Planning a ladies night. Let’s be honest, in Dubai, corralling a group (of any size, gender, or demographic) can be a difficult endeavor. While we had no trouble deciding on a night, there was some back and forth about where to go. After all, we were ready to make every minute count (and did not want a repeat of the last evening). We considered Marina Social and The Act, when I remembered the Cellar Experience (a 5-course meal with wine pairing) at BOCA and made the call.
After fighting some particularly horrendous traffic (seriously, what is going on in Dubai these days? Is it 2008 again?), I walked through the crowded restaurant and was shown downstairs to the private cellar room. As it is both on the way to the toilets and near the kitchen, the placement of the room is a bit strange, but a welcome oasis from the crowds (and smoke) upstairs. I don’t have a ton of experience with private rooms, but at DIFC I can think of a few (Gaucho) that offer a bit more luxurious experience, should you be interested.
However unique the setting is, with good friends and a few glasses of wine, there will usually be a fun evening. Well, almost. As if the kitchen was competing for some sort of record in delivery, we received the first three courses in under an hour. Given that we had the room booked for the evening (and relatively full glasses of wine), I wasn’t sure why the pacing was set the way it was. I always feel bad having to tell servers to change anything, but in this case, we had to speak up (often) and remind things to slow down… Until nearly an hour had gone between courses. Similarly, trips to the ladies room resulted in a clear lack of attention (at a not altogether late point in the evening). I also couldn’t quite understand why BOCA would have a cellar, but not a true sommelier (although the website says differently). Our server was obviously well versed in wine, but it seemed an obvious addition to be visited by a sommelier or senior bar staff member for at least one of the courses.
So, how was the food? The dishes themselves were delicious and yet I had a very difficult time understanding what exactly the cuisine was (or specifically what it was trying to be). While the website claims influences from Italy, France and Spain, I thought the translation of this was a bit muddled (I’ve posted the menu in its entirety at the end of the post). While the starting soup couldn’t decide whether or not it was hot or cold, overall, I was impressed with the plating and range of dishes. I was also happy that they were easily able to accommodate a vegetarian friend in the group (who was quite delighted with her selection).
So really, for AED450 per person (this includes the DIFC tax and water), I think the evening evened out. Did everyone have a great time? They did. Did we all enjoy a nice meal? We did. Were there issues with service? Yes, there were. Do I think a Mediterranean restaurant (or, a place that claims to be) should be a bit more focused in its delivery? Yes. Were they generous with the wine pouring? Yes, they were. Did I like all the wines? No.
And still, I would go back. The lively atmosphere (created by a great group of gals) and dishes were something I would seek for a change from a typical dinner brunch or night out. If the management puts just a bit more effort into fixing the minor issues I experienced in the evening (leave the water on the table, if the server is going to disappear for awhile, as an example), I think they’ll be on to a real winner.
Have you tried the BOCA Cellar Experience?
In case you were interested, here is the summer 2016 menu:
First Course AMUSE BOUCHE
Cecina de Léon, Green Gazpacho, Pan con Tomate
First Pairing MASIA PERELADA BLANCO
Second Course GRILLED OCTOPUS & AIR DRIED BEEF
Air Dried Beef, Paprika, Potato Salad, Tomato Dressing
Third Pairing TORRES DE CASTA ROSADO
Third Course BLACK RICE & SEARED SCALLOPS
Aromatic Clams, Bottarga
Fourth Pairing PASSORI ROSSO
Fourth Course GNOCCHI WITH BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIB
Fried Sage, Grana Padano
Fifth Pairing M. CHAPOUTIER BELLERUCHE ROUGE
Fifth Course ASHANTI CHOCOLATE
Fig, Orange Blossom Honey, Verbena
Eight Pairing VI DE GLASS