Our trip to Dubai was filled with some of the most incredible food I’ve tasted. The quality was exceptionally high at every spot we tried. I’ve heard a lot about how great the service in Dubai but the flavours… Oh the flavours! We had so many new favourite dishes. From the very best crème brûlée at La Petite Maison to hot fluffy pitta bread to swirl in bowls of incredible garlicky, zingy hummus beiruti, we truly feasted.
I’ve found myself using the words “favourite” and “best” way too much since I came back from Dubai. I genuinely can’t stop. We ate SO many beautiful things and I just can’t stop telling people about the food. We treated ourselves to some of the best restaurants and the food was just consistently incredibly high quality and packed with flavour! Our Dubai trip was predominantly about relaxation and eating and, for that, I have no regrets!
A foodie highlight of our trip was our meal at Zengo, one of the Pan Asian restaurants at Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort. It’s a hotel that the Doc has stayed in many times and so he was keen to take me there on our first trip to Dubai together. On this occasion, we didn’t stay there but we had an epic dinner that I just have to share with you! SPOILER ALERT: You may get hungry, sorry!
Here’s what we ate:
Citrus fruits, togarashi, pickled onions dill oil, lemon gel
Too often when something is listed as “spicy” on a menu, in fine dining restaurants, I find that spices are used VERY cautiously. Chefs, I get that you don’t want to overpower flavours but spices (and not just chilli) can be a burst of flavour and warmth that bring a dish to life – if the menu says spicy we know it’ll be spicy (or at least we hope so when we order it!). When our first dish at Zengo was brought to the table, I wanted to get up, run into the kitchen and give the chef a HUGE hug! WHAT A REVELATION! A chef who isn’t afraid to pack food with flavour and a generous amount of chilli.
I love fresh tuna and this seared tuna was just utter perfection with its spicy crust and tangy freshness. Dotted between the tuna were delicate slices of fresh sweet pineapple and zesty lemon, which married perfectly with the tuna. This is about as good as any starter gets – fresh, zingy, spiced with togarashi (a Japanese spice chilli blend) so well balanced! I honestly think I could have had plate after plate of this and left Dubai as a very happy, very full lady. Delicious!
Next up, we had the Angry Zengo Maki Rolls – Tuna, avocado, cucumber, sriracha sauce
More tuna, yes, but so different from the last dish! This was another sublime take on something that can often be quite simple. These maki rolls were incredibly fresh and full of flavour from the kick of sriracha. They had been garnished with a crispy topping of tempura crumb, which added some crunch and texture. An absolute triumph and up there with some of the tastiest maki rolls I’ve ever eaten! My lunchtime Itsu sushi order, al-desko, will never be the same!
Our final raw starter was the salmon sashimi which had the perfect amount of fattiness but next to the other starters, it couldn’t compete. By no means was it bad, it was definitely very good quality, it just paled in excitement next to the other dishes! I loved how beautifully it was presented, on ice with edible flowers and hot wasabi.
Moving onto hot starters, Chicken karaage – Chicken thigh with Korean chili sauce and sesame seed
Succulent chicken coated by a light, crispy batter came with a tangy, spicy dipping sauce. Whilst I presume this dish was probably fried, I liked that it wasn’t at all greasy and actually pretty light despite the very generous sized portion!
I washed this down with a fruity Cherry Blossom mocktail of hibiscus, cherry and lemonade to rehydrate. But of what we had to drink, the Doc definitely ordered best. He’s a huge fan of Negronis and it’s almost always his drink of choice for a pre-dinner drink. Zengo’s Mango Negroni didn’t disappoint – the mango juice was actually frozen into a large ice cube, so it melted slowly, releasing bursts of mango with each sip.
After our starters we were in for a bit of a laugh – our waiter came over and asked: “How was your meal? Can I bring you the dessert menu?” Awkward much?! Either we had eaten more than is socially acceptable for most people for starters, or he was utterly confused. We laughed, told him we were keen to try the mains and deliberated over what to order. Zengo has an extensive menu from curries, to wok-fried dishes, hot dishes cooked on the Robata and grilled items so there was a lot to choose from!
After much umm’ing and aah’ing and a few peeks over at the dishes on nearby tables, we went for the BBQ lamb ribs, the Chicken coconut and the US prime tenderloin.
The BBQ lamb ribs were flavoured and cooked very well, however, whilst the portion was very generous and I liked the slight sweetness of the curry-infused sauce, the ribs were a bit too fatty for my liking.
The Chicken coconut, on the other hand, was divine. Marinated charred chicken bathed in a fragrant coconut sauce with a velvety, almost luxurious feel. I loved the slight smokiness paired with the freshness of the fresh mint and coriander salad which it was served with.
Surprisingly, one of the side dishes was up there as one of the best dishes for me. Now hear me out. The main ingredient was tofu. No this isn’t bland, tasteless, sponge-like or boring at all! It was comparable to some of the best pan asian dishes I’ve tried and I defy anyone who says they don’t like tofu once they’ve tried this dish at Zengo! It annoys me when some restaurants treat tofu too simply (I.e. just fried and seasoned) because frankly it is boring. Tofu isn’t full of flavour on its own; it really needs flavour and a bit of attention. Zengo’s tofu is DELICIOUS! Tofu came in a glorious five spice batter. It was peppery, with a soft tender centre yet audibly crispy on the outside. Whether or not you’re vegetarian – oh god you NEED this. This is technically a side dish but I think it would make a great starter. It’s the most flavour packed tofu I’ve ever had!
Our final main was the US Prime Tenderloin, cooked medium rare and serve on a Fois gras sauce and parsnip puree. It was cooked to perfection!
We were pretty full but our waiter advised us that we couldn’t leave without pudding!
We had no idea what to expect when ordering the Pralus Bio Equateur – I still don’t actually know what it means but what arrives was a theatrical show on dry ice of dark chocolate pudding, sweet honeycomb cake, peanut plantain and beautiful honey ice cream. I actually really loved the plantain and icecream most and would have been happy to have had just that. The portion was enormous so I’d recommend sharing puddings rather than individuals.
Our final course, and possibly my favourite of all was the white chocolate semi freddo.
Zengo had this perfected. It was light and refreshing with lime brioche, spicy peanut brittle and a mini mountain of sweet green apple salad – perfect after such a heavy meal! I can’t recommend it enough!
I was so pleasantly surprised by Zengo at Le Royal Meridien hotel – innovative dishes, romantic atmosphere, generous portions and beautiful settings that make it a contender for best Pan Asian restaurant in Dubai! The service was good but not quite as slick as some of the other Dubai restaurants we tried, but the food and atmosphere more than made up for that!
Dare I say it? Well, I probably shouldn’t say so but I like it even more than Nobu (and it’s less expensive!) If you’re in Dubai or planning a trip, book in and let me know what you think! (And don’t leave without trying that seared tuna, ok?!)
Our meal at Zengo was complimentary, but as always, my views are 100% my own!
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