Review: The little-known brunch at Sayad, is one of the capital's best
A regal gem found in the grounds of Emirates Palace…
Big international buffets have their place on the brunch stage. There’s an undeniable joy in trotting past food stations, and crafting your own personalised menu through a combination of impulse plating and epicurean abandon.
But there’s a lot to be said for the long, lazy sit-down set menus too. It removes the burden of choice and following the chef’s curation of the content and sequence of dishes, should usually be a good thing — they are, of course, the expert.
We’ve just arrived in the grand lobby of Emirates Palace on the way to Sayad, one of the hotel’s lesser known restaurants, to see how well the chef here, puts together a brunch experience by proxy.
Just beyond the restaurant’s threshold there’s an impressive aquarium, a little like the one in the party scene of Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet. Our waitress guides us through the modern European diner, past an arrangement of Greek tile-work on the turquoise walls, and under a hanging botanical ceiling feature, then we stop before a shaft of soft light breaking through yonder window, “this is your table” our waitress explains “we’ve given you one with a view”.
The easy Mediterranean vibe follows faithfully through into the kitchen craft, our nine-course set menu is a coast to coast affair, zig-zagging through a series of fair cities, all alike in culinary dignity.
Sayad’s opening gambit comes in the form of focaccia and a smashed avocado dip — the execution is exquisite, the bread has bite and the aromatic swordplay between rosemary, garlic and olive oil feel lifted straight from a Verona villa garden party.
Oysters come next, served with a French shallot vinaigrette. They’re paired with a tuna ceviche (emboldened by sharp green apples), and a burrata platter. This is a menu that celebrates quality of produce, it proudly parades that European fundamental, that integrity of ingredients should play the starring role. The oysters are clean, marinated only with their marine water freshness. The burrata is that distinguished sort, creamy but offering faint flavour nods to provenance.
Parcels of lovingly prepared porcini mushroom ravioli follow, and there is a depth to them that suggest our chef has been trained at the source. This is an accomplished effort, perhaps the stand-out dish of the ensemble, the fungi provide a series of umami levels that are a Montague to the sun dried tomato Capulet.
Then we receive our paella, topped with a Burj-esque medley of seafood. We can count on the palm of one hand the number of decent paellas we’ve tried in the UAE and this is definitely more Costa than Corniche. Fractionally heavy on the seasoning, but bursting with Valencian perfumes of saffron, turmeric and briny stock.
With the home strait in sight, this is no occasion to dwell, and the next couple of courses arrive — a Mediterranean mixed grill alongside skin-on fries topped with fondant raclette, poured table-side. We’re on the beaches of Normandy, Sayad has us now, full but somehow still mange-ing, and deeply enjoying this one last savoury push.
The parting desserts are all sweet, no sorrow — a honey parfait and assortment of sorbets, which are slowly and gleefully eroded. And we’re left with one last lingering thought — Sayad might seem an odd title for such an authentic Mediterranean restaurant but, after all, what is in a name?
Verdict: Up there with the best set menus in the capital. This brunch truly is worth its royal postcode. Rating: A
Sayad, Emirates Palace, W Corniche Rd, Fridays 1pm to 4pm, soft Dhs295, house Dhs375, premium Dhs475. Tel: (02) 690 7999, mandarinoriental.com