It appears as though everyone is talking about La Mer, the new beachfront development from Meraas Holdings that’s taken up residence on the former site of Jumeirah Beach Park. La Mer represents is a fun and vibrant outdoor space of waterparks and oceanfront boardwalks, aligned with quirky street art, hammocks, and showers made from buckets, making for an Instagrammers dream.
Tucked away at the North end of the development is Slab, an entirely new concept for Dubai, looking to bring fresh ingredients and healthy eating into one of the small cubic retail units situated on the beachfront. Slab bucks the trend of ‘bigger is better’ so often associated with Dubai restaurants, instead presenting a compact space with a pleasant outdoor deck offerings glimpses of Burj Khalifa on the skyline.
Much like the food, the interiors are all about simplicity. Concrete floors, exposed pipework and an open kitchen make for a casual spot free of complications. The sleek industrial style unit keeps things minimalistic with the exception of powder pink and blue salt and pepper mills.
Slab’s “fresh ingredients, simple design and refined techniques” make for an interesting change for Dubai diners, creating an interesting concept, likely to pique the interest of the health-conscious. You won’t find any food gimmickry here, instead, the focus is on making gourmet food accessible to the masses. The menu is refreshingly concise and offers a small selection of salads, tartines (French open sandwiches) and a handful of main courses. While the marketing for Slab may promote the venue as a gourmet sandwich shop, this is a little misleading, for Slab represents more than just (albeit great) sandwiches.
Elements of fine dining immediately creep into proceedings with an amuse-bouche in the form of a jalapeño and cheese crostini accompanied by a wonderfully spicy mayonnaise. Strong service and immaculate plating re-iterate the fine dining sensibility, Â with a simple Quinoa and Broccoli Salad (AED 44) offering appealing presentation and textures, via an interesting combination of black quinoa, broccoli cous cous, beetroot and pistachio. Similarly, the earthyÂ Roasted Root Vegetables (AED 39) brings together caramelised carrots, celeriac and beets, but it’s the nuttiness from the goat cheese and walnuts which elevates the dish.
From the tartines we brave the humongous Habana Cheek (AED 59), assembled a la minute using bread freshly-baked in-house. Ours comes chock-full of slow cooked beef cheek, unbelievably tender and full of flavour, melted cheese, turkey ham, and a citrus heavy Mojo sauce that brings a sense of Cuban frivolity to the dish. The tartine was good but we have to admit to preferring the ones at another new Dubai concept, Izu Brasserie.
We admired Slab’s ability to re-interpret the tartine toppings as stand-alone main courses, of which we’d strongly recommend the Duck Confit (AED 79). The poultry is cooked in its own rendered fat for over twelve hours, resulting in a depth of flavour, accentuated further by roasted butternut squash and a Japanese plum sauce.Â The Beef Tataki (AED 89) and Dukkah Fried Chicken (AED 69) also impress, with the latter introducing us to the beguiling spice and nut blend of Jordanian Dukkah, that’s so moreish especially in conjunction with the sweet chili honey dressing.
While the selection of three desserts maintains the healthy emphasis Slab strongly promotes, the individual components fail to resonate. Yet, when taken as a whole, the flavours appear to blend well. The Lebanese inspired Mafroukeh Cheesecake (AED 34) combines a pistachio and semolina base with yoghurt cheesecake and a fresh kiwi salad, and while the admittedly dense Dark Chocolate Bar (AED 34) is a struggle to finish, the salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream excel.
Service throughout is friendly and staff appear not only well-versed in the menu but passionate regarding the concept. In a city where service levels vary so greatly, it’s pleasing to see the teams ability to read the table and pre-empt diners needs.
Under the guidance of Chef Omar Rodriguez (formally of DIFC’s Peruvian spot Mayta) Slab is destined to do well amongst the sunken treasure chests that litter the shoreline of La Mer. Especially considering the outpouring of blogger/influencer love that’s beginning teetering on over-hype! Did we love it as much as everyone else seems to? Probably not, but there’s little doubt Slab offers good food for the beach. Generously portioned and reasonably priced, Slab’s emphasis on quality ingredients allows for a constantly evolving seasonal menu, likely to be a defining factor when it comes to choosing a dining destination at La Mer.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of FACT Magazine.
Out & About UAE were guests of Slab. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.