Don Alfonso 1890
There was considerable fanfare when Don Alfonso 1890 opened its doors in the Shangri-La Hotel on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road in March this year. The brand, based on the original restaurant in Sorrento, had already expanded successfully to Macau, Marrakesh and Rome and earned a reputation as one of the foremost purveyors of high-quality, contemporary Italian cuisine on the planet.
Six months after opening, the Dubai incarnation certainly seems to be upholding the standards. The interior maybe a touch five-star safe – wood, gold, random vases, the usual – but it’s a minor quibble when set against attentive, intelligent service and a menu that begs to be explored over repeated visits.
To start, the chilled veal loin tonnato with fried capers and cauliflower pickles was a supple, subtle delight, with buttery soft strips of pink veal reclining beneath a tangy cream, tuna and garlic sauce. The mozzarella soufflé, a house special, was served with crispy basil, a cherry tomato sauce and mozzarella snow, and was as well-balanced as it was imaginative. So far, so exquisite.
A primi piatti of tortelone with porcini mushrooms, pumpkin puree and truffle caviar maintained the theme – precision, balance, delicacy – while the mains delivered robust centrepiece to the meal. The best of our assortment was the sea bass with seasonal greens, artichoke purée and Baeri Royal caviar, again cooked to perfection with a pleasing, peppery finish. A special of pan-roasted lamb, lamb loin and purple potato mash, accompanied by a sticky, sublime reduction, was let down slightly by a cold plate, but the flavours were again faultless.
We barely had room for dessert, but the concerto of lemon fritters, sorbet and yogurt cream was a refreshing finale. The concluding espresso was more an obligation than a necessity.
Importantly, each course was accompanied by the learned wine suggestions of maitre d’ Claudio, from the fresh Ferrari Prosecco as we perused the menu to the fruity Insolia white that partnered the seabass. It helped underscore the first impression: Don Alfonso 1890 is a thoroughly grown-up dining experience for people craving the best ingredients and precise preparation.
Star dish: Pan fried fillet of wild sea bass
From the crispy skin to the soft, flaky flesh, this perfectly cooked piece of sea bass was offset with a superbly seasoned artichoke purée and slivers of radish. Sublime.
Don Alfonso 1890, Shangri-la Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. +971 4 3551591