Hakkasan has long been a name associated with the highest levels in fine-dining, serving Cantonese specialities (most specifically dim sum) to an upmarket clientele in global locations such as New York, Miami, Shanghai and Jakarta. As a brand, Hakkasan has long been held in high regard, forging a strong worldwide reputation and garnering a number of accolades in the process, including the elusive Michelin star for their flagship London location.
Our previous experiences with Hakkasan have all revolved around the Abu Dhabi location, where we have enjoyed both the brunch and Hakkatini evenings. So it was with great interest that we accepted an invitation to Hakkasan Dubai for the launch of their own take on the Hakka Brunch.
Situated in Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Hakkasan Dubai will find it difficult to compete with their counterpart in the capital which is set amongst the golden gilded hallways of the majestic Emirates Palace. In Dubai, the location is a little strange, located down a narrow offshoot from the mall that covers the ground level of these towers. Despite an entranceway that fails to evoke the same feeling of exclusivity as Abu Dhabi, inside aesthetics remain much the same as we’re immersed in the unique beats of Hakkasan’s pulsating soundtrack, which mixes traditional Chinese percussion with more modern dance beats
Both UAE Hakkasan’s successfully manage to blend a sense of opulence with the distinctly Asian ambience of a Chinese tea house. Wooden screens and ornately carved lattice-works separate the distinct spaces of bar and dining area, with the bar specifically, retaining the sleek slate and backlit blue glass that’s made Hakkasan in the capital such a talking point. Similarly, both locations feature expansive outside terraces that will appease diners appetites for dining al fresco once the winter season kicks in.
A meal at Hakkasan has always felt (to us) more like eating is a nightclub than a fine dining establishment and Dubai feels no different. The music remains a touch too loud (even for a Friday brunch) and there are so many dark recesses that at times navigation of the restaurant space feels slightly labyrinthine.
Full disclosure, Hakkasan Dubai’s first Hakka Brunch was a media event attended by over one hundred guests and avid readers of food-related publications and more specifically blogs, may have seen the less-than-positive reviews doing the rounds. It can often be difficult to judge a dining experience based purely upon such launches, but we are (unfortunately) in agreement that the service side of things really let this brunch down and the team at Hakkasan Dubai were clearly unprepared for the sudden influx of guests, who overwhelmed not only the restaurant space but the staff too.
Aside from the problems surrounding service, we encountered very few criticisms with the food and quantities thereof, an issue which clearly plagued other diners. This was likely due to our location seated close to the kitchen, meaning we were generally the first to be served as the food made it’s way out around the bust restaurant space. If you’ve experienced the Hakka brunch in Abu Dhabi, then the concept will be familiar, each week a menu of dim sum and Cantonese signature dishes are served to the table, with the desserts (plus a few additional extras) presented buffet-style in the lounge. A seated brunch would always be our preference and the first item to arrive was somewhat of a show-stopper.
The Applewood Smoked Peking Duck is a wonderful way to introduce diners to Hakkasan as a dome of smoke is presented to the table. As the seductive glass dome is lifted, whisps of smoke are released to reveal the duck beneath. Peking Duck may be the signature dish of Hakkasan’s a la carte offering, but this smoked version makes for an interesting alternative, filleted rather than shredded and presented in similar fashion to a vol-au-vent than the expected rolled pancakes (though the elements remain the same). As a collective gasp and the flash of iPhone cameras greeted the arrival of the dish to each table, it achieved the desired effect but we only wish there was more of it, for the Hakkasan brunch is not one where you can re-order dishes.
Dim sum has always been the strongest selling point for Hakkasan and we can still recall the crispy sea prawn with foie gras and black pepper pumpkin puff from our last Hakkasan brunch almost two years ago. In Dubai, we received a selection of five, including the standard Scallop Shumai, Har Gau and an uninspired Crispy Beancurd Wrap. None of which are likely to entice first-timers back to Hakkasan (surely the point of such a brunch). Things change with the Wagyu Beef and Mushroom Puff which may present somewhat of a textural oddity, but offers delightful flavours in defiance of the dim sums appearance, resembling the bandaged wrappings of an Egyptian mummy.
The Chilli Pepper Golden Pumpkin seemed to be the most divisive dish of the day and (we may well be in the minority here) transpired to be one of the favourites of our table. The dish is basically pumpkin french fries covered with a semi-powdery exterior that reminded us of the consistency of Cheetos. Probably not the terminology which the marketing team at Hakkasan would be looking for, but one we feel to be a firm assessment based upon the comforting nature of said dish.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Honey Glazed Baby Octopus which brought a nice mix of sweetness to proceedings and offering an inescapable appeal to the dish. Main courses of Sanpei Chicken Claypot and Spicy Prawn could’ve achieved more in terms of presentation but the flavours of both were good, especially the prawn dish, which again focused on a sweetness achieved through the use of almonds.
Admittedly, Chinese desserts have never been our preference but the Asian touches were severely lacking when it came to the final course. Instead, diners are offered a selection of macaroons, chocolate truffles and potted desserts that are standard expectations of international buffets throughout the city. Impeccably displayed they may be, but in terms of giving diners a taste of what Hakkasan is really about, it would appear as if they’ve missed a trick.
Hakkasan has always been more about an intimate dining experience in which diners are encouraged to linger over their food but on this specific occasion, the restaurant couldn’t handle the pressure. Our observations surrounding the service of our previous experience of the Hakka brunch in Abu Dhabi were as follows: “Service is first class and discreet and really helps to amplify the sophistication of the brunch experience.
The launch of the Hakka brunch at this specific location may not have gone quite as expected but the issues are nothing that cannot easily be resolved. We do hope the team manage to turn things around so this brunch can act as a showcase for the food and a means to encourage first-timers to Hakkasan for the true experience for which the brand is renowned.
Location: Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road, Trade Centre Area, Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 7pm – 1am (and 12pm – 4pm Fridays)
Phone: 04 384 8484
We were invited to dine at Hakkasan. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Interior images used courtesy of Hakkasan.