Nestled along the outer crescent of Palm Jumeirah is the statuesque Waldorf Astoria and not only does this property boast unrivalled luxury accommodation for the discerning traveller, it also offers some truly fantastic fine dining restaurants.
LAO is one of them.
For those that are fans of Asian cuisine, LAO offers traditional South East Asian fare in a relaxed, informal fine dining setting.
Glide down the polished stairway in the Waldorf and find LAO, dimly lit, the moody dark wood shadowed under the candlelight, lit up by the occasional (spectacular) flambe flame from the central open kitchen, LAO can be as theatrical or as intimate as you wish it to be, depending on what table you choose. Opt to be seated in the main area of the restaurant and you are treated to quite the show, or choose, as we did to be seated in the small alcove to the right hand side near the glass window of the hotel which may feel a bit as if you are in a fish-bowl at first as hotel guests hungrily boggle your dinner through the windows but the two tables in this area are set far enough apart to allow for a private dinner a deux.
LAO takes its inspiration from the 1st millennium tribe that settled across South East Asia and this restaurant reflects the culinary traditions of the Lao people, heavily influenced by North-Eastern Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, making this far from your average Asian dining spot. You get the feeling the polite and attentive staff really care about the traditions behind the restaurant, happily recommending their favourite dishes.
The staple food of the Lao culture is steamed sticky rice and sometimes the Lao even referred to themselves as ‘Luk Khao Niaow’ which can be literally translated to ‘Children of sticky rice’ so it kind of goes without saying that this is one side dish that is somewhat obligatory.
The menu is a contemporary fusion of the new and traditional including cooking techniques as you will experience which results in truly unique flavours coming through in your food. The emphasis at LAO is the food, the presentation, although not y any means displeasing, isn’t as inventive as say its fine dining neighbours such as Social by Heinz Beck, but the passion through creating the food is what really shines through in the dishes themselves.
With a wide selection of Dim Sum, we strongly suggest you pick one or two dishes to share as portions come in a small 3x piece variety. We opted for the Steamed siew mai chicken dumplings, the Steamed foie gras dumplings with Sour apple and the Steamed shrimp dumplings with seasame oil, sesame seeds, spring onion and oyster sauce.
To accompany our dim sum we tried the Traditional ‘Bun Cha’ chicken With fresh noodles, sweet and sour dipping sauce and herbs which rounded off the entrees perfectly.
Main courses are a wide range of meat and fish dishes with cater to most tastes. We once again chose to stick to meat with the delicious Chicken kung pao, Peanuts, chili and Szechuan peppercorns and the Wok fried black pepper beef Tomato, young pepper corn and oyster sauce which we recommend you order in the larger portion size if you intend to share with your dining companion. Both dishes were cooked to perfection, an explosion of flavours and colour and we accompanied these with potato curry and stir-fried savoy cabbage.
Noteworthy dishes from the menu include the Grilled rack of lamb with coriander sauce and the Pan fried salmon Asparagus, enoki, wasabi and sweet beans for those that prefer lighter fish dishes.
Top off your meal with the Chocolate molten cake gracefully sitting alongside a large scoop of green tea ice cream.
The fun thing about LAO is that it encourages you to experiment with flavours you ordinarily might not without even realising it, each dish is rich yet small enough in size not to be overpowering. The restaurant doesn’t reinvent the wheel nor does it leave you feeling mesmerized by ostentatious interior or innovative dining but it does manage classic cooking with a twist and for those lovers of Asian cuisine, LAO offers a pleasant, unpretentious fine dining experience.
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For Reservations call +971 4 818 2222