Dissecting Intersect by Lexus
Is it a restaurant? Is it a car showroom? It’s a concept space! Intersect by Lexus can be interpreted in lots of different ways, but its identity as a restaurant is what we wanted to explore. The second such brand extension by Lexus, this is designed to be a creative hub for people to experience the luxury car brand in non-automotive ways. So, there’s a café-style atmosphere with books, and a boutique offering Lexus lifestyle products, plus a hybrid car on display in a glittering, modern setting in the downstairs bit of the two-storey space. The see-through Perspex floor and the miniature car wall next to the restrooms are a must-see.
The funky, brightly lit space with muted background music offers a refreshing change from the darker, louder lounges typical of DIFC. A sunken open kitchen at the far end becomes part of the design, where well-known local chef Tom Reger and his team cook up the modern, healthy, ingredient-led dishes that make up the concise menu.
Divided into small plates and large plates (as is quite the trend these days), the sharing-style dishes all sound like interesting ways of working with high quality produce. There is a reasonable selection of vegetarian options in the small plates section, particularly of creative salads.
Before we ordered, we were served amuse bouche which, luckily for us, were both vegetarian: carrot puree and aioli on linseed crackers and lentil pate on croutons topped with shaved hazelnuts. Light, delicious, and really original in approach, they set the tone for the meal.
Our first starter was a braised chickpea salad with cauliflower shavings, with roasted hazelnuts in a citrus vinaigrette. It is a clever dish, with the hazelnuts deceptively blending into the chickpeas, but offering a good crunch when you bite in. The light yet zingy dressing also hints at a hazelnut flavour, tying the whole dish together.
Our other starter was a kale and avocado salad, with sunflower seeds and some more of the linseed wafer adding another textural layer. The kale was lightly braised to take the bite off, and the avo was perfect; it felt, as you’d expect, like a nutritious superfood salad.
Among the large plates, there was only one vegetarian option, so we went for it. The beet and barley risotto was pretty as a picture, with the beetroot lending its deep red colour to the barley, which was cooked in its juices. The sweetness of the heirloom beetroots was nicely offset by the crème fraiche, coriander and radish slivers it is garnished with. And, as I’d mentioned my preference for gluten-free dishes, the chef also created a special mushroom risotto with buckwheat for me. The flavoursome dish saw an assortment of different mushrooms playing around with the grain braised in mushroom jus. I think it should definitely make it into the menu! We’d also ordered a side of lemon butter potatoes, and really enjoyed the tangy and buttery flavours coming through clearly in the dish.
For dessert, for once my partner and I couldn’t agree, so we ordered two: the cheesecake with ginger poached pear and Chantilly cream, plus the compressed apple tart on a Brittany sable (a type of French shortbread) served with vanilla ice cream, and delicate lashings of vanilla custard. Both were excellent, with the quality of the ingredients used once again shining through, whether it’s the Madagascar vanilla in both the ice cream and Chantilly cream, or the sweet apples. There was a fennel compote in the apple dish too, which was undistinguishable, but added a subtle extra layer to the dish.
This, for me, kind of summed up the food at Intersect. Quality, good-for-you ingredients that don’t need much messing around with are given a slight creative touch to take them to another level, resulting in simple yet intelligent dishes. I love the modern use of ancient grains, and the interactivity wherein the kitchen is happy to create something off-menu if required.
My only little niggle would be that the menu might be too café-style for nighttime dining, considering it’s a licensed DIFC venue. While I’m all for short menus, just a couple more additions that might work as alternatives to a salad – vegetarian dishes, ideally! – and perhaps some more ‘free-from’ dishes, considering the health focus of the menu, would make it perfect.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: ✔
Pros: Stylish venue, interesting & healthy dishes
Cons: Limited choice of veggie mains
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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