Decoding a veggie Vanguard experience at Enigma
Engima at the new Palazzo Versace Hotel is a new model of restaurant (apparently the first of its kind in the world), which reinvents itself every quarter by bringing in a different star chef and concept every 3 months. The first rotation is a Vanguard theme by three star Michelin chef Quique Dacosta, whose Spanish restaurant Dénia is currently ranked no. 39 on the World's 50 Best Restaurants. Having several other credentials to his name, I was excited to be among the privileged few to visit the restaurant for dinner on their opening night a few weeks ago, and I was delighted that they were able to offer me a vegetarian menu with just a little bit of prior notice.
In line with the restaurant’s objective of keeping things mysterious, we were not offered menus of what we were going to be served. My dining partner Carla (Memoirs of a Taste bud) and I were hoping to get some notes of what we ate post the meal, however we were told that they preferred to keep the suspense alive for future guests. With a name like Enigma, I suppose that’s fair enough for a concept that is only going to be around for just a couple of months. So we were effectively left to decipher what we were eating ourselves, as the attempts of the servers to communicate what we were eating weren’t that clear either.
Nonetheless it was a fantastic experience with creative presentation and quirky ideas. A rose and a plate of rocks were among the first few starters to greet the table and we had to “choose wisely” to figure out which of the 6 charcoal grey rocks on the plate revealed the deliciously creamy Parmesan filling. However the general consensus on our table was that the edible rose was overly sweet. Having said that, the bright red chilled berry gazpacho was possibly one of the best I have ever had with the perfect balance of tartness and mild sweetness.
The brightly lit palate cleanser consisting of a spongy steamed meringue with dehydrated apple and lemon compote was brought out to all the guests by masked waiters after the lights were turned out and the room was pitch dark. This served as a fun little interlude, which definitely spiced things up a bit!
The hot risotto main course representing the burnt rice fields in Valencia actually looked like it was garnished with dark grey ash, but it had a little too much sweetness for my liking. Sally of My Custard Pie was also having the vegetarian meal that night, and she was of the same opinion.
The highlight of the evening was the Foggy Forest Floor – an intriguing combination of earthy, gooey, moist and crunchy textures of vegetables that are meant to mimic a forest floor. The term “goo” was coined by Sarah of The Hedonista, who was also seated at my table, and the rest of us just ended up sticking with it!
I won't spoil the aura of mystery for you, but on the whole, it’s worth at least one visit for the experience and a few noteworthy vegetarian dishes; but be warned, aside from 2 of the courses, most of them are served cold. If this sounds like something that tickles your fancy, be sure to visit the restaurant before the end of March. Otherwise, there’s always April, by which time, the new chef and concept will be revealed.
On the whole, I trust that Enigma will serve as a great platform for star chefs to test out the UAE market and equally give Dubai foodies the opportunity to taste culinary delights from renowned global chefs without having to go too far. I can’t say that I will go back for Chef Quique Dacosta’s Vanguard concept as once is usually enough for such experiences, but I am certainly looking forward to seeing what’s in store for April!
Disclosure: as mentioned above, this was an invitation only opening event, however all opinions expressed are genuine.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: A unique concept that gives Dubai the opportunity to sample pop-up style themed dinners by different world renowned chefs every 3 months.
Cons: Lack of clarity on what you are being served.
Price: $$$$ (AED 500+)
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