Monday, 9 February 2015

Eating out in Dubai - Dining Around Dubai with FooDiva and the Entertainer Dubai Fine Dining App

When I saw in my inbox an email from FooDiva I thought it was the newsletter that, being a subscriber, I regularly receive with updates on the newest reviews published on the website. But the incipit was quite peculiar as it said "Good morning Francesca! This is your lucky day! You are the winner of a spot on the invitation-only Entertainer and FooDiva Dine Around Dubai.." . Winner? Me? Of what? Why?
I had to think twice to understand - or better to remember - what she was talking about. I never win anything and for this reason I'm not used to enter competitions, of any kind, especially if I have to fill forms with lots of information. But this time I had actually entered a competition and, unbelievable, won. And won the best prize!
In fact few weeks ago, one of the mail from FooDiva was about the launch of a new Entertainer product, the Dubai Fine Dining App and guide; in particular the mail said that, in occasion of the launch, FooDiva had been asked to organize a tailored invitation-only dinner on Palm Jumeirah, during which guests would visit four restaurants with different cuisine, all in the same evening. Readers were invited to a enter a competition for getting the chance to win ten apps for the Entertainer Dubai Fine Dining 2015 guide, and one invitation to the exclusive dinner with FooDiva and the Entertainer around Palm Jumeirah. Since prizes sounded interesting and there was no complicated form to fill - just saying the name of the favorite restaurant on Palm Jumeirah and why, and of course leaving the email address - I answered ... and won. So I had the opportunity to join the special dining tour around Palm Jumeirah with FooDiva and other nice guests.

But before telling about the evening, let me say something about FooDiva and the Entertainer, at least for those readers who are not resident in UAE or are not familiar with at least one of them.

FooDiva is a popular, award-winning restaurant review website/blog, where you can find impartial, independent reviews of restaurants and cafes, as well as other relevant food happenings, news, events; geographical coverage is mainly Dubai, and now also Abu Dhabi, plus occasionally some other locations. Samantha Wood, the mind behind the website, is a journalist, writer, food consultant and, thanks to the experience in restaurant reviewing, one of the most respected and recognized food critic across the UAE. The website is one of my favorite reference points when looking for a new restaurant to try or searching for reviews and opinion about a place I want to visit; and I always read Samantha's updates on new openings around the city (and this is why I subscribed to her newsletter). FooDiva recently launched (with Lime&Tonic) a social dining experience called Dine Around Dubai, where guests - who don't know each other unless they book together the same dinner - visit in the same evening five different (secret) restaurants each offering a different course and cuisine with Samantha herself as a guide. And this was the concept of the dinner I had the chance (and luck) to attend. If an experience like this can be of your interest, check Lime&Tonic or FooDiva websites for news about upcoming Dine Around Dubai.

Going to the Entertainer, this is a company providing discount vouchers - with the "buy one get one free" offer - for restaurants and cafés, hotels, beauty spa, leisure and entertainment destinations; originated in Dubai in 2001, today it is available in 15 countries across the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe. Offers are grouped together and published per market, traditionally in a book and now also through an App, and have annual validity. The latest addition to the Entertainer product range is the Dubai Fine Dining book and App which includes more than 180 top-end restaurants and bars, again with the "buy one get one free" offer. To be honest I had seen the Entertainer guide in many shops, but I had never investigated what it is and how it works before this occasion. But it seems to offer interesting savings, especially to those people / families who likes to go out often (to dine, have fun or take a vacation); and the App version is even more promising, as there are monthly offers and new openings are added in immediately.

