Arabian Business visits Play Restaurant & Lounge at the H Hotel in Dubai hot on the heels of an announcement by its owner Rashid Galadari that the first international branch will open at the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes, this summer.
To open at such a prestigious hotel on the Côte d'Azur’s glitziest stretch is a coup for the Emirati businessman, and the former Zuma chef, Reif Othman, who helped him launch the Dubai restaurant last year.
In little more than 12 months, Play has made a firm mark on the emirate’s restaurant scene with its pioneering ‘Mediterrasian’ cuisine.
“We always knew the brand would one day be ready for the international stage,” Galadari said as he announced the Cannes venture. “The South of France is just the beginning.”
If so, diners all over the world are in for a treat. The Dubai restaurant is located on the 36th floor of the H Hotel, with stunning panoramic views and chic coffee and cream interiors.
This is a place where the emirate’s high-fliers hang out. Even on a Wednesday night the place is packed, including two or three parties of 15-30 people who do not seem remotely worried about having to get up for work the next day.
The menu is geared up for diners to try different dishes without getting too full. Everything is exquisite and infused with Play’s signature flavour, truffle, which gives a sense of how decadent the place is.
We start with the intriguingly named Snails in the Garden, which comprises six perfectly cooked snails in their shells, soaked with garlic butter and resting on a crunchy parmesan ‘soil’ scattered with edible flowers. The dish is both sophisticated and fun.
Next, we try Play’s trademark dish, the Pita Surprise. These are bitesize brioche rolls stuffed with truffle butter and covered with slices of seared wagyu beef. They are sensational, but also so rich that one piece is enough.
Once we recover from the heady taste, we try a more conventional dish, rock shrimps. These are cooked in a light batter and simply melt in your mouth.
We move on to another sharing platter, Surf ‘n’ Turf maki rolls, a variation on traditional Japanese sushi, with succulent beef wrapped up with pieces of prawn. The rolls could have been too heavy and meaty, but they contain just the right amount of mint and cucumber to lighten the palate.
Finally, the black cod with citrus miso is the highlight for me. The cod is delicately cooked and the creamy sweetcorn and crunchy red onion topping – a Mexican variation on an Asian dish – is surprising and delicious.
We are disappointed by one of the desserts. The truffle crème brûlée is not what it sounds. The traditional egg custard is vanilla ice cream, while the crunchy topping (surely the best bit of a crème brûlée?) has been replaced with a layer of shaved truffle, which by this point is just too overwhelming to cope with.
The kitchen redeems itself with the second dessert, a scrumptious chocolate soufflé oozing with melted peanut butter. My guest and I were silent while we devoured the dish and scraped the bowl – a very good sign.
This is not a restaurant for carrot-nibbling bunnies (although there are a few salads and healthy options) but, overall, Play is a more opulent choice and it does that extremely well.
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