Is it Playtime for us veggies at Play Dubai?
Play had been on my list of restaurants to visit ever since it’s opening earlier this year. I had heard a lot of good things, including from my vegetarian cousins who had been a couple of weeks before me (check out Niketa Raheja’s review on the user portal). I was curious to see how well former Zuma chef Reif Othman had executed the new concept, so I had dinner there with a friend recently.
The owners of Zuma always talk about accessibility as Rule no. 1 of a successful restaurant in Dubai. Play seems to have picked up on this as well. As I enter the lobby of The H Hotel, I am directed towards a set of dedicated elevators that take me directly to the restaurant on the 36th floor. I see my friend already waiting for me at the large rectangular bar as soon as I walk in, and we are directed over to our table in the massive dining area to the right, up a small flight of stairs. Unlike the dining room at Zuma, this is a dimly lit restaurant. As I take a moment to take in the well-designed space, our waitress arrives and explains the concept – food is served sharing style (no surprises there), and the cuisine is a fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean – not a flavor combination I would have thought of, but it has me intrigued.
They have a pretty decent wine selection – I order a Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc by the glass, which is crisp and refreshing, and proceed to look over the menu. I am a little disappointed by how small the vegetarian selection is, but since my dining companion is not vegetarian, there seems to be enough variety for just one vegetarian. We start with appetizers – the veggie options we opt for are the Idaho Potato, the Japanese Sweet Corn (both of which sound similar to Zuma menu items) as well as the Elie’s, the Grainy and the Chef’s Garden.
As it turns out, the potato and sweet corn, don’t just sound similar, they also taste similar to the Zuma versions. The Elie’s, a crispy tortilla pizza topped with sliced avocado and green chilli mayo is decent but unmemorable, so not something I would order again.
As a lover of anything with pomegranate dressing, I have high expectations from the Grainy, which is described as multigrains with pomegranate dressing and myzithra cheese, a kind of goat’s cheese. And in fact, these expectations are exceeded – the crunch from the pine seeds together with the sweetness from the raisins and the softness of the savory cheese creates a wonderful “play” of textures and flavors. The Chef’s Garden is presented like a vegetarian version of sashimi, which is quite innovative in presentation but again, not particularly memorable.
Unfortunately it ends there, as the Risotto Barrel, the only main course I was excited to try, is no longer available for the evening. We decide to indulge in dessert instead. I am leaning towards the melted Horlicks crème brulee but my friend is keen on the Greek Yogurt, and that’s what the waitress encourages. 2 out of 3 votes is a clear winner, so that’s what we go with. It turns out to be a fondant shaped cake filled with baked Greek yogurt that oozes out as you bite, and it tastes just divine – not overly sweet, and apparently the right choice!
Will I go back? Probably for the ambiance and to try a few dishes I missed out on, but unless they add a couple more interesting veggie dishes before then, I probably wouldn’t take more than one vegetarian friend along with me.
P.S. I have since heard good things about the Risotto Barrel, so I guess I will have to go back to try it myself. If you have tried it, do let us know what you think on the user portal!
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Great ambiance, good view, decent food
Cons: Needs more standout vegetarian dishes
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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