By Lubna Hamdan
If you’re not celebrating this Chinese New Year at Hakkasan, you should be.
In celebration of the Year of the Sheep, high-end restaurant and lounge Hakkasan is serving a 9-course meal of traditional Chinese cuisine created by its in-house chef, Ho Chee Boon, who, telling by the food, has clearly earned his Michelin-starred status.
From the moment you step onto a rich blue carpet, rolled out in front of the restaurant’s separate entrance, you can feel the “high style” vibe of the award-winning outlet.
The lit pathway leading up the entrance is made of dark grey stone, and graced with a floor-level water feature, a single wall covered in greenery and touches of blue lights, which together provide a sleek, modern twist.
The pathway leads either straight ahead, to the doors of the main restaurant, or to the left, where the newly transformed terrace area resides, decked with its own outdoor bar, intimate latticed dark woodwork cages, and touches of red lights and lounge sofas.
The indoor restaurant is equally impressive.
At the entrance is a plastic miniature of the Chinese “Wishing Tree” with kumquat fruit suspended from its branches, representing an interesting Chinese ritual, more about that later.
Onwards to the right-side is another pathway that holds a wine tasting area and a large, main bar, lit in a vibrant blue, adding a pop of colour to the dark, dusky design.
As for the rest of the décor, the dining area is adorned with turquoise seats and ceiling-high, dark wooden lattice screens, which separate some tables from the more open-spaced areas, giving an intimate feel.
At the back of the restaurant is the newly transformed Ling Ling Cigar lounge, where a third bar, accounting for the best Bourbon, is situated.
Throughout the area, the lighting, like the music, is kept to a low volume.
Since my date and I arrived at the venue, the staff were highly attentive and warm, to us and to the other guests, as was dually noted.
We were seated in front of one of two existing wine cellars; one dedicated for white, and one for red.
Shortly after being seated and served our drinks, we were served three delicious starters, among them was the Spicy Lamb Lupin Wrap; a seamless balance of spicy and crispy, said to bring happiness at your doorstep, and the Dim Sum, a chef signature and a favourite on our charts.
Less notable, however, was the Golden Fried Soft Shell Crab, which to our disappointment smelled of burnt oil.
The four main dishes included two that completely stole the show and exceeded our expectations. The Spicy Prawn with lily bulb and almond and the Stir-Fry Rib Eye Beef were so tender and distinctively tasty that we dare say, make them the best dishes I’ve ever had in Dubai until today (and I was born here).
After the mains, we were offered a miniature Kumquat “Wishing Tree,” with edible kumquat fruits.
The Wishing Tree, as the staff explained, is called so in relation to a New Year ritual, where you write a wish on a note suspended by a ribbon, and throw the note on the tree. If the ribbon sticks on the tree, your wish is believed to come true.
In celebration of the ritual, my date and I were provided with a red note, on which we were encouraged to write a wish, and hang it on a dedicated wall in the venue, among the many wishes of previous guests.
To finish off the courses, we were served a dessert of chocolate, caramelised macadamia, and sorbet, believed to sweeten your New Year. The bitterness of the chocolate and citrus of the lemon sorbet made for a mouth-watering sensation, and a perfect end to the evening.
Though we were served 9-courses (to share) in celebration of the Chinese New Year, we left feeling satisfied, but not stuffed. That is not to say that the portions were small, on the contrary, they were generous.
On a final note, costly as it may be, Hakkasan Dubai’s cuisine, environment, and service lives up to its price tag. And prestigious as it may be, there’s something about this award-winning restaurant that speaks, “humble, but in no need of an introduction.”
* The Chinese New Year menu will be available to guests at Hakkasan Dubai and Abu Dhabi until Sunday, March 1.