Sunday, June 26, 2011

An Appetizing Afternoon @ Atlantis

A while ago, I joined a group of food bloggers based in the UAE. Most publish awesome recipe and photography blogs; some blogs - like mine - are reflections from a food perspective. Some are veritable food reviewers. And some have great contacts in the Dubai world of food and wine. Thanks to Sally Prosser ( I found myself one Friday afternoon in the entertaining company of fellow food bloggers on an "Atlantis Food Safari".

There is something about a chef watching your face with anticipation as you taste his food. It makes you taste with all the more attention. We are in Seafire Steakhouse & Bar at the Palm Atlantis. To accommodate one in the group who does not eat meat, the kitchen prepared a selection of non-meat food for her to try. Of course I was hovering over this plate presenting a seared tuna medallion, a piece of salmon, and a spoon with a tomato-mozzarella salad. It was this latter spoon that ended up in my mouth when she declined (or did I give her that chance, I still wonder...). I had asked the chef what it was, and he explained it was his tasting of tomatoes: smoked, dried, confit, fresh, and combined with a charred red onion vinaigrette and a little mozzarella to balance the flavors. I loved it, and on the menu of a steakhouse I can imagine it to be a favorite appetizer to order ahead of a perfect steak.

The kitchen treated us to generous tastings of several of their specialties. Bite-size portions of beef carpaccio with a little crunch in the miniature crouton on top, supertender shortribs marinated with Jack Daniels and slow-braised for hours. A delectable "tartare": the finest beef chopped so as to have a chunky tartare texture. It is then mixed with flavor ingredients such as fine chopped capers, minced red onion, mustard, and more. This addictive mount of fine meat is served with a raw (but pasteurized) quail egg on top, and I cannot wait to order it next time I visit Seafire. The chef explained how he pasteurizes his quail eggs: "cook" them for 3-5 minutes at 65 degrees Celcius (or about 149 Fahrenheit). It will keep the texture of your egg raw yet kill bacteria.

Seafire's beef is of seriously good quality. The kitchen presented three of its best grain-fed cuts to us: striploin, ribeye, and fillet, Marbled beautifully, this well-seasoned and perfectly grilled beef is to die for. The way manager Cameron explained the quality of grain-fed over grass-fed beef was hilarious. He painted a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger allowing his muscular body to expand sitting on the couch eating chips and watching TV. If only a couch potato could achieve the same as grain-fed cattle: eat what is not naturally good for you, convert it into fat without getting sick, and have people love you for it!

It was used as a pastry outlet before it became a burger joint. You can sit out in the hall at a table enjoying one of their specialty burgers with homemade fries. These fries are cut from fresh peeled potatoes. First fried at a low temperature to cook the potato. And finished at a higher temperature to get that crisp on the outside. It is how most of us cook fries at home, and it makes for really great fries!

Oh la la Rostang. A wonderful brasserie serving classic French fare. Like most (if not all) of the restaurants at Atlantis, it is a big place which will easily seat 200. We were taken to the back of this brasserie, where we found a display of French cheeses (including a Tete de Moine on a "girolle" ready to turn the curls), a large plate of oysters on the half shell (complete with a shallot vinaigrette), a terrine of foie gras with a sweet red onion marmelade, and a station serving onion soup. The glasses on the wine barrel were filled with wines from the Languedoc Roussillon. And the dessert station presented small portions of the pastries also sold in the patiserie at the front, when you enter the restaurant. Every Thursday, Rostang has a "Tour de Vin" special night. Six wines from various regions of France can be enjoyed with a classic French food buffet. Attractively priced at 295 (including wines but not champagne), it is definitely on my "to enjoy" list.

We finished the afternoon at the Italian restaurant Ronda Locatelli, where the pizzaioli was swirling the dough to increasingly large round circles. The wood oven was burning hot behind him, and it took only a few minutes for the prepared pizze to cook. In the meantime, chef Allesandro was explaining how the restaurant gets its 00 (very fine quality) flour directly from a mill in the north of Italy. Talking about the food in his restaurant, he mentioned that for the next few months, the restaurant is featuring a few specials with summer truffle. He went back into the kitchen to fetch three large fresh summer truffles for us to sniff, feel and weigh. Summer truffle is the least fragrant or tasty one of the bunch, but quite enjoyable in its own right. Especially - as I can imagine - in the pappardelle with chicken liver sauce and fresh summer truffle he mentioned.

I had managed to control myself so far when it came to the dessert tastings. However, when I noticed cannoli on the plates with small desserts offered to us, I could not resist. The cannoli had a delicious filling of ricotta with lemon and orange peel, as well as hints of hazelnut. I had two...

We were exceptionally well taken care of. Fed extremely well on such tasty food that we all nearly burst. Treated to refreshing drinks. Fresh juices and mocktails. Wine even. Obviously Atlantis is a place where hospitality and food to enjoy do go hand in hand. Would I be up for another "food safari"?.... Oh go on then!


  1. Francine,... you were good with notes... :) i like your post!

    it was great meeting you and say hi to quebec for me....

  2. Radia, same here! Will say hi to Quebec, and look forward to see you again. I needed all those words to say what you said with your fabulous photographs: a picture does speak a thousand words.

  3. It's great how everyone remembers a little piece of the jigsaw of the afternoon. I love how you have written this from a chef's perspective. Excellent piece Francine - and I'll join you at a Tour de Vin sometime.

  4. Wow clearly your note-taking paid off, well done! It was so great to see a Dubai restaurant (Seafire) going out of their way to not just source, but farm the best beef possible.

  5. FooDiva, I have a good memory IF I jot stuff down not too long after. Did not take that many notes as was too busy eating.

  6. Francine, I was never good at paying attention when there is food to distract me so was glad to read all the bits of information that I missed :)

  7. Love the details! (I'm so bad at taking notes)I agree Atlantis Beef is by far the best steak I've had here.

  8. Lovely post with all the details, Francine. I think I git too distracted with the food and my camera. Only listened to half the stuff that you obviously heard and remembered. Well done!!