Former Ritz-Carlton chef goes alone with Solo Bistromania & Vinobar
In the past two years, Wafi has seen an impressive resurgence of gourmet restaurants, following the launch TOMO in 2012 and Qbara in 2013, both winning the newcomer award in their opening years at the Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards. This change to Oud Metha continues with the closure of Raffles Dubai’s longstanding steakhouse Fire & Ice and the opening of a brand-new Italian concept Solo Bistronomia & Vinobar. It is a partnership between two Italian friends in Dubai: chef Corrado Pani (originally from Sardinia) and sommelier Luca Gagliardi (from Puglia).
‘Solo’ chef Corrado explains, ‘We identify as “simple good living”, because we want to use a lot of organic food and we try to use the best products from this region as well. For example, using local water. We have created the dishes with the best products that we can find. Some are very traditional dishes, but obviously with a personal touch. And there are two other chefs in the Kitchen from Sardinia, so we have some Sardinian dishes on the menu to add a little bit of our identity to it.’ The menu concept, Corrado tells us, is centred around Italian-style sharing plates. As such, some dishes appear on the table in pots and pans, in that same family-style spirit of sharing everything. The other core to Solo’s concept is the cellar. The vast restaurant space houses two separate bars – the ‘vino bar’, and the ‘cellar bar’ – while Solo’s cellar houses as many as 700 different varieties of grape with 24 available by the glass, and a variety produced in Italy exclusively for Solo Bistronomia.
Here, chef Corrado guides us through his signatures from the bar and restaurant menu.
On the bar menu
‘We created a dish from our gastro counter that we call conviviale, which is designed to share. At the counter, we have something different every day. We will prepare something for the sharing plate with whatever is fresh that day. On the conviviale plate, you’ll always get some cheeses and some special cured meats. It’s all halal and we have products made from goat, beef and lamb. They are very good products. We also do polpettone [meatloaf], sardines beccafico [stuffed sardines], vitello tonnato [veal with a creamy white sauce], melanzane parmigiana [aubergine bake with Parmesan] and more.’
La schiscetta: mondeghili ‘Each item on the bar food menu is inspired by street food, but from a different region of Italy.’ In Milan, ‘schiscetta’ means a workers steel lunch box – like a packed lunch – so we serve this dish in a lunch box. Inside are Milanese veal polpette [meatballs].’
‘Panzerotte are from Puglia, where Luca is from. It’s like a small stuffed calzone. It’s like a little pocket, stuffed with eggplant, tomato, fresh basil, a little bit of raisin. We close it like a half moon and fry it. It’s very fresh, simple and Italian.’
‘We like to eat zucchini blossom in Italy and it can be stuffed with so many things. It’s often stuffed with strong cheeses or zucchini. At Solo, we take the zucchini flowers and stuff them with our version of lobster thermidor, fresh herbs and parmesan. Then we fry it in a tempura-like batter.’
On the restaurant menu
Culurgiones di carciofi ‘This is definitely one of the top dishes on the menu. It is one of my signatures, which I started working on seven years ago and put on my menu five or six years ago, and it’s always going to be on my menu. It’s homemade ravioli in a style of Culurgiones, which is a very traditional style of ravioli made in Sardinia. We stuff it with artichokes and serve it on a sauce of pecorino cheese and black truffle. There is a lot of contrast and it is really a melange of flavours.’
Spaghetti allo iodio
‘In this recipe there is sea urchin, mullet roe and mussel butter (a butter we create from fresh mussels). It is very fishy, so anyone who loves the taste of the sea will be all over this, but those who don’t can go for another dish… I’m from Sardinia and there we have lots of sea urchins. The plate we use to serve this dish is a sculpture of a sea urchin. I bought them directly from Sardinia and they cost €250 per plate…’
‘I created this dish when I was at The Ritz-Carlton Dubai. I see my food as international; something Italian, but contemporary. Just as I love Nobu’s famous black cod, I wanted to create something international in this way, but Italian. I used the Chilean sea bass for this recipe, because I prefer the meat, it is thicker. I caramelise the fish in Italian beverage, and then bake it.’
Smoked eel & foie gras pizza
‘We are not a pizzeria, so what we want to do is to create a pizza to share on the table during your appetisers. So I wanted to create something a little bit gourmet – a creative pizza. We have six on the menu, and all of them are very rich in flavour; not elaborate, but rustic and very rich. And not ordinary. This pizza is topped with smoked eel, foie gras, caramelised orange and onions.’
On the dessert menu
‘This dessert is designed to be light, for those who don’t want lots of chocolate and so on. It’s almost like a beautiful palette cleanser. It is made with seven different textures of lemon, and there’s a sorbet, a jelly, a financier and also a yuzu caviar.’
‘This is a traditional dessert from Sardinia. We start with some lychees, seasoned with citrus, and served with arbutus honey. This is a bitter honey, which we import directly from Sardinia, and then we serve it with a myrtle ice cream (which is a wild berry), which we make in-house as well. Actually, we do everything in-house [laughs].’ Solo Bistronomia & Vinobar is now open, Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha (04 370 8999).