Once upon a time Chinese food was reserved for Saturday night take-aways in front of the television, the notion of a fine-dining Chinese restaurant was incomprehensible, how on earth would crispy chilli beef and duck pancakes be considered a gastronomic experience?
Then along came Hakkasan and changed the way we think forever.
Hakkasan’s fine-dining Cantonese cuisine has catapulted the restaurant group into the culinary stratosphere with an army of loyal customers the world over. Us included.
Having feasted in just about every Hakkasan branch around the world from New York to London, we decided to pop down to our local, Hakkasan Dubai located in Jumeirah Emirates Towers to try out their special terrace menu of light bites and refreshing cocktails.
Hakkasan Dubai opened back in 2011 and from the iconic dark, moody interior a fusion of jet black and gleaming gold, lies the restaurants terrace which contrasts with rustic wooden pavilions and greenery galore, only the signature oak latticing is reminiscent of Hakkasan’s core.
Let’s be clear about something from the offset; Hakkasan is not for the under dressed. Although smart casual reads the obligatory Dubai dress code, this is a restaurant to see and be seen whilst trying to pretend you’re not, hidden away in your dark, intimate corner. Unmistakable from the outside for its fluorescent logo branded on the street wall, you enter via the mall itself, an oversized door leading you down a candle-lit stone pathway, it’s all very Grimm’s fairytale. Once inside you’re greeted by a sharply under lit bar, the resting place of many a Prada bag for the evening, the music is low yet still pumping, it’s a place of contradictions. Diners are in their plenty, although the vast restaurant and bar never seems to feel over crowded. Couples share romantic dinners a deux in shaded corners whilst groups of work colleagues conduct deals over many a sake, the atmosphere is one that progresses following the hands on the clock, whatever the day of the week.
With the return of the colder, more pleasant weather, al fresco dining is a preferable choice and with the recent opening of Hakkasan’s terrace, this has returned, much to the joy of the population of neighbouring DIFC. Chilled music plays from the resident DJ and the terrace menu offers a selection of bites and expertly mixed cocktails for you to enjoy. The menu is a brief selection of the main indoor a la carte, with a selection of small plates that has been designed for sharing although for the hungrier you can still order from the traditional a la carte menu too. Open daily from 5pm its a great place to unwind after a long day in the office.
We enjoyed a mixture of Hakka steamed and fried dim sum, a colourful concoction of smoked wagyu beef dumplings, roasted duck pumpkin puffs, scallop shumai and har gau amongst others. Dim Sum is somewhat deceiving. It may look like not a lot but you’re sure to be full after a few of these. Luckily dishes are small enough to nibble on but substantial enough to accompany the potent cocktails. The chicken skewers with satay sauce and jasmine tea smoked Wagyu beef ribs are excellent choices for carnivores whereas the vegetable spring rolls and baby octopus in honey glazed sauce are delicious choices for those wanting something a little healthier.
You simply cannot visit Hakkasan without at least attempting to make your way through the cocktail menu, which is just as famous as the cuisine itself. In fact, these are so good we discovered our new favourite cocktail right here on the terrace. The Silva Leaf is a mouth-wateringly good vibrant mixture of Kome to Mizu sake, champagne, passion fruit and home-made Chinese five-spice syrup. The five-spice really comes through bringing this bubbly cocktail to life. Although we could have sipped on these all night, we decided to try another just for this article’s sake you understand; The Hakka is the signature cocktail of Hakkasan as its name suggests and is a refreshingly pleasurable blend of Ketel One Vodka, lychee juice, lime, coconut, passion fruit and that all important ingredient, Kome to Mizu Sake.
If you can manage desert after all the Dim Sum and champagne the Banana and Caramel Fondant is to die for. Roasted banana sits alongside a caramel flexi ganache and banana-passion ice cream. Who said Chinese can’t do deserts?
Visit Hakkasan Dubai now and try the new terrace menu whilst the weather still permits.