Another day, another Italian restaurant. While Italian might be the new Peruvian in Dubai, my visit to Scalini should mark the final visit to this particular cuisine for the near future, as I’m not sure I can eat another bite of pasta. Carved from what I believe used to be part of the Jean-Georges Kitchen, upon arrival, the London import Scalini has a dedicated bright blue lift to mark the restaurant’s entrance in the busy corridor at the Four Seasons Jumeirah. When I question if its the only way in (or out), I’m met with a tentative yes. I assume that should there be an emergency there are alternate ways out of the
pit restaurant, however, a word to the wise, press VERY hard on the button to for the lift (and then search around like the cool person you are for the actual button to go down a level).
My lack of coordination aside, I am happy to meet fellow foodie (and some time co-host of What’s Cooking UAE) David, of Out and About UAE. We dine ahead of the lunch crowd in the beautifully appointed interior, which appears to peak between 1:00 – 1:30 PM. Both of us note the substantial gathering, which, for a venue that has so recently opened, is rather impressive and there are plenty of restaurants across town who would be jealous. While we skew towards the younger end of the demographic by roughly thirty years, well-heeled Jumeirah Janes begin to filter in as we finish our meal. Too bad I’ve left my Gucci at home…or else I would totally fit in. 😉
Ready to tuck in, we opt for two Italian standards — Beef Carpaccio (AED75) and Burrata (AED125), and step outside our usual orders by splitting the Langoustine (AED220). Nothing is being reinvented with the first two dishes, but they fulfill our requirements. My favorite Burrata in the city remains at the Lighthouse, and for carpaccio, the recent wagyu at The Artisan was memorable, as was the same dish at Bagatelle. During the starters, we’re also more or less bullied to finish the Burrata, with our server hovering a bit too close and continuously filling our plate. I do understand Italian generosity, but this insistence was a bit too insistent for my liking. The langoustine is lovely — buttery, garlicky, sweet and tender, however, at AED110 per person per portion, I’m not sure I would order it again.
For mains, we decide to split a pasta and a protein, which I would recommend, as both portions were generous enough for two people. The signature Lobster Spaghetti (AED160) arrives as advertised (that is, within a lobster) and is then broken into two separate servings. I find the lack of depth in flavor to be a non-starter. Pasta is pasta in this case, and while the lobster is cooked as its supposed to be, it’s not a dish that offers much in the way of exciting flavors. While the plating and visual component of the Scaloppine Dolcelatte (AED 150) is severely lacking (I submit the below photo as a sign of one of the more unappealing food photos I’ve posted), I found the taste to deliver. While veal isn’t a favorite protein, it comes recommended, and I would most likely order it again (however, something to help the texture in the dish would be a welcome addition).
Listing our reason as ‘for the photos’ we decide on the tray of small Italian sweets (perfect for anyone who can’t decide on just one option) and the traditional Panna Cotta. These are probably one of the best parts of the meal, and my sincere compliments go to the pastry chef, who delivers an excellent finish to what has been a mostly average meal.
I clearly have a few suggestions for Scalini. The use of plastic menus seems weirdly egregious here, and my hope is they are temporary. There’s also not quite the selection that other restaurants at the same price point offer, such that a menu with a bit more depth would be welcome. And while I do understand the venue is located at the Four Seasons and therefore can get away with charging a bit of a premium, I think some of the prices are just a bit too far over what is necessary. As a final observation, service has a way to go here — vacillating between over eager and negligent (breadcrumbs not cleared, empty drinks not taken away, drinks not topped up). Given the fierce competition for those interested in Italian cuisine, Scalini needs to step up their game to keep a seat at the already busy table.
Who is Scalini best for? At lunchtime, apparently, the venue is quite popular with older Dubai residents. People who are staying at the hotel. Those who live on this side of town.
As it seems to be a recurring question, what is your favorite Italian restaurant in Dubai? Is there any I haven’t been to that I should check out?
A to Za’atar was a guest of Scalini. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.