Restaurant Review: China Grill
China Grill has made quite an impression in the Emirates since opening late last year. I’ve been eager to get a glimpse of the US import but was worried that it would fall victim to the hype that precedes most Dubai restaurant openings. In true taste bud fashion, a seven course gastronomic adventure proved me wrong, there were no victims here. What began in NYC 1987 as a refined Chinese restaurant has evolved into global Asian fusion with a European touch expanding to Mexico City, Miami and Dubai and was nothing short of unexpected and clever.
Swallowed up in the Westin Dubai, China Grill boasts a private side entrance which set the tone for the night. From the minute we stepped out of the car to the minute we returned, the experience was elegant and modern, much like its cuisine. Plush curtains, dim hallways and an elevator led us to a chic lounge and bar overlooking a large dining room. We settled into our table downstairs and admired the quirky yet sophisticated pan-Asian decor. The Westin was no where to be found.
The menu was contemporary yet classic and sexy but also eclectic, an unexpected approach to the commercial cuisine. My eyes frantically scanned the menu stopping at the Lobster Chinese Sand Donuts and again at the Black Tea Smoked Tooth Fish, in fascination. After several hunger pangs, a thorough menu consultation and a Saffron-Honey Pear Bellini, we placed our very large order.
ASIAN 16 VEGETABLE – Our first dish was perhaps the most average of the night, the Asian 16 Vegetable salad boasted a variety of vegetables piled high over a bed or mixed greens and doused in an excessive amount of pickled plum vinaigrette. Although the name implied that there were 16 vegetables on the plate, I was too busy shoveling food into my mouth to notice more than 4 or 5 veggies.
JALAPEÑO & LIME CURED SCALLOPS – This small plate was colorful and unexpected. The scallops were served thinly sliced, a la carpaccio, in a bowl alongside diced jalepeno and watermelon all resting in a coconut broth and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. A vibrant combination of ingredients for a cleverly reinvented scallop dish.
YELLOWTAIL – Classified under ‘New Style Sashimi’ this was new indeed as this sashimi was more than just a stand alone slice of fish. The Yellowtail was sliced, rolled, stuffed with mango salsa and garnished with a simple slice of jalepeno and a dollop of caviar. Resting over a sauce infused with orange and ginger, these little rolls of sashimi were citrusy, spicy and all round refreshing.
CHAR SIU BAO – These gorgeous buns had a fluffy and delicate pillowy exterior while the filling was juicy and savory, a lovely contrast. The Char Siu sauce, China’s take on BBQ sauce, chicken filling paired with the doughy bun and sweet dipping sauce made these steamy little buns one of the favorites of the night.
PAN-SEARED SPICY TUNA – The first of our two large plates was a generous portion of tuna served atop a salad of sautéed seaweed. This might have been a mediocre dish if it weren’t combined with the earthy seaweed, creamy avocado and bitter black sesame seeds which elevated the flavors.
SZECHUAN WAGYU STRIPLOIN – Our second large plate was the winner of the evening, the generous cut of steak was decadent and perfectly paired with a side of subtly infused Wasabi Mashed Potatoes. The buttery flavor was prominent with Asian undertones of sweet soy and spicy shallots giving this entree a rich complex flavor. The steak was by no means lean however this indulgent dish was one of the best cuts of meat I’ve every tasted.
BANANAS IN A BOX – I nearly dismissed the dessert menu when I my instincts told me otherwise. We opted for the Banana’s in a Box, which sounded like a modern take on a banana split. The server placed a chocolate dome on the table and then gracefully flambéed the dome with liquor. A flame fell over the dome melting away the chocolate facade revealing several pieces of caramelized banana, vanilla ice cream and chunky macadamia nougatine. With the chocolate and liquor oozing into the dessert, this was most creatively presented dessert I’ve ever had and rivaled the striploin for the most impressive course of the night.
Exclusive but unpretentious, swanky yet friendly and subtle yet creative, Dubai’s fine dining scene is looking up with this avant-garde addition. Several themes were in focus at China Grill, most amusing was the unexpected disparity of flavors, from mango alongside caviar to watermelon with jalepeno, prepare to be surprised. You can expect to pay a pretty penny but your taste buds will absolutely thank you for it.
Disclosure: I was a guest at China Grill however all opinions expressed here are purely my own.