Quattro Ristorante seems like a bizarre notion at first glance. A vegetarian restaurant specialising in BOTH Italian and Mexican cuisine that thankfully doesn’t pursue the fusion route with its culinary offerings. Instead, diners are presented with a mixture of popular dishes from each cuisine that may not always complement one another but offer a few unexpected surprises.
Coming to us from the same team behind the popular SpiceKlub, the two restaurants sit side by side on Mankhool’s busy Kuwait Street and even share a kitchen. We can only begin to imagine the struggles of serving three different cuisines across two restaurants, with staff free-flowing between the two during busy periods. While Mankhool may not necessarily be Dubai’s hottest dining enclave, these two restaurants do stand out from the budget roadside eateries. From the outside, they’re not much to look at but both have quite startling interiors.
Whereas SpiceKlub opts for bold patterns and swinging chairs (positioned a little too close together if you ask us), Quattro feels freer thanks in large part to the artificial olive tree positioned in the middle of the restaurant, forming a canopy over the assembled diners. Those lucky enough to be seated underneath the branches of said tree will find a pebbled river running through the tabletops. Those on the outer peripheries are perhaps better suited, with comfortable benches upholstered in turquoise and illuminated by bare light bulbs that certainly look the part, but cast a ghastly yellow glow over the space (playing havoc on our photographs).
Our meal begins with a selection of four mocktails (Quattro has no alcohol license) that vary in quality. Beginning with an overly sweet Guava Smoothie and a fiery Spice Watermelon Cooler that is such an acquired taste that we find it difficult to recommend. Though the glassware it’s presented in is unique, looking like a pipe with its glass straw. Much better are the Classic Mojito, presented with a candy floss embellishment that is mixed into the drink when soda water is poured through it. Our preference would have to be for the Passionfruit & Lemongrass Margarita, the only drink we tried that successfully managed to find a balance between sweet and sour.
The appetisers are the best part of Quattro’s menu and are the strongest dishes. All too often, restaurants focus so much on their main courses that the appetisers become almost secondary. Hoping diners will be too hungry to notice the inconsistencies between courses but at Quattro, this notion is reversed. The Taquitos are the restaurants best dish, displaying a good mix of flavour and innovation. Taking a Mexican taco and turning it into an ice cream, with the hard taco shell forming the cone, while the guacamole is presented like a scoop of ice cream. Inside the gluten free cone lies a mixture of beans, jalapeno and tomato salsa. Perhaps not the easiest thing to eat but a rewarding plate none the less.
Elsewhere, a simple Filo Parcel filled with spiced corn and olives continues to impress and is presented on a glass platter encased in flames. Acting not only as a theatrical showpiece but also as a means of keeping the food warm. Unfortunately, the ‘molecular gastronomy’ showcased here at Quattro offers somewhat of a disconnect and a mild sense of style over substance. Establishments such as Tresind, Carnival and Jodhpur have managed to intricately weave molecular gastronomy into the story of each dish, utilising smoke and impressive presentation as an enhancement to the food that helps to create an emotive experience for the diner. Here at Quattro, molecular gastronomy feels more like going through the motions in an attempt to dazzle the budget diner (who may not have access to the restaurants mentioned above) and unfortunately, the quirks and tricks do little to enhance the dining experience.
In truth, these techniques are not needed, for many of the dishes are strong enough to do without. Take for example the Risotto Palle, a take in the traditional Italian Arancini (the meat filling of the rice ball is replaced with cheese), deep fried and served with a pipette of chilli oil. It’s a simple yet effective dish, as is the Bruschetta, taking the traditional tomato topped bread and twisting it into a take on the Caprese salad via the addition of mozzarella, balsamic pearls and a parsley foam.
With appetisers so strong, things begin to unravel somewhat with the mains, which are slightly lacking in terms of both flavour and presentation, as if all of Quattro’s culinary prowess had been exerted in the creation of the appetisers. A Mediterranean Pizza is passable but does little to make a mark on the table, offering little more than a simple tomato, mozzarella and vegetable mix that is perhaps a little too salty, This sense of missed opportunity continues with Cannelloni Florentina (ricotta and spinach filled pasta tubes) and a somewhat bland Jalapeno Riso & Grilled Cottage Cheese. Presenting a slab of tasteless paneer on top of ‘Mexican Rice’ and a shot glass full of fries (as if there weren’t enough carbs on the plate already)! Thankfully the Enchiladas redeemed the situation somewhat, presenting soft tortillas stuffed with black beans, guacamole and sour cream that are as good as you’re likely to get anywhere in Dubai.
We’d seen appealing Instagram posts about Quattro’s desserts coupled with unanimously positive reviews from various food bloggers. Again we seemed to fall into the minority, finding the desserts to be more about presentation than taste. Take the Tiramisu (our all time favourite dessert), which we have no issue with being re-interpreted (whether it is in spherical form at Circo or as a chocolate covered ice cream at Villa Toscana). Here at Quattro the tiramisu is deconstructed, presenting the mascarpone as a rolled cheesecake on top of circular biscuits and a coffee caviar. For us, both the texture and flavours failed to make an impact.
The Chocolate Saturn conjures up images of space travel and is certainly impressive to look at. A large chocolate sphere is melted with hot chocolate ‘soup’ (sauce) to reveal a cake layered with a fruit jelly, like a twist on a black forest gateaux. Again it’s a case of taking dishes such as Carnival’s Gajak and making them more accessible to the wider market. Again our issues were textural, with the chocolate sphere taking on an almost powder-like consistency and the jelly being somewhat overbearing in relation to the rest of the ingredients.
Dining at Quattro is a somewhat of a frustrating experience and despite some good dishes, the overall experience pales in comparison to sister restaurant SpiceKlub. There’s no doubt that things start with a bang, with the appetisers being particularly strong (and we would certainly return for them again) but things begin to meander with the main courses and desserts. A meal should be a journey and build to a crescendo with each dish, adding to the overall ‘story’ of the meal.
A meal should be a journey and build to a crescendo with each dish, adding to the overall ‘story’ of the meal.
Unfortunately, Quattro is more like a firework, beginning with a bang before fizzling out. With so many restaurants competing for diners attention in Dubai, it’s important to make an impact, which should be easy considering how good SpiceKlub is. Plus not allowing customers to access the wifi in a restaurant full of Instagrammble moments (translating to free marketing) is certainly a missed opportunity!
We were invited to dine at Quattro. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.