An arty glassy waterfall feature led us to the entrance of Cascades. Up a few steps and round the corner is the restaurant. While the irregular shaped floor space is relatively small, the cathedral-like vertical space, which goes up nine floors, creates an ambience that is far from intimate. There is no natural light in this huge atrium and the electric blue lighting feels cold and harsh after a while. We sat at one of a few tables in the buffet area of the restaurant, which had a much warmer feel to it and some cheerful commotion from the open plan kitchen. As we ate in Cascades just days after its opening we have made allowances for the teething problems that inevitably manifest themselves.
In the evening there is an appetiser and dessert buffet as well as the à la carte menu. The buffet set up is very attractive; a huge black marble slab, elegant stainless steel and chrome and lots of stylish glassware filled with Mediterranean specialities. Presentation of food was simple and innovative — although sometimes precariously balanced. We chose from a selection of salads, cold Arabic mezze and seafood. We loved the idea of individual mini salads and seafood cocktails served in small tumblers. The only trouble was that everything lacked sufficient seasoning.
Not wanting to challenge the chef too much, we stuck to simple roast chicken with polenta and natural jus for our main course. As a chef, I am well aware that there are a lot of challenges to working in an open plan kitchen. Foibles are there for all to see. In this case, our chicken waited patiently under the infrared lights for quite some time while our smiling waiter meandered around. We also watched with amusement as someone else’s tagliolini resisted the chef’s attempts to form it into neat twist (he got there in the end). By the time we left, the restaurant was in the throes of hosting a large party and the previously orderly kitchen had become quite noisy.
The menu offers a cosmopolitan mix of meals and drinks. Our initial alarm at the pricing on the wine list was allayed when we realised that the ‘price per glass’ and ‘price per bottle’ columns were the wrong way round. The table settings are simple and sophisticated and in keeping with the angular theme of the décor in Cascades. Stainless steel triangles make great place mats, (we will be checking them in six months time to see if they are still pristine and free of scratches).
The dessert buffet looked sumptuous and included a colourful selection of Arabic sweets, European indulgences, fresh fruit and quite a lot of individual desserts. As with the main buffet, the display was hazardous, fabulous glass plates defying gravity atop artful chrome. Some of the beautifully presented desserts belied their meagre flavours. We left with a positive feeling that Cascades will mature into a fine restaurant once the shiny newness has faded a little. The cost of the appetiser buffet is Dhs60, the dessert buffet is Dhs55 and a combination of both is Dhs95.