Characterful Italian in DIFC shows promise 61 Reviews
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Nothing irks me more than when a restaurant’s ‘soft opening’ is used as an excuse for bad food and bad service. I appreciate that every restaurant needs time to find its feet, but the good ones always open their doors once the food has been perfected and staff are suitably trained. Any speed bumps thereafter are minor and can be easily ironed out.
Luckily, Roberto’s seems to have done things by the book: the restaurant had only been open a couple of days when my date and I visited, but it was clear that the relevant precautions had been taken to ensure customers wouldn’t be turned off by their first meal here. For one, the management had been running an unpublicised lunch service for a few weeks before they announced the opening, meaning the multitude of staff who had been lying in wait for us were sharp and switched on. What’s more, the fact that Roberto’s has so many staff gave the expansive restaurant a busy, bustling atmosphere, despite us being the first guests to arrive.
Before heading to our table, we took the opportunity to explore the huge, sprawling venue, which boasts a bar area complete with a grand piano, plus two balconies and two large dining areas (to cater for both smokers and non-smokers).
The decor isn’t as slick as some of Roberto’s esteemed DIFC neighbours, but it has a certain charm that can be attributed to Roberto Rella, the godfather of Italian food in Dubai, who opened BiCE art the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah 12 years ago and is the man behind this new venue.
We took a table on the balcony with views of the Burj Khalifa (as well as an incongruous fake orange tree just inside the restaurant), before being talked through the menu. The waiter, who could have probably recited the menu by heart if we’d asked him to, recommended the goat’s cheese and the seafood salad for starters, followed by the veal risotto and 100g sirloin – a recommendation we followed rather than procrastinate over the extensive menu. Though I prefer concise, navigable menus (if only on account of my lamentable attention span), it was reassuring to know that a wealth of fish, pasta and pizza options awaited if I ever were to visit again.
The isalata del mare – a pick-and-mix assortment of lobster, sea scallops, shrimps, calamari, octopus and black mussels – was as fresh as a gust of sea air, and was accentuated by a piquant combination of lemon, parsley and olive oil. As for my caprino, the toasted bread upon which the goat’s cheese rested was rather dull, yet the ruby-red bed of beetroot gave it a sweet-yet-tart dimension.
It didn’t take long to dispatch our starters; by the time we’d demolished them, we noticed that the restaurant was filling up. The neighbouring al-fresco tables were taken by well-groomed middle-aged women wearing expensive jewellery, while small groups of young DIFC denizens convened inside.
It conspired that our main courses weren’t quite as satisfying as the starters. The texture of my slow-braised veal shank was marvellously soft, but there wasn’t much excitement to the flavour. My date’s sirloin steak, while wafer-thin (it was only 100g), was exceptionally tender and rich, and exuded a flavour that my veal would have done well to aspire to.
But the dark lining to this silver cloud were the potato wedges, which were limp, slightly soggy and decidedly un-delicious.
Desserts were a surprising high point – my madras marshmallow was spicy and sweet, tempered with fresh gelato, while my date’s fondant was decidedly luxurious. However, the taste was slightly tarnished
by the woeful wails of the singer and pianist, who really cheapened the atmosphere.
By the time we asked for the bill, Roberto’s had a buzz about it – not bad going for its second night – and while there were a few glitches throughout three courses, there’s enough variation on the menu and enough time to improve to warrant a second visit.
The bill (for two)
1x Caprino Dhs68
1x Insalata del mare Dhs115
1x Veal and risotto Dhs155
1x 100g sirloin Dhs260
1x Asparagus Dhs25
1x Potatoes Dhs20
1x Spinach Dhs22
1x Fondant Dhs55
1x Large water Dhs24
Total (including 10% service and 10% municipality charge) Dhs744
Time Out Dubai,
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