Scalini is the latest high-end eatery to take up residence at the restaurant village at the Four Seasons Resort Jumeirah and an Italian concept appears to be a good fit, sitting amongst the likes of Latin American Coya and Turkish steakhouse Nusr Et (#SaltBae).
First impressions are good and access to Scalini can be found in the form of an elevator from the main restaurant concourse and valet parking area. Sea blue paintwork and subtle gold lettering set the tone for a classy Mediterranean experience, but you’ve got to push the elevator buttons awfully hard to begin your “subterranean” descent.
Subterranean may seem a little melodramatic but as the elevator doors slide open into a disjointed courtyard dwarfed by a central tree, the petite dining room feels almost as if it’s been hewn into the underside of the building, with the walls of the courtyard hemming you in. That’s not to say Scalini is without charm, for the intimate dining room presents pressed white linens, shelves of knick knacks and a small but appealing bar area that provides the feel of a homely Italian trattoria.
The plastic menus (we hope these are temporary) offer little surprise in terms of food with the expected mix of hot and cold antipasti, pastas, an ample selection of meat and fish, and not a pizza in sight! The focus of chef Monseratto Marini’s menu appears to be on classical dishes utilizing Italian sourced ingredients and presented in generous portions, rather than re-invention or the petite-plating of fine dining.
The original Scalini opened in London’s Chelsea in 1988 and has been charming diners for thirty years with “traditional, unpretentious and honest” food and attracting a celebrity clientele including The Beatles, Kate Moss, Simon Cowell and Johnny Depp in the process. As Londoners of thirty (plus) years we have to admit that Dubai was our very first encounter with the Scalini brand. We begin with a selection of hot and cold antipasti, with the burrata (AED 125) served alongside cherry tomatoes being our favourite choice and a possible contender for the largest burrata serving in the UAE. The simply plated cheese pairs well with the complementary basket of breads and offers the required texture to the creamy buratta.
Similarly, the Carpaccio alla Rucola (AED 75) is representative of another Italian classic done exceptionally well. The raw fillet of beef arrives with a generous topping of rucola and sliced parmesan cheese but it’s the inclusion of the mustard dressing that really helps to elevate the dish. The Langoustines (AED 220) are also a delight, with the larger than expected crustaceans overhanging the plate as if trying to escape! Simply grilled with garlic and butter and cracked open to ensure ease of eating, the price point admittedly feels too high , especially considering it’s an appetiser.
We allow our waiter to guide us with the pasta and meat courses which transpires to be a mixed blessing. The signature Lobster Spaghetti (AED 160) stays true to the Scalini brand with the team showcasing the dishes table-side, The spaghetti served atop of a hollowed-out lobster shell certainly looks the part and there’s no denying the generosity of the lobster meat, but the tomato sauce (with a nice hint of chilli) overpowers everything on the plate, sacrificing the delicate flavours of the lobster in the process. It’s only afterwards that we accept we probably should’ve given more consideration to the course and perhaps selected the spaghetti, prepared in a parmesan wheel and topped with truffle, that our fellow diners appeared so enamoured with.
The rustic simplicity of our waiters second recommendation, the Scaloppine Dolcelatte (AED 150) certainly paid off. A dish we would’ve been unlikely to select ourselves, the tender veal is prepared in a decadently sweet and creamy dolcelatte and green peppercorn sauce, that had us reaching for the bread to mop up every last drop.
If the intention of Scalini is to ensure guests leave full, then this goal is easily achieve via a combination of portion size and complimentary tasters, with bulbous green olives and large chunks or parmesan appearing between causes for grazing.
In an attempt to buck the trend of ordering tiramisu on every occasion we dine Italian, we instead opted for the panna cotta which although slightly gelatinous in texture, managed to balance the sweetness levels to great affect. A selection of Italian pastries included a crisp citrus cannoli, fruit tart and a sample of the tiramisu were pleasing, despite the ‘cobbled together’ nature of the plate.
We didn’t get a chance to assess the drinks menu but both myself and my What’s Cooking UAE co-host (and fellow blogger) A To Zaatar agreed that overall the pricing at Scalini is a little steep. With so many Italian restaurants competing for attention, one might expect this rustic approach to adopt a more lenient pricing structure, but we guess rents at the Four Season’s Restaurant Village aren’t particularly cheap and the upmarket clientele is certainly present. Mid-way through our lunch, Scalini is buzzing with a mix of high-end Italian patrons and local Emirati families looking to check out Jumeirah’s newest eatery. For a restaurant that has literally just opened this is impressive.
Granted we would’ve liked to see a business lunch option or a daily special, but this in probably unnecessary at the moment, with reservations at Scalini difficult to secure and an in-built clientele who aren’t necessarily looking at value for money.
Service is still a work in progress with some of the team particularly adept at reading tables and engaging with guests, while others still appear to be in training. This is understandable for a newly launched establishment, but there seemed to be so many managers/supervisors overseeing the restaurant that at times it felt almost intimidating.
Scalini feels like a good fit for the restaurant village and with a strong brand and appealing al fresco terrace it has the potential to become the next big thing. We’re not entirely sure if we’ll remember our dining experience in six months or a year from now, but Scalini is certainly the talk of the town and we hope that they manage to keep this momentum going. Only time will tell…
Location: Restaurant Village, Four Seasons Hotel, Jumeirah Road, Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook
Hours: 11am – midnight
Phone: 04 349 0068
Out & About UAE were guests of Scalini. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.