There are few more enticing combinations in Dubai; a spring day of scudding clouds, billowy breezes and warm sunshine, a sward of emerald-green grass and the smells of about 20 five-star kitchens churning out bite-sized portions of their most celebrated creations. Taste of Dubai is back this weekend and ready to prove it is one of the most popular events in the entire calendar.
The concept is beautifully simple. The lawns of Dubai Media City Park are turned into a food court, with stalls, stages and demonstration areas surrounding a central area of tables, bean-bags and rugs, all full of people eating gourmet food from small trays. In each of the stalls is a team from one of Dubai’s leading restaurants – including first-timers Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen and seafood standout Catch, as well as a brand new venue that hasn’t even got a name yet – who will be cooking up to six separate dishes, each designed to give Taste of Dubai’s guests a sample of their cuisine, philosophy and approach to food.
What that all means for us, of course, is that we get to taste the best of the city’s food in a relaxed, open-air, wallet-friendly environment. It’s no wonder that more than 25,000 people are expected to wander through the festival’s gates. Here is our list of what you should be focusing on.
There probably isn’t a less German-sounding band in the history of music than Boney M. But, oddly, it was the capital of then West Germany, Bonn, where the band that defined disco first came to life – put together by producer Frank Farian. They then unleashed a stack of hits – many of which you’ll definitely know. Their 1978 song “Rivers Of Babylon”, backed by “Brown Girl In The Ring”, remains the sixth-best selling single of all time in the UK. A great way to start the weekend.
When: Thursday, March 10, 9.15pm
Where: Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.tasteofdubaifestival.com/tickets
Head chef of Catch, Bobby Griffing, reveals his signature tacos
“Do you know what it the number one takeaway food the US right now?” asks Bobby Griffing, the imposing Texan from El Paso who has been heading up Catch restaurant in the Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road since its opening around 10 months ago. “Tacos,” he says, without pausing.
Although Catch is one of the best seafood restaurants in Dubai, it’s his small, two-bite-sized, crispy-shelled tacos that will be one of the most popular choices this weekend. The three on offer are beef short-rib with hoisin sauce, wild mushrooms and, the only one available on the restaurant’s menu throughout the week, kingfish with guacamole and tomatillo – all of which come in pairs for repeated ordering.
“This is an opportunity for people to experience the Catch brand in a great environment,” he says. “We hope it creates some genuine personal moments!”
Bistro Des Arts
Catching the home-cooked flair of France at Bistro Des Arts
Bistro Des Arts, the 1970-style Parisian restaurant, is more geared up for the al fresco ambience than most at Taste of Dubai. Their menu is based on home-cooked fare on the “terroir” concept – with produce shaped by the different local environments of France’s various regions. It’s the kind of food that practically demands to be hauled out of a wicker basket and served on a checkered tablecloth.
“We will showcase what we do best: simple, honest, comforting terroir that is good value for money,” says executive chef Stephane Cedelle. “We will be serving some classic French bistro food, so visitors to our stall can expect steak tartare, pissaladiere, a duck and foie gras burger, raclette and kouign-amann.”
Don’t know what some of those dishes are? Taste of Dubai would seem a good place to find out.
Gaucho Dubai will showcasing their grilling expertise
There is hardly a shortage of above par steakhouses in Dubai, but there is something about the name “Gaucho” that quickens the hunger pangs more than most. The Argentina-inspired place in the heart of DIFC – complete with a brand new bar, incidentally – has built its reputation on its delivery of Argentine-certified Angus, grass-fed, wet-aged beef, which requires only a hot grill and a dash of salt to qualify for the best steak you’ll have eaten in a while.
Chef Juan-Pablo Rey Nores, who has recently moved to Dubai from Argentina, talked us through what they’ll be serving up at the Taste of Dubai.
What will you be showcasing at Taste of Dubai?
We will be having a daily live grilling session, which will be a unique experience for our guests to learn more about the tips and tricks of grilling – from a country of grillers!
What are the challenges of creating food in an outdoor stall?
The challenge is always to replicate the same taste and service outside of your own kitchen. This is our fourth time here at the Taste of Dubai and I think we have done it very well in the past; in fact, we still make amazing new relationships at every festival. Lots of guest come to Gaucho after seeing us at the Taste of Dubai.
What is it about the festival that made you come back again?
I think “Taste” brings a beautiful mix of guests from across the whole of the UAE, which means that a number of people have the opportunity to see Gaucho’s chefs in action and try a selection of our signature dishes and best sellers. Our food is an honest reflection of Argentinian food and its roots.
Any other stalls you’ll be looking out for with interest? Any friendly competition?
Nope, it’s really just about sharing and meeting new people, from festival guests to the participants. Every year we create amazing memories with everyone who comes to the stall.
Carnival by Tresind
Tresind in the Nassima Royal Hotel has been serving up its take on Indian cuisine for around 15 months now, describing their restaurant as having a “progressive fine dining approach with traditional Indian cuisine”. Now, the team are primed for their second venture, Carnival by Tresind in DIFC. Chef Himanshu Saini tells us what to expect.
Why are you participating in Taste of Dubai?
We see it as a good opportunity to showcase the new place’s food in front of a large and varied audience. Thousands of people attend the festival and it gives us a good opportunity to offer a glimpse of our food and what our restaurant is all about. Also, there are other restaurants which are participating so it’s a fun and exciting atmosphere to be in.
What will you be showcasing?
We have gone for six dishes for the event: vada pav pan pizza; curry leaf and pepper prawns; tandoori rosemary lamb chops; NYC chicken over rice with lemon ketchup; mock meat rogan josh and roomali roti; and daulat ki chaat.
What do these dishes say about your restaurant?
The dishes symbolise Indian street food in a very fun way and they all give a gist of the restaurant – which combines traditional and modern Indian cuisine. Also, Taste of Dubai is a market-like concept, where serving quick, interesting street food is common, so that is what we are doing here.
What are the challenges of creating food in an outdoor stall?
There are many challenges, especially since it is a completely new space and not your own kitchen, where you are so used to cooking. Plus, you have to serve a bulk of people all through the day without any break. For a fine-dining restaurant, the biggest challenge, though, is to translate a sit-down meal into a quick-service-restaurant format. But since you get to experiment with a very different audience, you can learn a lot of things and bring them back to the restaurant.
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