I’ve always taken umbrage with restaurants that advertise themselves with images of the animal they serve, whether it’s a cartoon chicken, a frolicking lamb or a cud-chewing cow. I’m a cowardly carnivore who likes to pretend that the meat on his plate has never breathed, moved, or mooed. The reopened and rebranded Rib Room, however, seems intent on reminding me of this. From its enormous promotional posters depicting a brown and white speckled animal hide similar to the patterned leather chairs inside the restaurant, there’s no getting away from the fact that I’m dining on cow.
Weighed down with guilt, I sank unhappily into one of the aforementioned chairs and (half-heartedly) contemplated a life of vegetarianism, only for my meat-free musings to be extinguished by the arrival of The Rib Room’s menu (leather-bound, of course). Each page sported descriptions of various meats – steak, rib, chops and more – and it wasn’t long before I was relishing my reinstatement at the top of the food chain.
A swish-looking trolley was soon wheeled our way, offering a bevy of bubbly options by way of an aperitif – a nice touch, we thought, albeit an all-too-easy way to add an additional Dhs400 onto our bill. We politely declined and set about studying the menu, which we were surprised to find offered diabetic-friendly options (an astute addition considering the current health of the UAE’s population, perhaps) as well as tasty-looking vegetarian choices. Of course, our interest in such dishes was academic at best, and I was quick to order the duo of foie gras, while my date – a sucker for nostalgia – ordered the prawn cocktail, a dish that I thought had disappeared from menus a decade ago.
We were left to absorb the revamped Rib Room, which looks fantastic. The generic steakhouse-red colour scheme has been dropped in favour of dark wood for the walls, dark leather for the upholstery (and a smattering of cow print for good measure) and metallic finishing for the cuboid lights overhead, not forgetting the Fort Knox-style wine cellar. Those who argue that Dubai doesn’t need another steakhouse certainly have a point, but if all new additions looked this good, I have no complaints. Decor aside, the venue works so well because of its modest proportions. My date and I visited early on a Saturday evening and though only a few other tables were taken, the intimate space didn’t feel in the least bit empty.
Our meal took shape in the form of two quaint, fluffy loaves, accompanied by fresh butter and a delightfully tangy parsley and vinegar condiment. They looked and tasted great, but were served cold. I’m a stickler for food temperature (it speaks volumes about a restaurant, its kitchen and its staff) and muttered as much to my disinterested date, who was relieved that the starters arrived in time to shut me up. She was disappointed, however, that her prawn cocktail wasn’t served in a martini glass; rather a neat pink pile in the corner of a porcelain-white dish. Despite its lack of retro presentation, the starter benefited from large, juicy prawns slathered in sweet Marie Rose sauce (a posh way of describing mayonnaise mixed with ketchup), providing a playful, satisfying start to the meal.
I, meanwhile, was cheered by the sight of a creamy cut of foie gras terrine, sat opposite a glistening pan-fried image of itself. The latter proved to be the highlight of the dish: a delicately charred exterior gave way to a rich, creamy core illuminated by a delicate application of salt, which lent the foie gras a subtle yet oh-so-satisfying crunch. Though not quite as spectacular, the creamy terrine, spread across brioche, was a sweet alternative that worked well with the dainty cherry apple placed innocuously on the corner of the plate.
This small starter was a nice contrast to my heavier main, which consisted of a 200g kobe tenderloin with fries and additional side of creamy spinach. Steak, I’ve found, is one of the more difficult dishes to describe, simply because it’s a meal that falls into two categories: good and bad. This, for the record, was the former. It arrived as I’d ordered it – medium rare – and came apart wonderfully under the knife, and again in the mouth. But rather than be over the moon, I was simply satisfied – anything less for a 200g cut of meat costing Dhs330 and I’d have been livid.
The quality of the sides, however, disappointed. There wasn’t anything wrong with the fries, but from a restaurant as sleek as the new Rib Room, you’d be forgiven for expecting something more creative from the chips. Alas, they proved uninspiring.
My date’s lamb chops were served with a lively gremolata marinade, which sang with lemons, parsley and garlic, plus a tell-tale hint of rosemary. Her truffle mash proved an infinitely more satisfying accompaniment than my fries and, at Dhs160, the price of the entire dish was a lot easier to stomach.
Dessert led me to conclude that while The Rib Room could be relied upon to serve commendable cuts of meat, there was work to do in other departments. But it’d be churlish to complain about lacklustre fries or an uninspired chocolate cake and fondant combo. The fact is that this fantastically handsome restaurant warrants a repeat visit for its atmosphere and great cuts of anything that once breathed, moved, and mooed.
The bill (for two)
1x Large water Dhs34
1x Prawn cocktail Dhs85
1x Duo foie gras Dhs95
1x 200g kobe tenderloin with fries Dhs330
1x Lamb chops with truffle mash Dhs160
1x Creamy spinach Dhs30
1x Chocolate dessert plate Dhs45
Total (excluding service) Dhs779