By Jola Chudy
Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai restaurateurs share their predictions for foodie trends in 2020 and beyond
Restauranteurs worldwide are reinventing their businesses in order to benefit them both during the pandemic even beyond.
While some have revamped their menus to add more wholesome options, others are opting for better packaging, ensuring more on-premise hygiene and conceptualising new, innovative concepts, incorporating international influences and ‘trending’ ingredients to help them to stand out.
Consumers retreat to comfort foods in testing times. Moving forward they will continue to crave these items, but this will present operators with the opportunity to be creative in a simpler way.
Similar to the innovation explosion we’ve experienced with hamburgers, shakes and more recently poke bowls, other comfort foods will be turned into successful innovation platforms.
At Seafire Steakhouse & Bar, Atlantis The Palm, Chef Raymond’s playful BBQ short rib doughnuts described as “the stuff that legends are made of.” The delightful savoury dough is stuffed with slow-cooked braised short rib in a peppy sauce, sprinkled with a Parmesan “charcoal” dust and served with a sticky sweet and savoury barbecue sauce.
Chef Raymond comments: “After these peculiar, unsettling times, we want to focus on bringing people together – while keeping diners socially distanced - and nothing does this better than a fantastic dining experience. Food nourishes the soul and we all need to recover together.”
With accessible pricing, Seafire’s concepts also fit in with dinners looking to tighten their belts a few notches. While the restaurant prides itself on its prime cuts of beef – they even have their own exclusive black onyx Angus cattle that is grain-fed for 270 days so the cattle grow slowly and naturally – it also strives to provide unique experiences that are affordable.
Meanwhile Ossiano’s renowned Chef, Grégoire Berger also has something up his sleeve with talks of a re-conceptualised menu in the pipeline at the underwater fine dining restaurant.
“We recognise that people can’t travel right now, so we plan to deliver some of the world’s best dishes to Dubai,” says Chef Grégoire.
The rise of Veganism is not over, it’s just had a slight rebrand, and is now known as plant-based.
Substantial vegetable entrees will become a fixture on restaurant menus, in the way that nut and soy alternatives to cow’s milk became standard at coffee shops a few years ago. Many diners have started to minimise or abandon animal protein altogether, whether for health, environmental or ethical reasons.
Ronda Locatelli’s menu is renowned for having more than 40 vegan dishes on its menu – all crafted by the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, Salvo Sardo. The diverse menu features a variety of starters including insalata di spinaci with baby spinach, vegan cheese, walnuts and pomegranate dressing and pizza quattro stagioni, a four seasons pizza with tomato sauce, vegan mozzarella, black olives, mushrooms, artichokes and aubergines.
“People have been going crazy for the vegan cheese since we introduced it to the menu,” says Chef Salvo Sardo. The restaurant’s vegan mozzarella is made from a combination of soya and coconut milk, produced locally, just an hour away in Ras Al Khaimah, which leads onto another subject the chef has long been an ardent supporter of sustainability.
“Sustainability is such a big thing, and more people need to be thinking about it. If we carry on eating like we are, we are going to destroy the world. Twenty percent of our greenhouse gases are produced by the meat and dairy industries; a chef has a responsibility to take the lead and demonstrate that you can achieve incredible texture and flavour, just based on vegetables.”
Market research firm Technomic says popular dishes will come from the Eastern Mediterranean nations like Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. Atlantis, The Palm’s Ayamna leads the way with Chef Ali El Bourji serving the authentic flavours of Lebanon with popular dishes including baba ganoush freekeh salad, falafel with tahina and baked pumpkin kibbeh stuffed with spinach and chickpeas.
According to Chef Ali: “Arabic food has a lot of variety and as such, you can eat healthy dishes and still have a lot to choose from. There are a plethora of salads and a large selection of mixed grills. Hummus is also good for you and has a low GI. We do not use a lot of butter or ghee and only use olive oil when necessary.”
According to recent surveys, 18-35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 per cent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak. Nobu Dubai is an Instagrammer’s dream.
From perfectly crafted sushi and expertly sliced sashimi, gleaming black cod miso and a rose pink centred wagyu beef, every dish has the makings of a million dollar shot. Nobu’s Instagram account is like a Hollywood walk of fame. And because the founder is a fan of social media, he understands his patrons’ fixation with photographing their food. “I don’t mind people taking snaps of their food, because I do it too. Although some restaurants don’t encourage that, it doesn’t bother me,” he says.
The gloves are out for the world’s favourite food, it’s looking like a tie between mushrooms – everyone’s favourite little fungi – and sea vegetables. Nobu serves both in abundance.
Mushrooms have acquired what food marketers call a health halo as they add a functional boost by being high in Vitamin D. Expect them to pop up in teas, desserts, jerky and cocktails. One of Chef Nobu’s favourite dishes is a fungi-filled miso soup. “When I was a child my bedroom was close to the kitchen and I remember waking up in the morning to the smell of my mother cooking miso soup. Miso soup is ingrained in the Japanese culture and forms part of a traditional Japanese breakfast. It makes me think of my mother every time I eat it.”
Sea vegetables, most commonly known as seaweed, has grown seven percent annually over the past decade in the United States according to a study by Johnson & Wales University. They check all the boxes: healthy, environmentally sound and full of umami. Collectively, sea vegetables are very low in calories, fat free, and high in fibre.