Fusion food that falls short of the serene surroundings 5 Reviews
Vietnamese barbecue class
A masterclass followed by a meal. Minimum of four guests. Dhs245 per person (glass of grape) Timings: 1pm-3pm (Monday)
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Because of this Vietnamese restaurant’s French twist, I became used to pronouncing Vôi as ‘voir’ (in the French participle sense of the word). This proved a problem with the staff at Zabeel Saray who insisted on referring to it as ‘Voy’. I’m not sure who’s right – that’s not the point – but these differences in enunciation made both booking a table at Vôi and finding my way to the restaurant rather confusing.
More confusing, however, was arriving to find the vast double-door entrance of Vôi closed. With no one around to usher us in, I gave the door a shove only to tumble into a restaurant full of people. I felt as if I’d just interrupted a dinner party. The waitress assured me I hadn’t, but nonetheless lead me back out of the restaurant. To my relief, she only wanted to check my booking rather than eject me from the premises.
Once I eventually took my seat and settled down, I was able to appreciate the elegant grandeur of the venue. One thing the Zabeel Saray can never be accused of is doing things by half measures and, just as with the hotel’s other restaurants, Vôi was splendid. All shimmering silvers and brilliant whites, with the feature wall providing a splash of textured black, the high-ceilinged venue captures the essence of yin and yang. Three huge windows adorned with heavy ivory curtains line the restaurant’s far wall, while dainty tables are scattered thoughtfully around four mirrored support columns, which break up the floor space nicely (and conveniently stop the ceiling from falling in, as columns tend to do).
The waitresses were as sleek as their surroundings and all the more charming for their polite nervousness (which perhaps explained their over-attentiveness throughout the evening). After having to decline the bubbly aperitif for a second time – once more than I’d care to – my date and I proceeded to nose through the menu of unpronounceable Vietnamese dishes categorised under appetisers, soups, seafood and meat dishes. In the meantime, our appetites were kept at bay with a basket of delectable warm French rolls, prawn crackers and steamed buns, which I was foolhardy enough to devour even before I’d ordered my noodle soup and pot eu feu starter.
Pot eu feu is a quintessential French stew, which in this case had been given a suitably Southeast Asian twist with rice noodles, a sprinkling of chillies and a dash of lemon. The dish was hearty, without being heavy, but I was left longing for a little more punch in terms of flavour.
My date, meanwhile, had taken a decidedly more Vietnamese route with her colourful snowcrab salad – the crispy crab and soft, succulent cuts of fresh avocado and juicy mango made for a medley of taste and texture. The fresh, zesty starter set her up nicely for the crispy pacific cod, resplendent with clams, chilli and garlic and a side of coconut rice. But, as with my soup starter, the more exotic ingredients skulked rather than shone, and failed to make an impression on the palate. Nonetheless, the cod itself was near faultless, its pristine soft white flesh providing a divine contrast to the crisp skin.
While the interestingly named ‘souvenir from the colonies’ (duck, foie gras and asparagus) that I’d ordered for main lacked the dainty presentation of the other dishes, it nonetheless offered a diversity of tastes and textures thanks in large to the shining pillow of foie gras perched atop the vividly flavoured duck breast. Nonetheless, the dish belied its promise of French-Vietnamese fusion – there was too much of the former and not enough of the latter.
This conundrum is perhaps indicative of Vôi’s biggest failing. It’s a magnificent venue, but the food veers towards the unexciting. If the resident Chef Phuong Mai was given a free rein to exercise her colourful culinary heritage, she may be able to elevate Vôi from a good restaurant to a great one.
The bill (for two)
1x Avacado salad Dhs85
1x Pot au feu Dhs65
1x Pacific cod Dhs195
1x Duck Dhs185
1x Sparkling water Dhs30
Total (excluding service) Dhs65
Time Out Dubai,
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