Restaurant Review: Enigma, Palazzo Versace
Dubai's newest dining concept sees Michelin-starred guest chefs take turns in the kitchen
The UAE’s boredom threshold is low – our ambitious society constantly craves newness and reinvention. As such, good restaurants seem to shut down almost as frequently as they open. The concept adopted at Enigma, then, is potentially ingenious. Every three months another Michelin-starred chef will be invited to create a new degustation menu for diners – in essence, completely reinventing the experience as the bold influences of each world-leading chef change the food entirely.
First up is the dashing Quique Dacosta, whose own three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Dénia, is number 39 on the World’s Best Restaurants list. He is a leader of the Spanish culinary scene, and his ‘techno-emotional cuisine’ is often billed as filling the gap left by the closure of El Bulli (previously the hardest place on the planet to get a table and consistently voted the World’s Best Restaurant, until the team decided to focus on other projects).
Dacosta has called his Enigma experience Vanguard. There are no tablecloths – apparently the dishes are a little too messy. There are no menus and no decisions to make – multiple courses are delivered to the table (we lost count at nine). Afterwards, diners are given a souvenir to take away; it’s an artistic impression of a menu, no words, just an intricate illustration with some of the food served hidden in the detail.
Standout dishes include the Golden Egg, perfectly poached and injected with an Asian-spiced jelly topped with caviar and gold leaf and crisps; the edible pebbles filled will creamy Parmesan and coated in black cocoa butter and the Christmas decay-inspired ‘acorn and maggot’, which, despite appearances, was the most delicious chocolate praline dessert, with a lone pine nut impersonating the maggot.
Dishes that divided opinion included the rose with its centre carved away and replaced by edible fruit ‘petals’ (stunning, but too sweet for me) and the interesting pigeon preparation (bold choice, but too gamey for some).
Culinary theatre included a leafy pine-scented dry ice platter to set the mood with one course and a brief black-out moment before the lights were switched back on and it was revealed that the waiters were wearing bull’s masks. Strange but fun. The only real disappointment was the dining room itself – I was expecting bespoke decoration but it was bare. Hopefully next time the chef will bring a set designer.
INFO: Set menu Dhs650 (early bird), Dhs750 (weekdays), Dhs990 (weekends), 7pm-10.30pm, Enigma, Palazzo Versace Dubai, 04 556 8888, firstname.lastname@example.org, enigmadxb.com