Is Social worth the schlep? Mostly no.

The Dubai Restaurant Week 2016 is almost finished and we were able to enjoy 2 exceptional meals.  Calling an audible on Wednesday night, I decided for a booking at Social by Heinz Beck on Thursday night.  Traffic on the Palm is currently a terrific disaster, so we arrived nearly 45 minutes late for the booking (which they were kind enough to hold for us — we were not the only ones in the situation).  I tried to reach the restaurant to advise them, but was not able to get through (also frustrating).

Reservations?  Made through the ReserveOut function (which was quite easy to use – there were two seatings for the restaurant week tasting meals, 7:30 and 9:30).

Ambiance?  Very posh.  This is the Waldorf, after all.  Unfortunately, from the start, I was a bit disappointed at our seating.  While not everyone can have the best table, I strongly believe we were at the worst table at the venue.  In the dining room, we were closest to the entrance and the kitchen, such that the traffic going in and out was constant and distracting.  If I wanted to look at the glass half full, I would say that it was a prime spot for people watching.

To take things further, the two top had a bit of a strange chair, where Hubs was neither high up enough and had to keep his elbows on the table to balance / lean forward.

Food?  Don’t get me wrong, the presentation, attention to detail and taste were all present.  As you’ll see from below, the meal was not only delicious, but also amazing to look at.  Unfortunately, compared among similar restaurants, we found the main (beef) to be just that, beef.  I suppose there is a way to elevate beef, but this was not it (and this bad food blogger did not get a picture, but just imagine beef and you’ll know what I’m talking about!).

Small plates at the start.
Amusing bouche.  Yes, it tasted like nicely done prawn.
Amberjack addition was the favorite.
Melt in your mouth Fagottelli carbonara.
raspberries 1.1
Rasberries 1.1 While it is a feat to have this fruit served 11 ways, the dish was served at room temperature, which I thought was a big misstep. I personally would have preferred it significantly cooler (this is the desert after all!).

Service?  One big hit and a few misses.  As opposed to the wonderful woman who we met in the lobby and walked us to the restaurant, the host/hostesses looked as if they could give two (expletives) about being there.  With a cocktail order placed that took the better part of 20 minutes, we were then bounced around between waiters (to the point that we were asked about our order multiple times) and finally ended with a nice Italian gentleman.  Like many experiences in Dubai, we missed the ‘human touch.’  So many meals in the Emirates feel transactional — where the front of house are doing a job, and not really invested in what’s going on.  Of course, everyone can have an off night, but most of who we interacted with felt out of touch.  For example, while I am of course perfectly capable of pouring my own water, our second bottle remained practically unopened and unpoured by the desert course.  It’s little things that make a very big difference.  Perhaps things were busy because many of the tables were seated at once, but I find it difficult to make excuses for restaurants of this caliber.

Enter, the beverage manager.  As we were preparing to leave (a bit whelmed at the experience), a nice man came up and poured us another glass of wine.  We started talking and got on the topic of gin (we are now experts, of course) and then we were led through the kitchen to sit outside and enjoy a round of highly specialized and very delicious gin and tonics on the house.

I don’t know why we were approached, but I can mention Mr. Dhaheri saved the evening.  Without his conversation and hospitality, I would not find this experience one to recommend to anyone.

Cost?  We dined on the Restaurant Week menu (a bargain at AED189), and ‘upgraded’ for an additional cost to include an additional starter (the highly tasty amberjack) as well as wine pairings.  The actual price for the meal would have been substantially higher.

Overall, I’m not in any hurry to go back.  There is comparable fine dining and far better service elsewhere in the city.

Thoughts from Hubs… I am never getting in a car with you again.

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