Dubai is well known for its melting pot of cultures, which in turn generates a wonderful and welcome array of cuisines. However, according to my cookbooks and culinary notes, Italian and Mexican have never been closely aligned with a fusion concept. Until now.
Italian and Mexican cuisine (served exclusively by Indians) and billed as “progressive” is exactly what Quattro in Mankhool is offering. It’s one of the strangest concepts, but it grabbed my interest the moment the e-vite pinged into my inbox.
I didn’t get to the origin of the Ital-Mex / Mex-Ital fusion idea but the manager confirmed that with three other restaurants trading under the same franchise concept in Kolkata, Mumbai, and Hyderabad, Dubai’s Quattro is indeed the fourth restaurant in the Indian-owned quartet.
The restaurant itself – a brother to the nearby Spice Klub – looks like someone’s front room, with a long dining table down the middle and seats off to the side. Ubiquitous to the Dubai restaurant scene are the copper squirrel cage light bulbs dangling from heavy black industrial chords but their beautiful ambient tungsten glow was lost in the harsh white lighting of Quattro.
Within seconds of sitting down, I heard the piercing shriek of a nearby diner … “Can I have another one?” She had just guzzled down a large unnaturally pink smoothie that looked like drainage from a liposuction procedure. It was obviously good. Our own drinks order consisted of brain-freezingly cold mocktails, served in jam jars, belching out smoky dry ice. Like a flashback to the US Prohibition days, this place is dry so don’t expect alcohol.
As to the music and general ambiance, expect to hear Renee & Renato’s “Save Your Love” – a UK number one in 1983 as well as Johnny Mathis singing (at our time of visitation, an unseasonal) Christmas track, “When A Child is Born”. Thing is, by the time you get served, it could well be Christmas 2018.
Food bloggers and members of the press were invited to try Quattro’s set menu. Here’s the thing; the time frame between courses was far too long. An inability to deliver a set menu in a timely fashion, spells trouble in the kitchen. On our particular evening, there were six floor staff and I couldn’t help but think that they should’ve headed to the kitchen to help with plating up. If the waiting staff are left waiting for the food; imagine what it’s like being a diner unable to dine.
When the food was finally delivered to our table, I was surprised to receive some wonderful Indian chutneys (obviously chef had forgotten the Italian / Mexican theme). With nothing but our fingers to dip into the delicious sauces, we asked for a poppadum or some bread with which to dunk. Presumptuous, I know! Unfortunately, our waiter had a very limited understanding of the English language so our request was met with a blank face.
The food at Quattro is served with showmanship and panache. There’s a certain level of flamboyancy and even if you don’t expect dry ice or flames, you’re going to get them anyway.
The theatricality of presentation, however, masked a menu that was more miss than hit. The hot roundels of corn cake topped with sour cream foam crumbled upon touch. A miss! The “marghuerita upside down pizza” was a basic let down. Tinned tomatoes thrown onto dough does not constitute a pizza. The Jalapeno Riso with Grilled Cottage Cheese was also a bit grim; a student dinner of sorts – some spiced rice with a bit of paneer thrown on top.
Filo Parcels were beautifully served around a blue candle that resembled the eternal flame at the tomb of the unknown soldier but they seemed shop-bought and were unpalatably salty. Similarly, the Ravioli Rose spinach and ricotta pasta parcels were over-seasoned and erring on the side of too salty.
One appetizer took me by surprise. I had not expected Taquitos – tiny tortilla cones filled with a smooth avocado ice cream and laced with mouth-kicking jalapenos. A hit!
Furthermore, three other dishes were definite hits. I would recommend the Risotto Funghi. It was creamy, garlicky and doused in truffle oil. I mean, what’s not to like? Another winner for me was the Risotto Palle (there’s a risotto theme developing here). These little balls of risotto were deep fried in breadcrumbs and served with a pipette of chili oil that, upon squirting, provided just enough spicy heat. Another hit! Served with dead, limp salad leaves because the plate had been left too long under the heat lamps though … that’s just a restaurant faux pas.
The deserts were good. The “classic Mexican cake” was “deconstructed”. I don’t know if this means they couldn’t be bothered to put it together or whether they had dropped it but it tasted fine. The Belgian chocolate ice cream and caramel popcorn, however, won full marks.
According to the invitation, we were invited to taste a “memorable meal”, with “scrumptious appetizers, hearty mains, and indulgent desserts” and I think that proclamation was loosely achieved. Without wishing to sound mean, the waiting staff needs to be trained up to meet the quality of the food. Product knowledge is important for frontline staff … oh … and they MUST learn how to clear away the dirty plates. There’s massive potential for Quattro to be a hit with a mixed international audience. Perhaps even with Italians and Mexicans.
Review: Nick Stephenson [22.02.17]
Food 7/10 (but only because of the presentation)
Overall experience 7/10
Al Raffa C building, Kuwait Street, opposite Aster Hospital, Al Mankhool
For reservations: 04 393 1233