Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Rib Room

The Rib Room

Jumeirah Emirates Towers

Bookings: 04 3198088

Look, I need to get this out in the open. I’m not a Jumeirah fan. They irritate me professionally with such regularity that I avoid using their outlets for client events wherever possible: I find them process-driven, inflexible, often snotty and generally rule-bound. I have been frequently disappointed with the quality of service and food in their outlets and nowadays approach every new Jumeirah experience with, frankly, low expectations.

At least I was honest and came out with it at the start of the review, lah?

Dinner at The Rib Room was with a group of six, friends out from the UK and from Dubai. We started with drinks at the Rib Room Bar: the staff was friendly, efficient and served up my Stella in a cooled metal tankard, which was great fun. We went on through to a restaurant which manages something just under 100 covers, with the warning that it was a busy night and service might be slow if we spent too long in the bar. And that was fine – we were in no hurry at all.

The Rib Room is a ‘grill’, that steakhouse experience that seems to have replaced ‘classic’ fine dining in Dubai’s top eateries. It serves no ribs, which is perhaps odd but then you don’t get a Pink Geranium at The Pink Geranium or a mashed up glass at Verre, so I really wouldn’t bother joking about it with the waitress, as one of our party did. He just got a totally deadpan, slightly puzzled response when he asked if they served ribs and why they didn't, being called the Rib Room.

As The Stranglers memorably tell us: “I tried to make her laugh/She didn’t get the joke/And then she told me I wasn’t right in the head/And then she made me feel like a wog.”

The restaurant is open-plan, slightly impersonal and funky in an oddly outdated way. It’s not a place where you’d kick back and expand in your space and the combination of dark wood, stark seating and table plan and the arrangement of tables in an open space, together with generic lighting and aggressive air-conditioning, conspired to feel somehow cold. It’s a little like eating in a table laid out in a chic clothing shop, or perhaps in an airport.

The menu’s interesting typography sparked more discussion than the food choices laid out on it, which was perhaps not a good early sign, but all the things you’d expect to find there were to be found there: pan-fried foie gras, wagyu steak, lobster bisque, seafood surprises and suchlike all lived up to the restaurant’s claim to be all about ‘surf and turf’, although I have always found that particular descriptive mix to be oddly repellent. There were hot and cold starters, salads, vegetarian options, classics like Beef Wellington and steaks aplenty on offer. Each main comes with a choice of sides and sauces, from broccoli and onion rings to truffle mash as well as sauces: hollandaise, red wine, mushroom, God forbid ‘barbecue’ and more.

We ordered a 1999 Chateau Musar because we felt a little crazy. At over Dhs 400 for the bottle, we perhaps were a little crazy. Of course it was wonderful, distinctive, tantalisingly camphorous and just smashing - and of course we did for a second. But then we were young, foolish, capricious and filled with joy. Gaston baby is a Lebanese great and a genius, but it was overpriced Lebanese genius at way over five times cost – as were most other wines on what was generally a pricey list.

I took the bisque and a 160g Wagyu sirloin. The soup was delicious, creamy (as advertised) and served with a disappointing bit of toasted bread and some grated parmesan. Other starters the group took included asparagus soup (‘a bit boring’), a poached egg served over a mixed asparagus with an hollandaise sauce (‘delicious’) and a mushroom consommé with tofu, ordered sans tofu and, of course, delivered with the tofu in it with the subsequent ‘I ordered this without the tofu’ fuss and re-delivery five minutes later, after everyone else had finished their starters.

The mains were good: the Wagyu steak was superb although the 160g sirloins that two of us had ordered seemed very thin. They were, however, cooked to perfection. I personally hated the nasty verticalised potato crisps with the cooking instruction ‘burnt’ in to them that decorated each plate, and the potato topped with herbed tomato and a rosemary spike that held up the little ‘Medium to Well’ signs was a complete aesthetic mystery. The vegetarian pithiviers of pumpkin was pronounced delicious by its selector although I really don’t see why every lump of misshaped egg-glazed puff pastry containing ‘stuff’ suddenly becomes a ‘pithiviers’. She did, however, find it a little dry and craved for just a little sauce to complement the flaky puff pastry.

It was all good food but nothing was great food.

The desserts were a disappointment. Tarte au Citron is not hard to do. It’s a classic dessert and should be a softly creamy set of custardy delight, the egg, lemon and sugar just beginning to think about keeling over on its soft, crumbly pastry bed. This stuff was gelatinised super-set and unsubtle, harsh and hard. And, call me old fashioned, but a chocolate soufflé (20 minutes in the ordering) rises above the edge of the ramekin and isn’t served as a flat-topped offering. It was enjoyed by the member of the group that ordered it, but I’m not sure that anyone charging this kind of money should be serving up a soufflé that hasn’t risen properly. And certainly not after a 20-minute wait.

Chef, incidentally, had sent out a cold cauliflower and ginger soup as an ‘amuse bouche’ which most of the group didn’t drink as they (and, sadly, most people) have an aversion to cold soups. It would, actually, have been nicer served lukewarm. And between the starters and mains a smooth and delicious raspberry sorbet had appeared.

We took cheese (one of the group had been determined to do a cheese board somewhere, anywhere. What the hell? Why not?) around the corner at ‘The Agency’ and it was a disaster: drinking over-priced wine in a shopping mall is hellish, the cheese selection was strange (Parmesan? On a cheeseboard? Parmesan grated over Lasagne: great. On a cheeseboard: mad) and the breads that came with it were a tatterdemalion and inappropriate selection of leftovers – it was late but, all the same, it wasn’t great.

The waitress couldn’t tell us what the cheeses were. Apart from the parmesan there was a generic Stilton/Dutch blue, a possible Pyrenees and something nice and soft, like a Chaumes but not a Chaumes. There was some vaguely pleasant apple chutney.

All in all, a highly over-priced evening of perfectly well done food and service that failed to excel, excite, inspire or sparkle in surroundings that barely accommodated carbon-based life forms. All process driven, perfectly executed by rote and utterly lacking in verve, vigour or any sense of lust for life.

The damage for the evening? Just over Dhs 1,000 per couple.

I expected little. We paid a lot. We got what we paid for.

1 comment:

Keefieboy said...

I get the impression that you didnae like it?