Review: XU, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
Can a sleek Cantonese eatery draw the party people to Barsha?
Much of my dining history at Mall of the Emirates has revolved around food court pit-stops between shopping sprees, queueing endlessly for dumplings at Din Tai Fung, and Deliveroo-ing the Joe & The Juice club sandwich to my home nearby.
Fine dining, particularly of the late-night variety, somehow feels wrong in my established perception of MOE.
But if anything can change that opinion, it’s likely to be a restaurant from Rikas Group, creators of Twiggy, Mimi Kakushi, and La Cantine, who are yet to put a foot wrong in building their culinary empire. Still, I retain a cool skepticism as I arrive at XU, their Cantonese restaurant at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates.
There’s no denying its beautiful: rich shades of ruby are illuminated by the warm amber glow of lanterns. Mirrored ceilings and dark woods add to the sultry feel. It’s a large space, split between a dining room that’s backed by an open kitchen, and a bar area that’s dotted with lounge tables, the latter already seeming like the more popular spot. There’s also a long, narrow terrace at the back packed with plants that make it feel like an urban oasis. There’s even a trickling waterfall to add to the zen garden feel, although it can’t completely disguise the sounds of the Sheikh Zayed Road traffic zipping back and forth below.
Back inside, we take our seat in the lounge, ordering a tequila-based twist on the paloma called Year of the Dragon (Dhs70), a refreshing sip that we quickly finish while perusing the menu.
To start, we order the diver scallops, which at Dhs90 per piece are pricey, but arrive perfectly plump and flavoured well with a subtle garlic. The dim sum platter (Dhs145) is excellent, each neat parcel a symphony of bold tastes, from the scallop with pickled chili to the beef with soy and ginger. The king crab salad (Dhs230) is one dish we don’t particularly enjoy, with a limited amount of crab, and the crystal noodles, cucumber and coriander, lacking some of those bold flavours found in other dishes.
This is a Cantonese restaurant, so we feel it would be wrong not to order the Peking duck (Dhs245 for a half duck), a plentiful tender portion that’s sliced rather than shredded, its crispy skin adding to the full flavour. The beef charsiu (Dhs168) is coated in a deliciously sweet and salty charsiu sauce that’s rich without being overpowering.
We order dessert, a banana brulee (Dhs48) – deconstructed layers of sugary crunch and vanilla ice cream. It might not be what you’d expect, but it hits all the right notes, which sort of sums up dining at XU.
Verdict: XU might just be the reason to come – and stay – out late at MOE.
Kempinski Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, daily 6pm until late. Tel: (0)4 394 6252. @xurestaurantdubai