Vanilla is a saught after ingirident that’s recognised as being the worlds second most expensive spice after saffron. The characteristically fragrant and sweet vanilla is derived from an orchid plant and is found in three main locations worldwide – Mexico, Madagascar and the far flung Polynesian Island of Tahiti.
An ingredient we’re all familiar with, vanilla pods are known for their expense and the intense flavours generally associated with baking and all things dessert. With celebrity chefs like Nigella Lawson have made a living from seductively scraping these prized pods in slow motion on television screens worldwide.
In celebration of all things vanilla, Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach and its sister properties across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, will be showcasing a specially crafted vanilla-inspired menu until March 21st 2017. Affectionately known as the ‘Vanilla Salée’, all items on this menu (both savoury and sweet) are enhanced via the use of vanilla in a one of a kind experience that aims to impress even the most seasoned of diners.
The playful interiors of Soul Restaurant seem fitting for such an ambitious menu and the space certainly reflects the idea of an all out assault on the senses. A collection of bulbous glass bulbs are suspended from the ceiling with filaments exposed, dining furniture is made up of contrasting leather in orange and gray colourations. Beaded light fittings, a striking mural and a bar resembling the patterns of honeycomb, complete the fit out of this spacious New York inspired unit. The venue also includes an outside terrace where the vibe is more casual, set to the beats of a female DJ residing poolside.
Under normal circumstances the restaurant looks to bring a piece of ‘New York Soul’ to Dubai and a diverse menu hopes to deliver diners a taste of the iconic cities most treasured neighbourhoods – the Meatpacking District, Little Italy and the Upper East Side. Although we didn’t get to sample the all American menu, many of the dishes delivered to our fellow diners looked very appealing.
For us, the Vanilla Salée was a bit of a mixed bag and that’s coming from someone who’s a big fan of the flavour. The menu comprises seven dishes and we kicked things off with appetisers of Tuna and Salmon Sashimi and a Goats Cheese Fig Salad.
Personally, we found the appetisers to be the best items from the menu. Thick slices of sashimi were well plated with the vanilla aspect coming from a delicate scallop infused with a subtle hint of the spice via a marination process taking 24 hours. In comparison, the vanilla flavouring in the salad was very strong, coming from a thick orange and vanilla dressing. The dish may be too overpowering for some but we found it the perfect complement to the goats cheese, figs and hazel nuts.
Main courses continued with bold flavourings, but despite imeccable presentation, failed to have the same impact as the salmon. Both our Nile Perche Fillet and Guinea Fowl Breast were slightly overcooked and though there was little doubt in our minds that the flavours were good, the main component of each dish was unfortunately a little dry.
The vanilla element was more successful in the fish dish. Again using the ingredient as a subtle complement to the perch, plated on top of white chicory, red grape essence and a light mashed potato.
The guinea fowl was perhaps the better plate with its potato gratin and vanilla jus. Though the vanilla infused peach seemed like an afterthought, one that looked great on the plate but played no real part in the story of the dish and felt like it had perhaps mistakenly rolled off of the dessert counter.
In all honesty we expected a more interesting use of vanilla in the desserts but instead the team at Mövenpick opted to keep things simple. Keeping with the theme of the Big Apple, the inclusion of Apple Tart was perhaps inevitable though the Chocolate Fondant requires more work.
In direct comparison to the main courses, the fondant was undercooked to the point of being raw. In both dishes the vanilla was provided in the form of fresh Mövenpick ice cream and provided the end to a dilemma we’ve been pondering for some time. What came first, Mövenpick hotels or Mövenpick ice cream? To clarify it’s the latter.
As with any dining experience there are some dishes that we enjoyed more than others and despite not sampling the third appetiser (a white onion veloute), our recommendations for anyone wishing to try the Vanilla inspired menu for themselves would be the Goats Cheese Salad, Guinea Fowl and Apple Tart.
Though this new menu may not be entirely successful we do admire the concept and the creativity behind it. Our visit to Soul has confirmed one thing, we would like to return on another day to sample the Lobster Mac n Cheese, Braised Short Ribs and Smores.
We may not have been captivated by the vanilla but we were taken with the Soul.
Location: Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), Dubai
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 5pm – 1am
Phone: 04 449 8888
We were invited to dine at Soul. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.