach, mushrooms, sultanas, pine nuts and a home-made orange dressing. Due to Tom’s allergy, the pine nuts don’t make the final cut.
Fatiniza looks much more at home in the kitchen and, aside from chef Ganesh wiping off the odd splash of sauce from the edge of plates (he clearly can’t help himself), she doesn’t need as much professional help with her preparation. What’s more, she’s clearly thought about the presentation, but at the careful and considered (read: slow) pace with which she plates up, I wonder whether Tom and Layne are considering ordering a takeaway instead.
I really want to like Fatiniza’s main course. Admittedly, it’s very good – it looks much like restaurant food, yet tastes like comforting home cooking. The chicken is beautifully tender, but the potatoes are
a little hard and salty. The orange dressing, meanwhile, is an interesting and lively concoction, but unfortunately the raw mushrooms in the salad don’t quite work.
Layne’s dessert is next in the firing line: home-made apple and cinnamon biscuits with coconut, almond and cashew ice cream and fresh strawberries. However, an overwhelming number of the ingredients in Layne’s dish (cashew nuts, almonds, coconut and cinnamon) are in the danger zone for Tom, who makes a few friendly jibes about his inability to eat it. The problem is solved by chef Ganesh, who plates up a dessert for Tom: ice-cream and a forest of fresh strawberries from The Rib Room’s kitchen. It looks as though Tom has done well for himself: not only does he benefit (again) from Ganesh’s powers of presentation, but also from the vast majority of the strawberries, something Fatiniza notes, joking: ‘Tom is obviously Layne’s favourite.’
Layne’s coconut ice cream is particularly interesting, boasting a mellow yet full flavour, and an unusually thick and filling texture. Yet the execution of the apple and cinnamon cookies hasn’t done them justice: they’re a little tough and the flavour is too doughy. As plates are cleared and we digest the meal, our focus turns to the judging. What did our celebs make of their fellow guests’ culinary prowess? Turn the page to find out.
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