On arriving at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, for a split second I wondered if they were expecting us. The friendly staff seemed to look at us a little expectantly, and it seemed as though everyone had appeared out of nowhere to greet us. We were led passed the minute bar and into a dining room that, on first glance, looked to be swathed in measure upon measure of luxurious Indian silk in translucent, ethereal silver.

On second glance (and after getting close enough to touch it), I wondered if they hadn’t been expecting anyone at all. The ‘drapes’ felt and looked like industrial plastic protective sheeting; the closer I got, the more it looked as though the builders hadn’t left yet. The restaurant was, in fact, in its soft opening, yet still charging full price, so it should have been ready to offer full service too.

Quibbles aside, I quite liked the decor. It was simple and dark, and there was a subtle but clear sense of an Indian aesthetic: the silver of the industrial sheeting was echoed in the glimmering silver rings around the ‘signature’ plates. Sadly, as though we were children not trusted with mummy’s fancy crockery, these were removed and replaced with a less exciting – yet still stylish – batch of white plates. Granted, this is often
the case, but I can never understand why restaurants insist on laying tables with plates they’d rather you didn’t eat from.

The menu was large and full of Indian words (with no English-language explanations). Thrown in among the Indian phraseology, which seemed to spell authenticity, were a few hints of dubious-sounding fusion. Feeling lost amid this mire, we gratefully accepted the help of our waiter, who showed a good understanding of such a new menu, guiding us through our choices and helping to ensure we didn’t over-order.

His kind work, however, was undone by the quantity of free food that landed on our table. First was the crispy, peppercorn-spotted poppadoms with five different and fairly creative chutneys, then the amuse bouche (artfully given an Indian name, meaning ‘beginning’) of sweet chat and a refreshing mint and fruit shooter.

Then the ‘proper’ food arrived: a sharing platter of chicken cooked three ways in a tandoor oven. At the sound of ‘chicken parmesan tikka’, I could feel the cringe spreading across my face – although it actually proved to be rather good. It didn’t taste particularly Indian, yet the meat was juicy and succulent.

The chicken seekhpa took some explaining: we were led to believe this was ‘double chicken’, or rather a chicken leg wrapped in more chicken. I’m still unsure: even after the waiter told me to ‘forget the other chicken’, I still find myself wondering what happened to it. The ‘other chicken’ aside, it was tasty and tender. The neza kabab was also a little odd, and again satisfactorily so. This roll of minced chicken meat stuffed with a creamy, herby filling, was unexpectedly light in flavour and very enjoyable.

Then to the main courses. The rogan josh with Kashmiri chilli and onion gravy was spicy without being over the top, and the large chunks of meat on the bone were well cooked. The menu listed several ‘gharha’, a slow-cooked claypot speciality that is a signature at Signature. We tried the lemongrass butter chicken, which was wonderfully creamy and vibrantly flavoured, and sprinkled with zaatar for a pleasingly local touch. The dish came with a sun-dried tomato and olive naan, which was not unpleasant, but tasted disorientatingly like pizza, and added nothing to the Asian flavours of the dish. The mint paratha was a much better bet.

Suddenly it felt as though we’d been eating for days. Full, well fed and satisfied, but still confused about that chicken, we decided the exciting-sounding desserts would have to wait until another time – possibly accompanied by another confusing explanation.

The bill (for two)
1x Chicken kebab platter
1x Rogan josh Dhs75
1x Gharha chicken Dhs85
1x Steamed rice Dhs20
1x Pudina paratha Dhs25
1x Mocktail Dhs30
1x Large water Dhs18
Total (excluding service) Dhs338