The Exchange Grill makes quite the first impression, subverting the expectations of the steakhouse and turning the domain into something ambitious and funky. Situated on the 2nd floor of the Fairmont Dubai, the fit out of this New York inspired steakhouse is clearly influenced by the hipster neighbourhood of Williamsburg in Brooklyn and features colourful street art framed against a colour palette of fiery reds.
These artistic elements set The Exchange Grill apart from its rivals, with works of pop art inspired by Andy Warhol adorning the restaurant space. Heinz Ketchup bottles emblazoned with the phrase “tomorrow I’ll be famous” resonate against a clear comment on capitalism from a portrait of Disney character Mickey Mouse, his eyes alight with dollar signs and a speech bubble that reads “Amex, Rolex, Relax.” The stylings represent an unexpected find in the UAE marketplace but fine dining elements are still present via pressed white tablecloths, high backed leather armchairs and abstract ornamentation resembling the horns of cattle.
Dinner begins with an amuse-bouche of goats cheese mousse, pickled beetroot, balsamic reduction and nuts from the kitchen of Chef James Hawkes. It’s a dainty morsel combining earthy flavours with an injection of sweetness that acts as a precursor to the culinary offerings of The Exchange Grill.
While the appetisers consist of the expected grilled foie gras, chicken liver parfait and freshly shucked oysters, nothing could’ve prepared us for the remarkable Beef Tartare (AED 68). Beautifully plated, the raw minced beef arrives topped with garlic emulsion, egg yolk gel and onion puree and sits in a flavoursome mushroom consommé. It’s a dish to be admired and the interesting blend of both textures and flavours make this a must order for those dining at The Exchange Grill.
The trio of Crab Cakes (AED 73) also impress. Lightly fried, the construction of these cakes is predominantly crab meat, which is a rarity, with most versions of the dish bulked out with too much potato. Here the delicate flavour of the crab is front and centre, and the adornment with caviar adds a pleasing touch. Topped with mango puree and mango salsa, the tropical fruits are intended to bring an element of sweetness to the plate but could have been more pronounced to make the dish excel.
With The Exchange Grill predominantly focusing on premium steaks, we order the Kobe 7oz AA9 Fillet and the 10oz Wagyu Striploin (AED 322). Representing two of the recognisable breeds globally, the Wagyu and Kobe here are farmed in Australia rather than their native Japan. The Kobe was our preferred choice — a fleshy fillet of beef that’s both tender and packed full of flavour. The Wagyu while also tender, was much fattier (good marbling) but paled in comparison to the other cut.
A vast array of condiments accompany the steaks, with flavoured butter, salts and mustards available for selection (we’d recommend the garlic butter, Chardonnay oak-smoked salt and balsamic mustard), These individual elements exist at other steakhouses in the city, but it’s the wealth in terms of both selection and staff knowledge make this particular steakhouse stand out from the crowd.
Pre-dessert we receive a delightful palate cleanser comprising of raspberry sorbet, kiwi sauce, sponge and apple gel that works to refresh the taste buds. With just five desserts available we select a steakhouse classic, the London Cheesecake (AED 47) and the decadent sounding Molten Chocolate Sphere (AED 47). Two very different desserts that both manage to impress. The cheesecake with its lemon cream, blueberry jam and blueberry and lemon sorbet is a strong example of what we’d expect from a cheesecake with a light filling sitting upon a perfectly ratioed biscuit base, it’s a plate that’s not too sweet.
The cheesecake with its lemon cream, blueberry jam and blueberry and lemon sorbet is a strong example of what we’d expect from a cheesecake. Boasting a light filling sat upon a perfectly ratioed biscuit base in a plate that’s not overly sweet.
The Chocolate Sphere makes for an impressive dessert. A sphere of gold coloured chocolate acts a nest, encasing a soft streusel cacao surrounded by praline feuilletine. A hot cinnamon and chocolate sauce is poured on top to melt the sphere, allowing the ingredients to blend together. It’s sweet and gluttonous but a dessert we would surely order again, with the individual textures and flavours harmonising together in near-perfect fashion.
The Exchange Grill is a well-established venue and though our criticisms are few and far between, we did find the lighting to be a little too dark (note the photo quality in this post) and the music choice in need of some adjustment (the jazzy elevator music doesn’t seem fitting for this particular upmarket venue). With the help of an attached cigar lounge, The Exchange Grill appears to have a loyal following of regular customers based upon our recent visit and it’s easy to see why.
Initially, we weren’t sure of what to expect from The Exchange Grill and although the venue may not have the same reputation as some of Fairmont Dubai’s outsourced establishments (Cavalli Club, New York import Catch, and French-inspired Bistro Bagatelle), that doesn’t mean the restaurant is unworthy of your attention or hard-earned dirhams.
Location: Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, Trade Centre Area, Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 7pm – Midnight
Phone: 04 311 8316
Out & About UAE were guests of The Exchange Grill. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.