This introduction of the hosts brings me back to what I won: the Dine Around Dubai on Palm Jumeirah organized by FooDiva for the launch of the Entertainer Dubai Fine Dining.
As the Dine Around Dubai concept envisages that both the venues and the menu of the dinner are a secret, me and the other guests didn't know which restaurants we would have visited, with the exception of the first that, by chance, was the one I had mentioned as my favorite on the Palm when entered the competition, that is Social by Heinz Beck at Waldorf Astoria, at the very end of the East Crescent. Heinz Beck is 3-star Michelin chef (for the restaurant La Pergola in Rome) renowned for its innovative Italian - European cuisine; his restaurant on the Palm is a relatively recent addition to Dubai dining scene as it opened more or less one ore ago. Even if, unfortunately, I have never been a guest of Heinz's restaurant in Rome I had already tried Social and appreciated a lot the fine cuisine, the good selection of wines as well as the attentive service and the elegant ambient (I chose it as my favorite for good reasons...). And the visit during the Dining Around Dubai with FooDiva and the Entertainer just confirmed my opinion. And I also had the chance to appreciate the terrace with an amazing view of the Burj Al Arab and Dubai skyline that was closed during my previous visit.
Social by Heinz Beck: variation on Gin & Tonic

Here guest were introduced to each other (I was glad to meet some fellow foodbloggers I already knew, Sally Prosser of My Custard Pie, Sarah Walton of The Hedonista, Ishita Saha of Ishitaunblogged, as well as the lovely host Samantha Wood and other new people - and this is a nice aspect of the so-called social dining that is become particularly trendy lately) and served an aperitif with different nibbles: in particular we were offered three different versions of Gin and Tonic, each one with a fruit flavoring based on the type of Gin used, accompanied by small bites including smoked tuna sliders, fried cheese, molecular olive oil spheres, and more.
Social by Heinz Beck: selection of finger food

Then we were invited to seat at our table, in the indoor dining room, where we were welcomed by the resident chef Walter Canzio and then served the series of antipasti that FooDiva had chosen from the restaurant menu: a tasting of foie gras then a trio of lobster medallions with mango puree and papaya, marinated amberjack, and veal vitellato. Wine pairing: Chardonnay Weibridge, Australia and Pinot Noir Matua Valley, New Zeeland. A rich starter...but absolutely enjoyable.
Social by Heinz Beck: foie gras
Social by Heinz Beck: foie gras






Social by Heinz Beck: selection of starters
Social by Heinz Beck: selection of starters
A minibus was waiting for us at the hotel entrance to drop us to the second secret stop, for another starter, as FooDiva anticipated. Wondering where we were heading, we were driven along the whole East Crescent, passed Atlantis the Palm and went on the trunk toward the entrance of the Palm. Here the bus took the entrance of the Fairmont on the Palm Hotel, where the second venue chosen for the dinner was located.
Bā Restaurant & Lounge: our table
Ba Restaurant & Lounge: our table

Among the restaurants available in this hotel, our destination was Bā Restaurant & Lounge, serving Chinese cuisine, where we had the second starter of the dinner: chicken and ginger broth with wontons and pak choi and a selection of dim sum. FooDiva, our expert guide, told us that dim sum which literally means " to touch your heart" are originally a Cantonese specialty consisting in a variety of small bites. To be honest I am not an expert of Chinese cuisine, but I appreciated what we were served and actually want to know more of Chinese food. To drink a white tea was served together with two wines: a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and a red wine that I didn't try (and don't remember).
Bā Restaurant & Lounge: chicken and ginger broth with wontons and pak choi
Ba Restaurant & Lounge: chicken and ginger broth with wonton and pak choi

Bā Restaurant & Lounge: selection of dim sum
Ba Restaurant & Lounge: selection of dim sum


I was already full but we still had to have the main course and the dessert!
Back on the bus toward Atlantis the Palm for the third stop. The offer of fine dining venues here is definitively wide, you can get lost...but our hosts had chosen for us: Seafire, one of the most renowned steak-houses in Dubai, absolutely a must-go for meat lovers.
Seafire at Atlantis: the entrance
Seafire at Atlantis: the entrance

As it was the middle of the evening the dining room was quite busy and lively.
There was a long table prepared for us and the chef John Buenaventura who came to welcome us. The main course prepared for us was a double surprise: not only it hadn't been revealed to us in advance but was also served in a closed box whit the shape of a book! And the content was surprisingly good: slow cooked short ribs on a layer of mashed potatoes, with asparagus, potato croquettes and other sides.
Seafire at Atlantis: main course in a box
Seafire at Atlantis: main course in a box






Seafire at Atlantis: slow cooked short ribs
Seafire at Atlantis: slow cooked short ribs
I never order this cut as I prefer leaner meat, but this was really good, tender and tasty! Wine pairing: a Catena, Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina and a white wine I don't remember.
A funny candy floss was offered at the end our visit at Seafire.

