I can’t remember the last time I walked away from a restaurant and had that real sense of disappointment.
A disappointment not brought about by the food or service (quite the contrary), but by my late arrival to the party. How, oh how, had I not yet visited PLAY restaurant before this week. Nestled in the rather grand H Dubai hotel, the unique concept of PLAY is headed up by ex-regional executive chef of Zuma restaurants, Reif Othman.
I had my mother out a few days ago, so off we went to experience PLAY firsthand. It serves what they like to dub ‘Meditterasian’ cuisine, although my eyes were pulled rather consistently to the more Asian-inspired dishes on the menu.
PLAY is set out to be an experience, not just a dining venue which I think they accomplish very well. The decor is decadent and the room itself is big enough to fit a wedding party, or two. Low seating, marble tables, gold running throughout the entire restaurant and a set up for a live DJ for when the time calls.
It could very easily have turned out as one of those disastrous Dubai restaurants that had a fortune poured into it, only to get out an impersonal and unauthentic spot. Fortunately, PLAY sailed a long way far from anything of the sort. It’s exciting, it’s culinary theatre.
The menu is a sharing style concept, which suits me perfectly as I’m forever reaching for the dish that isn’t mine. We started with a selection of bites, many of which came served with possibly the one ingredient I would eat with anything, truffle. Heaven in my eyes.
Steamed edamame, ‘Pita surprise’, raw wagyu and ‘snails in the garden’.
I’m a recent snail convert, but I figure it’s normally the garlic butter dipped with french bread that I love most about it. That was until I tried these lime shallot butter and parmesan soil, shells of brilliance. Every bite packed a huge punch of flavour and the wagyu was like butter itself, melting in the mouth.
A ceviche of raw seafood, citrus ponzu and fried baby squid coupled with the loch fine salmon tartare only upped the stakes.
A ceviche that manages to maintain the crunch of it’s perfectly fried squid whilst having doses of impeccably balanced ponzu sauce to dress the seafood is not an easy feat. Especially when there’s a food blogger at the table delaying the time between the dishes setting down on the table and actually eating!
I recognised the set up of the salmon tartare from Zuma’s beef tartare dish, but to no discredit of the chef as I’m firm believer in not fixing something unless it’s broken! And better yet, it seems Chef Othman managed to improve something that I thought to already be perfect. Served with caviar, ikura, prawn crackers and nothing short of a pearl spoon to serve up such a fine tartare.
Carrying on with the sharing plates, duck gyoza, black cod croquettes, lobster tempura and hamachi.
The gyoza was the best duck dish to land on any restaurant table I have eaten at (including world-class chinese hot spots). Both the presentation and taste was nothing short of genius. The lobster tempura, whilst a little on the small side, was seamlessly cooked and the croquettes exemplified the ideal mix of a home comfort with fine dining. The hamachi was the only dish of the whole night that I wasn’t sold on, the herb aji amarillo sauce didn’t work for me like the rest.
And two main courses to seal the deal that PLAY restaurant is the place to be for exceptional and creative food.
Black cod ‘new styles’ and master kobe steak with pickled vegetables. Oh wow. Let’s start with the steak – a melt-in-the-mouth, flavour packed and perfectly accompanied dish. I would pick this main course over any asian-inspired steak main I’ve had in Dubai.
The black cod gave a whole new meaning to the well-known and much loved fish dish. Served with not a sweet sticky miso, but an almost-curry based sauce that is going to make it hard for me to route back to the norm. Just, exceptional.
For the sweet tooth, think banana, think baked apple, think chocolate … think ‘I’m REALLY going to need to workout tomorrow morning”. All because these desserts are ones that are too impossibly good to be left on the plate. My word, Chef Othman knows how to make a happy customer!
If you want a real treat, with exciting and sensational dishes, PLAY is your restaurant of choice. You can check them out through their website here. If you have any comments and questions about the food or the evening, please do write below and let me know know your thoughts!
Thanks for tuning in to a foodie’s heaven ;)
Hello and welcome! I'm Carly, originally from London but currently enjoying a little adventure in Dubai. A travel and wellness blogger exploring the world one step at a time. Think fabulous food at undiscovered gems, unique destinations, skin care obsessions and so much more. This is my life, I hope you enjoy the ride!