The Artisan: Sophisticated Italian cuisine.

The Artisan: Sophisticated Italian cuisine.

Although a bit late to the party, Hubs and I finally made our way to The Artisan last weekend.  Now, I will mention we were at a slight disadvantage, as we had never visited during the previous version of the restaurant.  So, I have no place for comparison to the renovated space or against the former menu, merely my thoughts on our meal.  I can, however, compare the Artisan against some of the Italian meals I’ve had recently (which is a lot — see the full list below).

Set to the left of the podium level of the Burj Daman complex, across from Carnival, The Artisan is easy to find but could use a bit more in terms of curb appeal (the exterior of LPM at DIFC comes to mind, fortunately, I think some changes are already in process).  The ‘new’ interior is modern and offers a sophisticated design, nothing too busy or fussy, with hardwood flooring and updated light fixtures.  Personally, I like how things are arranged into both a lounge and a dining room.  Overall, Hubs thinks the restaurant is too big, and would cut it in half, but I explain this is Dubai and just the way things are.  Given the spaces, patrons can stop in for a drink or a light bite, or for a full meal.  We’re seated in the dining room and promptly offered the drinks menu.  There is a selection of creative cocktails and while Hubs goes for his usual (an Old Fashioned), I decided to try a gin-based cocktail, which I would happily order again.

For antipasti, there’s plenty to choose from (traditional and otherwise), and ultimately we decide on mostly warm selections (I know, imagine me turning down Burrata).  Although the pizzas and flatbreads look good, we decide to forgo the carbs (for now). With a bit of encouragement from our server, we order Slow-cooked Octopus (AED95), Hand-sliced Wagyu Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio (AED115), and although I wouldn’t usually order it, Florentine-style Chicken Liver Pate (AED48).  We’re blown away by the octopus, which achieves that hard to hit balance of tender, but still with texture (who likes mushy octopus, really?).  The Wagyu is a rougher chop than I’m used to, which is fine, but we both agree it could use a touch more salt and the slightest bit of acid — a tiny squeeze of lemon and a handful of salt flakes would push this dish to the next level.  Unexpectedly, we both really enjoy the pate.  Served in a charming glass pot with perfect slices of buttery baguette, we end up requesting more bread so that none of the creamy, luxurious pate goes to waste.  I would all three plates again.

For our main courses, we split both a pasta dish and the beef cheeks.  The pasta, Green tortelli filled with basil pesto (AED95) and Slow-cooked beef cheek (AED165) don’t quite hit the high notes of the starters but are good in their own ways.  Personally, I don’t love the presentation of the pasta, which is kind of buried under a layer of cheese, but the taste is quite nice — we have no trouble finishing the plate, and is a good amount for two people.  While the beef cheeks are at the suggestion of the servers, I don’t believe it’s the best foot forward for the restaurant.  With almost no texture and a rather large lack in depth of flavor, it’s not one I would order again.  Were I to come back (and I would), I would most likely opt for two pasta courses instead.

And, because it’s an actual date night, we also signal for one dessert and somehow end up with three.  There is some not overly sweet Panettone with cream sauce (a holdover from the holidays, and my favorite of the group), the signature Tiramisu (AED45) and because it’s an Italian restaurant, Pannacotta (AED40).  All of these deliver as one would expect at an Italian restaurant.  In another visit, I would probably forego the desserts and choose another starter instead.  For whatever reason, Italian desserts just don’t hit a particular sweet spot for me (pun intended).

My suggestions for the Artisan are limited.  Service shines here — maybe a touch less involvement, and watching indicators from diners (rather than being asked if we’re ready for next courses).  I also — always and unequivocally — prefer my wine poured at the table (for the first glass, at the very minimum).  What shines here is the value for money.  The Artisan has clearly recognized where they want to be in the market and have priced accordingly.  We’re shown the bill from a departed table next to us, and without wine, a couple can easily enjoy a meal for what approaches reasonable in Dubai (and well ahead of the restaurants below).

Would I go back?  Let’s face it, The Artisan has a lot of competition in the market.  Between Roberto’s, Il Borro, Al Grassino, La Mome, and the recently opened Scalini (which I will be reviewing shortly), there is ample choice for Italian food at a certain price point in Dubai (not including lower market and unlicensed venues).  I’m not even counting Roberto’s in Abu Dhabi or Cafe Milano.  All things considered, Roberto’s remains my favorite of the group, but I do think The Artisan is the strongest in terms of value.

Who is The Artisan best for?  A date night.  A dinner with visiting parents.  A solid business lunch.

I’ll ask again, what is your favorite Italian restaurant in the UAE?

A to Za’atar was a guest of The Artisan.  Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.

The Artisan By Enoteca Pinchiorri Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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