We left the restaurant for our last stop of the evening. A short trip on the East Crescent, then we stopped at the Anantara Resort and in particular at the Australian restaurants Bushman's, where everybody was ready to rocking us with a really surprising dessert. As everybody had a seat around the table prepared for us, the dessert was literally constructed before our eyes: drizzles of chocolate and fruits sauces, berries and pieces of fruit, small meringues, ice cream, lemon flavored cream and to end a live caramelization with blow torches. It was a real show and the final result, a constructed pavlova, looked like a Pollock painting.
Bushman's: constructed pavlova

Bushman's: constructed pavlova

Bushman's: constructed pavlova

Bushman's: constructed pavlova

Bushman's: constructed pavlova
Bushman's: constructed pavlova


Eating seemed like a shame ...but it was so good - and I have to say that, in general, I am not a lover of meringues ... and also was really full from the previous courses!
And I loved the wine served with the dessert: a rich, dense and absolutely delicious Penfold Grandfather Tawny, an Australian port. The perfect end of the evening!
Bushman's: Penfold Grandfather Tawny
Bushman's: Penfold Grandfather Tawny 

In conclusion I cannot but thank FooDiva and the Entertainer for the lovely evening. A Dine Around Dubai with FooDiva is an interesting experience with just one issue: there is much to eat and drink in one evening, it is necessary to go with a really empty stomach. I recommend to try, FooDiva is a really great host, food expert and Dubai connoisseur. Besides having a delicious dinner I had the chance to know new (at least for me) restaurants on Palm Jumeirah that I will probably visit again, and I hope that she will include them in her future Dine Around Dubai dinners (maybe under the name Dine Around the Palm!!!).

And after the lovely evening I appreciated a lot the other part of the prize: the Entertainer Dubai Fine Dining App. As I previously said, I had never had the chance to see the guide and use it. In the last few days, even if I haven't used yet in a restaurant, I explored the App and I have to say that it is very intuitive and easy to use. Much more handy than a paper book (no voucher to place in the purse, no risk to forget the paper at home), it also has the advantage of monthly offers and immediate update of any new addition of restaurants; there is also a feature for calculating how much you save using the offers. I have the feeling that I will spend more than I would have had without the App but, on the other hand, I'll have a good excuse to dine out more often and also to try new places. And in fact the Dubai Fine Dining App includes quite a few nice restaurants around Dubai that I would like to try -and that, thanks to the favorite feature , I have already bookmarked - and others where I have dined before and where I would like to go back, including those visited during the Dine Around Dubai.
As for the pricing the Dubai Fine Dining App costs AED 395 and the book AED 450; both are offered with a 20% discount until the 14th of February. An original Valentine's gift!
For all the other products offered by the Entertainer, and the relative pricing, check their website.

Disclaimer: As I said I won both the dinner and the Dubai Fine Dining App but had no obligation of writing anything about the experience. All I wrote above is my own opinion as well as the decision of sharing the experience was a personal initiative. 

9 comments:

  1. Great account of a fairly perfect evening. Glad to spend it with you.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Sally! Was happy to meet you there too...

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  2. I was vying for that prize - you lucky, LUCKY girl! :) It sounds lush, I hope to do Foodiva's tour someday. And yep - isn't Entertainer the best? The Body app is great too. And its valid for 2 years.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry Nancy...I was actually lucky this time! The tour with FooDiva is really great! and the Entertainer, for me, has been a wonderful discovery...

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