Palazzo Versace Dubai’s much-talked about restaurant Enigma paints a picture of Iran in the Middle Ages to present the season’s star attraction – authentic Persian food – in true Versace style. Locals will tell you that one of the best ways to soak up Dubai’s global vibe is exploring the emirate’s multicultural gastronomic offering. From hidden gems in the city’s historic quarter to five-star restaurants offering global flavours, there’s truly something for everyone. And so, with an intent to seek out something we’ve never tried before, we head for Palazzo Versace Dubai to feast on Enigma’s ‘Taste of Persia’ menu.
Gracing the kitchen this time around is chef Mansour Memarian, formerly of the Michelin starred Jagdhof Glashütte in Germany, who personally designed the menu to leave visitors with an authentic Persian experience. We are told that Memarian’s approach is all about highlighting classic recipes and cooking styles dating back centuries. So while the flavours remain traditional, it’s the presentation of the dish that adds a contemporary touch.
Set in Dubai’s Culture Village, Palazzo Versace Dubai is a fitting tribute to the very essence of brand Versace. From its magnificently lit facade, resembling a 16th century royal palace, to the fine Italian furnishings, every corner conveys that the experiences waiting inside will be far from ordinary.
Quaint and intimate, Enigma’s interiors have a surreal ambience featuring dim lighting with candles and lamps as well as traditional arabesque hints in its décor. But you’ll easily find the magical views of Dubai Creek from the al fresco deck competing for your attention. Torn between our options, we finally choose to stay indoors, but on a cosy table for two by the window to take in the best of both worlds.
Trying a new cuisine for the first time can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially when you’re diving into a menu with unfamiliar names. Thankfully, the cheerful manager Abdel offers to bring to our table Enigma’s signature dishes, which he confidently claims will set the bar high on Persian dining.
Within minutes, Maksym, our server for the evening, greets us with a rather unique dish. Mounted on a wooden crate is a variety of fresh herbs served alongside walnuts, olives, pickles, homemade Persian cheese and freshly baked Persian bread. We are told that the assortment, known as sabzi khordan, represents the use of fresh ingredients throughout the menu and will remain a firm fixture on our table to serve as a palate cleanser between courses. Maksym then proceeds to pour water over the greens, instantly revealing the evening’s first theatrical element – vapours from dry ice within the crate taking over our table. The enigma was beginning to unfold.
The launch of Palazzo Versace Dubai’s star restaurant in 2016 brought with it a new concept to the region, one that would see lesser explored cuisines being presented in a series of episodes with themes, guest chefs, and the venue’s decor changing every few months. Enigma’s Persian tale follows its Spanish, Nordic and Turkish chapters, helmed by international culinary experts.
Our journey towards unravelling the mysteries of Persian cuisine begins with a mix of hot and cold appetisers, which, thanks to its quantities, could easily pass as mains. We are served two different salads – the salad shirazi, a yoghurt-based mix of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions as well as the salad chupan, which takes the unique combination of watermelon and cheese to a whole new level. Also getting our taste buds going is the grilled eggplant mash called mirza ghasemi, which instantly broke our spell of several failed experiments with eggplant. Warm and comforting, every bite has you reaching for more. So if you’ve never been a fan of this vegetable, a trip to Enigma might just change that.
Our next course sees us tucking into the nargesi, a traditional dish of farm eggs served on a bed of melted baby spinach with confit potatoes. Accompanying the dish are two delicious flavoured yoghurts, one with beetroot and another with grated cucumber, topped with delectable vegetarian caviar, prepared fresh within Enigma’s kitchens.
Paired with these dishes are exquisite cocktails from Enigma’s beverage menu, which reads like an ancient textbook of Iranian poetry. Based on the beverage expert Jessie’s recommendations, we try the Layla and Majnun, a refreshing blend of fresh fruit essences and vodka as well as the Hazar Afsnah, which uses gin fused with spiced Persian tea.
Moving on to our mains, we stick with our decision to let the experts call the shots, who then bring a selection of dishes from the menu. There’s so much to choose from, you’ll easily find yourself spoilt for choice. But we’d definitely recommend the spread that takes over our table, filling the space with aromas of Middle Eastern spices. Served with a portion of saffron rice is the delectable ragout with lamb, full of flavour. And as though this isn’t enough, on a warm grill are succulent lamb and beef kebabs, so tender they easily come off the skewer and melt in the mouth.
With all that indulgence, leaving room for dessert does raise some questions. But passing off Enigma’s traditional specialities is not an option, especially considering the fact that dessert is prepared on your table in such theatrical fashion.
We opted to share the faludeh, which sees the chef mix saffron ice cream with glass noodles, rosewater and homemade syrup, and instantly cool it with liquid nitrogen; leaving cold vapours to once again engulf our table. A sweet and sour treat, every bit is as delicious as it is visually appealing, bringing the evening to an end on the perfect note and truly setting the city’s bar infinitely high when it comes to Persian dining.
For bookings or more information please call 04 5568830.