Review: Brasserie Boulud at Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk
In a city teeming with celebrity-chef restaurants, will Brasserie Boulud stand out from the crowd?
Palm Jumeirah has Bottura, Nobu and Back; Dubai Marina has Rhodes and Colagreco; and Bluewaters has Ramsay. So how did Healthcare City just score one of Dubai’s biggest dining coups?
French-born chef Daniel Boulud is best known for his eponymous New York restaurant, the two-Michelin-starred Daniel, as well as a slew of brasseries and bistros as far afield as London, Singapore and Washington DC. For his first foray into Dubai, he’s set up shop in the Sofitel The Obelisk, opening Brasserie Boulud in the glitzy new Egyptian-themed hotel in Umm Hurair 2, right next to Wafi Mall.
While the menu speaks to Boulud’s European sensibilities, the dining room is pure New York. Mirrored ceilings, tessellated marble floors, burgundy leather banquettes and grand columns offer a gentle nod to the 1920s, with a snaking chandelier that stretches the length of the restaurant.
A marble-clad open kitchen takes centre stage – but this is no mere showpiece for saucing and garnishes. Black-toqued chefs move methodically about the space, slicing charcuterie, kneading pasta dough, and searing meat over leaping flames. Boulud is in town for the opening week, and he’s in his element here, popping between stations to taste this, test that, before turning to wave at diners as we snap his picture.
We’ve been invited along for the second night of operations, but there’s no sense of a restaurant still finding its feet. Professionalism reigns across the board, from the floor staff to the kitchen hands, no doubt inspired by the grace and good nature of Boulud, who gently steers rather than commandeers the ship.
There’s an effortless grace to the menu, too, which combines Boulud’s mastery of French and Italian cuisines with American largesse and the occasional Arabic inflection.
The hamachi starter (Dhs80) is pure class. Thinly sliced amberjack is fanned across the plate, artfully decorated with curls of shaved fennel, soft-set quail eggs, olives, tomatoes, crunchy green beans, and earthy artichoke crisps.
A jar of duck rillettes (Dhs85) is layered with blush-pink ribbons of shaved duck breast, pickled eschalot, sweet onion chutney and the tart pop of pomegranate seeds. Piled onto chargrilled bread, it’s soulful French cooking with polish.
Of the mains, the sole Grenobloise is a standout – three lightly floured fish fillets are doused in a luscious brown butter, lemon and caper sauce, with silken cauliflower puree and tiny florets of romanesco. It’s exceptional, to be sure, but the Dhs315 may be hard for some to swallow.
It seems particularly pricey when you consider that most of the menu is surprisingly affordable (by Dubai standards). Many mains sit between Dhs135 and Dhs175, which seems more than reasonable given the glam surroundings and the expertise in the kitchen and on the floor.
Our final dish of the evening is a flawless Valrhona chocolate fondant (Dhs55), topped with a scoop of coconut ice cream that serves to lightens the intensity. It’s big enough – and rich enough – to share, especially as a plate of freshly baked madeleines lands on the table soon after.
For all the glamour of the dining room and precision of the floor staff, this is food with body and soul. You’ll want to come back to eat the Dhs95 burger at the bar, with a glass of Burgundy in hand. You’ll want to go all out for date night with seafood platters and wagyu steaks. You’ll only wish it was just around the corner…
Brasserie Boulud, Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, Umm Hurair 2, Dubai. Mon to Thu 6pm to midnight (kitchen open 7pm to 11.30pm), Fri and Sat 6pm to 1.30am (kitchen open 7pm to midnight). Tel: (04) 281 4020. sofitel-dubai-theobelisk.com/restaurants-bars/brasserie-boulud/