The Monarch's Italian restaurant lacks wow factor 9 Reviews
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Amika, I’m told, is a trendy nightclub in a posh part of London. Actually, I wasn’t told it was ‘trendy’, because no one uses that word other than me, but it is a nightclub in London (Kensington to be precise) and now it’s here in Dubai. Great news for fashionable young things who like to look serious while sipping mixed drinks at cordoned-off tables.
I had booked my table at Amika for 8pm (ie as soon as the restaurant opened) on a Sunday night – perhaps the least ‘trendy’ time and day you could possibly visit, and thus perhaps not the best representation of Amika’s usual atmosphere. Nevertheless, it was a good opportunity for me to concentrate on the interiors and, of course, the food.
In terms of the former, I was unsettled. There’s something ‘unfinished’ about Amika. Yes, I appreciate the restaurant is in its ‘soft opening’ phase (and, yes, I appreciated that the ornate picture frames on the walls are supposed to be empty), but there’s an awkwardness to the restaurant area that didn’t sit well with me. For example, the wine bar is sidled uncomfortably between a clunky support pillar and a kitchen door that would swing open every three minutes, emitting a distracting luminous glare. My date chastised me for being overly finicky. Maybe she had a point, but I maintain that it’s the little details that make a place great, and it seemed that some of these details (such as the positioning of the kitchen door) hadn’t been given sufficient thought.
But I was here to review the food, which, from what I could deduce, looked pretty exciting. Amika serves an impressive range of Italian classics under the ‘traditional’ half of the menu, with contemporary versions of same dishes listed in its ‘modern’ section. My date started with a traditional dish – a colourful lobster salad, embellished by emerald-green baby-leaf salad, spring onions, and bunches of slender enoki mushrooms. The lobster itself was faultless – the supple, sweet flesh enhanced all the more by the tart tomato vinaigrette and dash of lemon. I, however, was more excited about my green tea scampi and baby calamari salad. Perhaps too excited. While the celery added a fresh taste and welcome crunchy texture, and the rock melon was favourably fresh, I found myself wanting more. After all, we’re talking green tea scampi with gold-flake balsamic vinegar – I wanted to be thrown around the room by the daring dynamic of the dish. Instead, I merely enjoyed it.
After our waiter (who had a habit of hovering) had cleared the table, the luminous light of the kitchen once again flashed in my peripheral vision and we were presented with our mains: carnaroli risotto and veal oxtail ravioli. The first thing that struck me was their lack of aesthetic finesse – the risotto was a pile of clumsy primary colours, while there was an almost childlike quality to the presentation of my ravioli. I could see what the chef was trying to do, but had this dish been a painting, it would belong on the fridge door rather than in a gallery.
In terms of taste, both my date and I found our dishes suffered a similar predicament to the scampi. Her risotto was infused with bubbly and saffron, and embellished with seared scallops. The ingredients should have sung; instead they just murmured. Likewise, the chocolate soufflé that we shared at the end of the meal – as with all that preceded it – was an exercise in competence rather than creativity.
As we left, the venue’s ‘Sundaze’ ’80s and ’90s club night was getting into full swing. It soon became clear that while Amika offers an Italian alternative to celebrated neighbour Okku, food is a subsidiary, not the centrepiece, of this particular lounge-restaurant concept.
The bill (for two)
1x Green tea scampi Dhs115
1x Lobster salad Dhs130
1x Raviolli Dhs80
1x Risotto Dhs100
1x Chocolate soufflé Dhs50
1x Water Dhs22
Total (excluding service) Dhs497
Time Out Dubai,
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