We eat first with our eyes. The appearance of a dish plays a large part in the initial anticipation and eventual enjoyment of eating it, and even more so at the most creative end of Dubai’s dining scene, where the presentation of a meal can really add to the excitement of the dining experience. Helping you harness those fine dining visuals to create a feast for the eyes at home, four of Dubai’s top chefs deconstruct signature dishes from their menus to reveal the secrets of stylish presentation.
Chef: Luis del Hoyo
Dish: Grilled octopus with kalamata olives, onion and mint.
Dhs65. Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 444 7111).
‘We normally use garnishes when the dish requires some additional colour, balance or contrast, but this one doesn’t need them.’
‘The sauces play a big role in adding colour to the plate, but also in balancing the different elements. They’re positioned around the main element of the dish, which fills the empty space on the plate with colour, but without being overbearing.’
‘This dish is actually quite simple in terms of its arrangement. The idea behind it was to recreate the movement of the octopus. We use a flat, white plate with a textured rim, to allow for a sense of space and room for movement.’
‘Colour is used to tonal effect: there are three different shades of purple in this dish (in the octopus, beetroot aioli and kalamata olive sauce). The green, white and yellow from the onions, corn and mint provide some contrast and bursts of colour.’
Chef: Colin Clague
Dish: Falafel salad, compressed cucumber and tarator.
Dhs52. Wafi, Oud Metha (04 709 2500).
‘I picked up some stone plates from the Dubai Garden Centre (remember to steriise them before using). It is very rustic and earthy, and since no two pieces are the same, a real talking point.’
‘The actual falafel is a quenelle shape, which gives a more sophisticated, fine dining appearance than the usual round, hand-formed types. The shape also creates a little height.’
‘The main components are very earthy browns and greens. We contrast these with a splash of colour from the radishes and cherry tomatoes.’
‘When plating, we want to achieve height, because we still want to see the edges of the slate as it is so visually appealing. The elements of the dish are layered in the centre dropping off towards the edges.’
‘I’m not a big one for garnishing the plate. If there is a sauce, it’s to complement the food. There are two sauces in this dish. The hummus is spread over the plate and the ingredients are layered on top, while the tarator is drizzled over the falafel, so that the sauces are part of the dish. We don’t put anything on the plate that you’re not able to eat.’
‘Dishes at Qbara are designed for sharing. In each plate there has to be a repeat of the dish, five or six times, so that each person has the complete dish in front of them – there is no point in having all the tomatoes at one end of the plate, for example.’
Choix Patisserie & Restaurant
Chef: Francois Xavier Simon
Dish: Green gnocchi and rocket salad with sun-dried tomatoes, black Taggiasche olives and Parmigiano cheese.
Dhs65. Intercontinental Dubai Festival City(04 701 1136).
‘These gnocchi are not the usual shape or colour. This is really owner Pierre Gagnaire’s signature style – we always want to avoid doing something traditional.’
‘The sauces are red pepper confit and basil pesto. We wanted them to be easy to eat. How we place the sauce on the plate depends a little on mood. You can use a brush, or do little dots. We’ve done it like this because it is a little bit more obscure.’
‘Black slate plates are appearing more in fine dining, and with this type of dish, make the colours really stand out.’
‘Keep plenty of space on the plate so each item is visible.’
‘The rocket leaf garnish is a small detail, but creates a sense of volume and texture on the plate.’
Chef: Juan Carlos González Hernández
Dish: Milk-fed lamb shoulder, eggplant and artichokes.
Dhs210. Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai Marina (04 399 7700).
‘Lamb with honey, and aubergine with honey, are very traditional Spanish combinations. But instead of honey, we use a syrup with soy and sugar. The colours and textures look very natural and organic.’
‘We drizzle the syrup in spirals on the plate and place the aubergine inside the circle, so when you eat, you get the two ingredients together.’
‘There are two styles of artichoke: a soft confit and a crispy deep-fried version. This creates a contrast of textures both visually and when eating.’
‘Garnishes of Moroccan preserved lemon and chives add variation in colour. These are placed randomly because we want the dish to look relaxed, easy and fun.’
The perfect table
Chef Marta Yanci from Dubai-based catering company Marta’s Kitchen shares expert tips for setting a stylish dinner party table.
1. Create your own table centrepiece combining flowers or greens with pantry elements, such as dried chillies and cinnamon sticks, to add interest and form a possible talking point.
2. Less is more. If you choose to use a tablecloth, go for plain, light colours. You can add a touch of colour through a nice flower arrangement, for example.
3. Stay away from traditional protocols when it comes to organising the seating arrangements. For instance, if you are arranging three tables of ten guests each, why not have them swap seats between courses? This will allow everybody to interact with each other.
4. Print the menu that you are offering your guests; it will make them feel extra special.
5. Trends are moving more towards earthy or raw settings. So if you have a beautiful wooden table, set the plates directly on it. You can also choose to present canapés on wooden chopping boards rather than platters.
Swiss Tower, Cluster Y, JLT, www.martaskitchen.com (050 379 8002).