Weslodge Saloon: Highs and Lows
I loved watching cowboy movies as a kid. There was the dusty old town, the stern-faced sheriff, the evil desperado and of course, the one place where all the major and minor characters gathered together: the saloon. The Weslodge Saloon, a Toronto import, is a fun throwback to that concept. From what I’ve seen, the Canadian outlet comes across as a modernistic pub. The newly opened Dubai restaurant, however, reminds me very much of the saloons I’d seen in the movies, with a more contemporary touch.
Located on the 68th floor of the JW Marriott Marquis, the saloon isn’t my first preference for dining as I’m not too keen on heights. After what seems like an incredibly long (and for me, a bit unnerving) elevator ride, I’m greeted by a smiling hostess who takes me through the bright yellow doors of the saloon. My fear of heights recedes into the background as I walk into the elegant semi-circular dining room. The Downtown and Business Bay area stretches out before me through the large glass windows, with the Burj Khalifa looming in the background. It is equal parts impressive and disorienting, but the warm, dimly lit interior of the saloon keeps me relaxed.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the most veggie-friendly of places, with the vegetarian options consisting mainly of salads and sides. However, I soon discover that each of these is a substantial dish in itself. After a bit of deliberation, I settle on the Weslodge Chop, which I am told is one of their more popular salads. A mix of various vegetables, avocado and crumbled feta drizzled with dill vinaigrette, it’s a heartier portion than I’d expected. The feta isn’t as strong a flavor as I thought it would be and the whole thing ends up being well balanced overall.
Not wanting to fill up too much on salads, I skip straight to the main courses. There are only two available: Mushroom Pie and Ricotta Gnudi. Once again, the portions prove to be fairly large, but I work my way through them a bit at a time. The mushroom pie is a good, solid alternative to the mushroom risotto that usually gets trotted out, and bits of celeriac and spinach add a little more depth to the flavor. A small pitcher of truffle sauce is served on the side, to be drizzled as required. It’s a good dish, though it would be nice to see something other than mushroom now and again.
The Gnudi doesn’t work quite as well for me, though. The ricotta has too much of a raw milky flavor to it, and the tomato sauce has too much tang, overpowering the dish rather than complementing it. The combination of cheese, tomatoes and basil should have been a slam dunk, but it doesn’t come together like it should. The side of roast cauliflower works much better, and is very flavorful.
Dessert provides no shortage of options, and after trying to decide between a few different dishes, I decide to go with the chocolate fondant. It’s not the most adventurous choice, but I can’t say no to chocolate. Much to my surprise, what comes out doesn’t resemble any chocolate fondant I’ve ever had, to the point that I think they got the order wrong. I’ll let the picture speak for itself, but it’s an interesting combination of crumbled chocolate cake, chocolate wafers, chocolate ice cream and mini fondant rolls. In spite of that, it doesn’t feel overly chocolatey, or very heavy either.
Weslodge Saloon has a very charming ambiance, along with an interesting music selection that’s essentially my high school play list (anyone growing up in the 90’s will find themselves humming along in no time). While the main courses are a bit underwhelming, all the salads sound good and each dish is fairly substantial. That, along with the vibe and the gorgeous view, is just enough reason to go back, though I'd love for them add another veggie main or two to the menu. A great veggie burger would be quite fitting, I think.
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Lovely ambiance, great view of Burj Khalifa and Downtown, interesting salad selection
Cons: Needs more variety in vegetarian main courses, gnudi not very good
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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