When one door closes, another opens, does it not? In my case, I was supposed to dine on Italian fare on Monday evening, only to have it cancel. Fortunately, I had another invitation in the proverbial chamber, and so was delighted to make my way back to the Marriott Al Jaddaf (I visited late last year and was impressed with the Cuts and Kilts Friday evening brunch selection) to give Merletto a try.
With the offer of the Wednesday Festa, I was more than ready to tuck into some Italian fare. However, at AED 140 per person, I wondered what sort of level of food would be on offer. After we had been seated, our server provided a quick explanation of the deal. To start, guests can enjoy assorted antipasti, along with some additional treats served at the table. Soup is served, then a main is selected (from a list of five dishes), and dessert is also chosen. So far, so good.
Off the large buffet, I was happy to see plenty of grilled veggies, salads, along with focaccia to choose for our starters. I would’ve loved to enjoy some burrata and charcuterie, but for the price point, I think the selection is entirely fair. The soup was delivered in tandem with the appetizers and quite honestly, was the low point of the meal for me (minestrone is just not a sexy soup, plus I’ve had some really great soups in the recent past). If this wasn’t enough, we were also offered some fresh Margherita pizza (of which my dining partner and I split a piece, because, well, it would be rude not to).
After taking a break in our food, our main dishes were delivered. I chose the Branzino, Fagioli e Spinaci, and my dining partner opted for the Parmigiana di Melanzane. My fish was generously portioned (I could only finish one of the two filets) and served atop an earthy blend of beans, sauce, and spinach. For my friend’s dish, we decided it was a bit ‘cheese forward’ (that is, the ratio of cheese to eggplant was rather significant, such that the mozzarella was pretty much all you could taste. This is good if you like mozzarella, but out of balance if you like eggplant). Similarly, as with me, there was a ton of food on her plate. While both dishes were enjoyable, my biggest note to the kitchen would be to pull back and half the portions (I still would’ve been just as happy and still felt the value for money). As a side to our mains, we also received a dish of penne, because no Italian meal is complete without pasta? (Have no fear, dear reader, food was not wasted, and my dining partner’s husband gratefully enjoyed our leftovers for lunch the following day).
For all my talk about how full I was, there was no way I would pass up a Lemon Tart (it’s one of my all time favorite desserts — props to Jones the Grocer for my favorite version in the city). Merletto’s version is plated with blackberry jam (nom) and some crunchy bits (including pistachio) for texture. While my dining partner ordered Sicilian Cannoli, served charmingly in a cappuccino cup.
It’s worth mentioning that for an additional AED 50 per person, guests can opt to enjoy 2 glasses of wine (with a VERY generous pour, friends) and an assorted Tagliere Formaggi (that’s a fancy way of saying cheese platter, which we were too full to take advantage of, but was beautiful to look at).
So, I’m going to take off my fine dining snobby foodie hat for a moment and say this is an excellent deal for down-to-earth Italian and an evening you should consider taking advantage of. It’s also worth noting that for my second visit, I was once again impressed by the well above average service we received throughout the meal. As with the visit to Cuts & Kilts, servers at the Marriott Al Jaddaf seem to understand the balance of timing, professionalism, and an upbeat attitude. Thanks for taking care of us!
Would I go back? While the Marriott Al Jaddaf is probably not the first place I think of when going out, I’ll admit, it was the perfect location for a low key catch up with a friend (I thought we’d be 2 hours, but ended up staying almost four!).