It would appear Dubai has gone a little seafood crazy with 2018 seemingly the year of all things marine life. Following hot on the heels of Crazy Fish in DIFC and The Fish House over at Festival City, Crab Market is the latest ocean themed venue to make its mark on Dubai’s dining scene.
Situated in the heart of DIFC inside the Emirates Financial Towers complex, access to the Crab Market transpires to be a bit of a faff. Situated on the 15th floor dinner must navigate a number of escalators before being swiped through the security entrance (reservations recommended) and up into the lifts. Visiting a restaurant shouldn’t be this complicated but the inevitable sweat we’ve worked up in trying to find our dining destination is soon rewarded with a cool passion fruit mocktail and beds of glistening ice in which crab legs and all kinds of crustaceans are buried.
The marketing materials describe Crab Market as a casual dining destination but this seems to be quite the understatement. Pressed white table lines, smartly dressed staff and a flare for the unusual are more indicative of fine-dining but all these elements pale in comparison to the Burj Khalifa views which are easily some of the best in Dubai.
Crab Market’s menu is the brainchild of Vladimir Mukhin who foodies and avid Netflix viewers may recognise from the third season of Chef’s Table. Mukhin’s restaurant in Moscow, the White Rabbit, currently stands at No 23 in the world’s 50 best restaurants ranking and he has been recognised as a pivotal influence in the resurgence of Russian cookery, taking the traditional flavours of his homeland while modernizing the plating and execution of his dishes. Just one look at Crab Markets menu and it’s easy to see Mukhin’s influence, with Kamchatka Crab being the restaurants speciality (it’s all in the name really). Tanks of these gigantic crustaceans commonly known as King Crab can be found throughout the space. Imported from Russia and kept in cold tanks reflective of the Arctic waters in which they’re commonly found, Crab Market looks to ensure their seafood is as fresh as physically possible.
The appetisers are primarily focused on all things raw with a selection of tartare, carpaccio, salads and oysters (we’re pleased to note the inclusion of the local Dibba Bay variety) offered. We begin with a tartare platter (AED 185) showcasing four varieties of raw seafood complemented by some unexpected accompaniments — scallop and papaya, tuna and avocado, salmon and mango and langoustine and pomelo. Of the quadruplicate, the langoustine tartare marked a first for us but it was the salmon and mango which would be our preference, with the tropical fruit bringing a delightful sweetness to the cubed fish.
Crab Market’s dishes have a distinct visual and textural appeal that took us entirely by surprise. A vegetarian version of carpaccio transpired to be quite the revelation with thinly sliced purple cauliflower layered amidst parmesan foam and pungent truffle in a dish as aromatic as it is textural.
The Kamchatka crab is honestly what we came for and the crustacean didn’t disappoint. Four large crab legs cooked in one of five signature sauces that range from white pepper to champagne. We select the chili garlic and are treated to generous portions of delicate crab meat, already unleashed from the shell (meaning no hassle and no mess) and offering a subtle heat to the palate from a sauce which blends together olive oil, garlic, chili flakes & Japanese soy sauce.
From crab to carbs we can’t resist a small portion of the squid ink linguine with langoustine (AED 130) which marks another high point. Served with langoustine pieces the robust dish makes for one of the better pasta dishes we’ve had in the region with the nuances of seafood obvious without overpowering.
Russian influences can be found in more than just the seafood with the popular honey cake with sweet cherry and sour cream ice cream (AED35) making waves on the Dubai menu. The dish, such an integral part of Mukhin’s Chef’s Table episode appears deconstructed, modernized and served alongside a taster portion of his grandmothers traditional version, The idea is to make diners feel the moment of evolution but it’s a dessert that plays well to the Middle East with honey cake being such a firm favourite in the region. The mango panna cotta with lychee granite (AED 35) doesn’t quite reach the levels of greatness, but continues to play with texture albeit in a slightly gelatinous form.
With a beautiful fit-out, separate bar area (ideal for a pre or post dinner tipple) and a seafood market setup, Crab Market is looking to bring something slightly different to the Dubai dining scene. Revolving around the idea of the freshest catch, it’s the precision in making the dining experience sensual through the reliance on visuals and textures that works to make the Crab Market memorable and an impressive new addition to DIFC.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of FACT Magazine.
Out & About UAE were guests of Crab Market. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.