When we arrive at the restaurant, it’s still in its soft opening stage, which usually means that service is likely to be slow and a tad sloppy, so despite its international reputation for excellence in both London and Moscow, we’re not expecting too much. The décor is low-lit, elegant and chic, boasting huge red bauble chandeliers that dangle from the ceiling and the seemingly never-ending dining room leads to an open kitchen, complete with a display of fresh seafood and a rainbow of brightly-coloured seasonal ingredients. Set across two floors, Novikov follows the precedent of its tried and tested formula of bar, lounge and restaurant, however, this usually incorporates two separate concepts of Mediterranean food and Asian fare housed under one roof. The Dubai version has decided to wholly focus on its Asian menu, and the upper floor, which at the time was not open to the public is an exclusive area reserved for private gatherings.
There are both smoking and non-smoking sections and despite the moody ambience, each table is illuminated enough for you not to question what you’re eating. We are promptly brought a selection of crudités with a creamy and spicy ‘dynamite’ style dipping sauce, and when my husband remarks that he is enjoying the carrots, although he is addressing me, one of the waiting staff picks up on it and several more are brought to the table. Hmmm… pretty impressive! We are quizzed about food allergies and preferences before being asked if we’d like some edamame to begin the meal and how would we prefer it, steamed, spicy or toasted? Toasted? Now there’s a first and that’s what we decide to go with. Good choice, it turns out, as the charring of the pods lends a characteristic smokiness to an otherwise pretty standard offering.
Next, we share a tomato salad, an aubergine salad and a serving of black cod. Now, truth be told, I’m not much of a raw tomato fan, or moreover they don’t like me, as my mouth always appears to react badly to their acid, but these are the sweetest, most sublime cherry tomatoes I have ever tasted, possessing a crisp outer skin that encase their juicy interior. The aubergine and cod are both glazed with miso to add a delicate fragrance to each main ingredient, without overwhelming any of their natural flavour. Further courses of sushi rolls, which combine succulent seafood with an exquisite subtle tempura crunch within and a plate of beautifully crisp fillet of red mullet together are enough to constitute a deliciously satisfying meal without feeling weighed down. We finish with a deconstructed plate of banoffee pie, comprised of caramelised bananas, crumbly shortbread pieces, rich chocolate sauce and a miso caramel ice cream complete with a smattering of gold leaf. It’s a must-try dish and a decadent way to end a supreme culinary experience. It seems that word has clearly gotten around town as even during this stage of its infancy, we witness the restaurant steadily filling up since our early evening arrival and almost as if anticipating the crowds, service is attentive and on-point, as it should be given its upscale price tag. Try it for a special date night or with a bunch of your wealthiest mates, but we don’t think there’s any rush, as this is almost certainly going to become a Dubai institution.
INFO: 6pm-2am, Sheraton Grand Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, 04 388 8744, www.novikov-dubai.com