Zuma- Dubai

20 Jun

Phew, what a busy last couple of weeks! (My attempt to make an excuse for the large gap since my last post.) But really, it has felt like things are going so fast all of a sudden. But more on that later. For now, let’s get on to the food.

***

Zuma is, without a doubt, one of Dubai’s best restaurants. Look at any “top ten restaurants” ranking for the city, and Zuma is sure to be there. It has been on my must-try list for a while now, and I decided I absolutely had to have it before leaving Dubai. After my plans to have dinner there with a group fell through last week, it was the obvious choice for my celebratory post-grad dinner.

We arrived at Zuma flustered, having rushed out of the grad reception to make our 8 pm reservation (we arrived 40 minutes late but managed to hold onto our table despite their 20 minute tardiness policy). Yet as soon as we entered the lounge/restaurant, the cool, relaxed vibe put us at ease. With soaring two-level ceilings, dark wood accents, and dim, muted lighting, Zuma screams–or rather, seductively whispers in your ear–cool, understated sophistication.

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Service was just as relaxed, but professional and prompt–a rarity in dubai.

We started with a bowl of edamame, fried with chili, garlic, and ginger. Even with the chili tingling my tongue, I couldn’t resist licking the sauce off my fingers. Rounds of sake, sweet and mild, accompanied the meal, a carafe of it sitting by in an icebox (literally–a wooden box filled with crushed ice).

We started with ebi no tempurarock shrimp tempura with lime and chili dip. Though as a general rule, fried food can never really be wrong, the tempura was right in every way. Lightly battered, so as not to be greasy and heavy, the shrimp was all too easy to pop in my mouth, especially with a squeeze of lemon and dip in sauce. Half the bowl was gone within 30 seconds.

After hearing rave reviews about the miso marinated black cod (gindara no saikyo miso yaki) from my friend N, I had to try it. Being somewhat of a Japanese food newbie, I’d also heard that miso black cod is one of those must-have (if not predictable) Japanese dishes. The chocolate fondant of Japanese food, if you will.

Sitting on a hoba leaf, the filet of cod separated into perfect flakes at the gentle touch of my chopsticks. After a few bites of the light yet buttery-rich fish, I realized it reminded me of something I’d had before… what was it? Ah yes, peking duck! An unexpected comparison, but it was true–the flavors of the cod perfectly matched those of the fatty, rich Peking duck I ate in one of Beijing’s finest duck restaurants. Perhaps they were even better! For though the cod lacked the crispy skin and substance of the duck meat, its rich flavors were balanced out by the accompanying sauce, which carried a hint of refreshing wasabi.

Spicy beef tenderloin (gyuhire sumibiyaki karami sauce zuke) was also on the table, and naturally I tried a bite. The tenderloin came beautifully crosshatched from the grill, and glazed with a flavorful chili-sesame-soy sauce. Though I’m still not a big lover of steak, (I know, I know. I don’t know how that’s possible either!) I could appreciate the fact that this was extremely well prepared– juicy and moist with just a hint of pink, cooked to a perfect medium as requested.

Dessert naturally followed; I’m never one to resist sweets. I opted for the light and refreshing yuzu custard, served atop rhubarb compote and garnished with some sort of crumble and lemon (or perhaps yuzu…) sorbet, a dessert that lended a sweet ending to the meal without making me feel overly full. Other desserts on the table were chawan mushi, a coconut foam-custard served over “exotic fruits,” providing a compelling play on different textures with a backdrop of tropical flavors. But my favorite was easily the green tea & banana cake. Served warm and surrounded by a pool of toffee sauce, a generous sprinkle of crumble, and a perfect sphere of coconut ice cream, it provided the classic and comforting combination of warm-cold, smooth-crunchy that I love in desserts, whether its in an ice cream sundae with hot fudge and peanuts or a warm chocolate fondant with a bruleed crust and malted ice cream.

Just as with La Petite Maison (they are both owned by the Waney family…), I feel Zuma is one of the few fine-dining resturants in Dubai where the food– and overall experience– is worth the steep price. Hopefully I’ll make a return visit soon, as the menu was much too long to get a complete taste of all Zuma has to offer.

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