How to cook the perfect steak – a tasting tour at Atlantis
Whenever I walk into Atlantis, Dubai on the Palm I’m taken aback. I forget just how vast the space is, how vivid the colours, how utterly over the top the interior decoration is – like ‘Finding Nemo’ on acid. It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m meeting a bunch of fellow foodies in the Grand Lobby. The place is heaving. The doors are continually opening and wafts of the saturated hot air billow in. There’s a constant flow of people dressed in everything from towelling robes to gold lamé to dish-dashes, walking from one side of this cavernous pink palace to the other.
We join the throng and make our way along the Neptune-inspired corridors, past the ocean (that is really a Brobdingnagian fish tank) to Seafire, the steak restaurant. It’s another vast, dark space with lanterns hanging from the ceiling equivalent in size to shower cubicles. The chef demonstrates his knife skills and whips up a steak tartare – he’s a dark silhouette in front of a gleaming glass-encased kitchen. We sip virgin peach mojitos and taste nuggets of rib of beef marinated in a Jack Daniels sauce (a lovely memory from an earlier visit), carpaccio of beef on spoons and the tartare with a barely poached quails egg which melts into the silky steak. The chef explains how, after extensive tasting, Atlantis developed their own cross-breed of beef which is now raised by a single supplier in Australia, grain-fed and shipped whole exclusively for the hotel. We taste and compare fillet, rib-eye and strip loin – all are fabulous, charcoal grilled and smokey, moist within, but the rib-eye (‘the steak-lovers steak’ according to chef) is stunningly good. Chef explains that cooking steak will come naturally to those who cook a good roast beef and depends on three things:
- Sealing – Your grill needs to be hot, hot, hot – at Atlantis they use a charcoal one. Some of the marbled fat melts and falls onto the flames which flare up theatrically adding a little more smoke.
- Roasting – If you want your steak more than rare, you should continue cooking your steak in a medium oven so the middle cooks without the meat becoming tough.
- Resting – Leave your steak to rest (as you would a piece of roast beef) in a warm place for about 10 minutes, so the muscle fibres relax and the juices are reabsorbed into the meat.
Onto TBj the newly launched burger joint. Now I can’t get that excited over burgers but it’s quite funky inside, the beef used is from the same Australian beasts as at Seafire. The menu is limited to four burgers (The Works, Cheesy, Rooster Booster and Mighty Veggie) and you can even buy a beer to go with them. We were served special mini versions which were tasty, not too salty with a nice balance of pickles; the veggie burger was a great texture with big pieces of chickpea inside.
The chips were made of ‘real whole potato’ – a sad indictment of our times that this is unusual – they are soaked to rinse off the starch, dried, fried at a lower temperature, then cooked prior to order at a high temperature. Just the way I cook my chips and the method of all great chippies. They were crunchy, hot and we managed to eat a big basketful. The milkshake was home-made ice cream mixed with ‘secret recipe’ chocolate sauce and slurped up through a massive, chunky straw. If you are coming out of Aquaventure with hunger pangs that only hours being flung about by moving water can induce, this is the perfect pit-stop. We signed our names on the graffiti wall and moved next door.
Rostang is a lovely environment. Very French, with cafe lamps and mirrors and acres of patisserie. This restaurant is so authentically French that a dish, created specially for my vegetarian daughter on a visit when they had just opened, contained ham and the staff did not think this was strange. We were led through the specially prepared dishes – French onion soup, foie gras with brioche and slow cooked onion chutney, a cheese section which could have been painted by Carravaggio and a dessert area that had us all flocking round. Did I mention the towering platter of oysters – two types including some from Brittany, both stunningly fresh.
We tasted some French Sauvignon Blanc which would have been better with oysters (but we’d eaten them all) and a nice Bordeaux which would have been brilliant at Sea Fire with the lovely steak due to some soft tannins. Damien our host joked that the food at our next spot wouldn’t be quite up to the same standard as the French.
I’ve got a soft spot for Rondo Locatelli despite the 1970s colour scheme of the interior. Italians are showmen and the chef rolled and tossed pizza dough at lightening speed – we looked on admiringly! The flour used is from Molino Vigevano, the dough proved for at 2 C for three days so it becomes easy to stretch and improves the flavour. The toppings were simple, fresh and delicious – the wood fired oven baked the crust to perfection in my opinion (sadly the salami is beef which is the only thing I’d avoid).
The manager had worked for three years at Locanda Locatelli in London and we discussed how much we admired Giorgio’s authenticity and integrity – something they are keen to carry on in the Dubai restaurant (“you won’t find any of the recipes that Americans serve as Italian here like spaghetti Alfredo”).
We managed to make a small dent in some tiny little morsels of dessert including a lovely lemon tart with a fresh raspberry on top. We started to talk about truffles (due to the Giorgio truffle session last Autumn) and the chef brought some black summer truffles from the kitchen and we inhaled the musky scent. I’m a bit homesick at the moment and nearly had a tear in my eye as the smell reminded me of a walk in damp woods.
A goodie bag of macarons from Rostang, amaretti from Rondo Locatelli and a recipe from Seafire was our parting gift. Fifteen happy food bloggers wandered back to the frenetic entrance where the whole world seemed still to be coming and going.
It’s easy to like something when you are a guest, especially when such VIP treatment has been lavished upon you – and this is my third visit as a guest of Atlantis. The warmth of the welcome, the openess and the generosity of the team is consistent and despite the hugeness of the operation (or maybe because of it) the attention to detail and the quality of the ingredients throughout the Atlantis restaurants is impressive. Sol Kerzner has found the perfect place for another of his ambitious projects here in Dubai (for more conventionally tasteful surroundings visit The One & Only Royal Mirage). I keep remembering the taste of the steak at Seafire (and the steak tartare which I ate three of) and this is tempting me for a return visit. Rostang does ‘Le Tour de vin’ on Thursday in June and July which I’d love to book and Rondo Locatelli is a good family restaurant for my gang. I’m an Emirates NBD card holder as well which means I qualify for 25% off all food and drink this summer – how good an offer is that?
The monthly theme nights and offers are a bit buried on the Atlantis website but range from moules and frites to cocktail making classes.
As well as having a splendid afternoon with a bunch of great people enjoying some exquisite food I was reminded to look more than skin-deep. Will I revisit Atlantis restaurants? Most definitely ….and not just at their invitation.
Like to read more (and see some really gorgeous pics of the food)? Foodiva, According to Dina, Ginger and Scotch, Lgeimat Junkies, Radotouille, Life in the Food Lane, Nappytales, Kooksfood, Foodee and The Hedonista were there too.