We just got acquainted with a dishy new Italian in Dubai and saying buonasera to the UAE's outpost of Don Alfonso 1890 was quite the experience! The legend behind the name and the two Michelin stars – chef Don Alfonso – swears by a 'living off the land' philosophy. So his family owns the farm that's the source of a lot of the produce the restaurant uses. The spotlight is firmly and confidently on traditional ingredients – lemons, tomatoes and virgin olive oil rule – as a lot more enters the play. Just over a week old in our part of the world (the restaurant's launch party was on 19 March), it has chef Christian de Nadai as the man at the helm here.
First impressions: Don Alfonso 1890 Dubai is a compact, chic space. There's the bar (birthplace of their wicked good signature citrusy drink) on the right as you enter, a sprinkling of 12 tables across the centre (a private dining area is in the works) and the open kitchen beyond the dining space.
Through to us first from the kitchen was the mozzarella souffle (Dhs85). No exaggeration, this was the stuff of foodie fantasies. We dove into the cheesy core (the main event after all) and it was amazing until the very last bite, complemented very nicely with the clean flavours of basil, the tartness of the cherry tomatoes sauce and the slight bite of oregano.
Our saffron risotto (Dhs145) was one of those subtle charmers, egged on by the flavoursome crab meat salad and sea urchin emulsion.
The artichokes purée almost overshadowed the pan fried filet of wild sea bass (Dhs195) peppered with caviar, almost. We loved how fresh the fish and the greens surrounding it were.
Pan fried filet of wild sea bass
The star of the meal for us was the concerto of lemon fritters and citrus cream. Such a clever dessert, with the citrus cream nestled in a scooped out lemon. Tangy, tantalising and totally addictive.
Concerto of lemon fritters and citrus cream
We see a sweet future in Dubai for Don Alfonso 1890 on the strength of all that we sampled! Have you been yet?
INFO: Don Alfonso 1890, second floor, Shangri-La Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, open daily for dinner from 7pm – 11.30pm, 04 355 1519, www.donalfonso.ae.