Located on the basement level of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, BiCE is a sleek, modern Italian affair. The restaurant is decorated in muted tones of brown and cream with red accents. A grand piano sits in the corner.
My friend and I dined on a Wednesday and while the place was not full, the atmosphere was bustling. Particular mention should go to the service at BiCE. The staff were never intrusive, but always on hand to discreetly refill water glasses and check that everything was OK. Plus, I'm always impressed when a small table is brought over to rest my handbag on.
Although ravenous, I did my best to stay away from the loaded basket of assorted breads, sticking to just a breadstick with olive tapenade so as not to fill up too much before the main event. And this was a good ploy. The portions are not overwhelmingly large, but certainly generous. I opted for the crab cake to start and was very pleased with the ratio of crabmeat to fillers. Often crab cakes can be too heavy on breadcrumbs or potato, but this cake was stuffed full of light, fresh white meat, crispy on the outside and complemented by a bell pepper sauce and fresh, ripe avocado tartare.
My friend chose the scallops, which arrived perfectly seared and accompanied by grilled asparagus and black truffle shavings. I could certainly smell the truffle from across the table, but we decided it didn't overpower the scallops.
My dining partner, who possesses a somewhat bigger appetite than I do, decided on a salad course as well, which was fine - as I needed a break before my main course arrived. The Caesar salad with lobster was decent, and the chunks of lobster were well-cooked, but it wasn't anything to write home about.
Considering himself quite the steak connoisseur, my friend often bemoans the inability of some restaurants to cook his steak to his liking. So I wasn't surprised when he snapped the menu shut after a brief peek and announced that he was having the Wagyu tenderloin. He also managed to persuade me away from the selection of pastas and risottos to the meat and fish section and, after careful consideration, I went for the pan-fried salmon fillet, intrigued by the promise of fennel gratin.
The beef was, thankfully, cooked perfectly medium rare, full of flavour and accompanied by a Barolo sauce, seared foie gras and a potato timbale. The buttery foie gras worked perfectly with the succulent steak and, unsurprisingly, my friend managed to polish off the lot. My salmon, on the other hand, was pretty pedestrian. The large fillet was a little overcooked and dry, and there wasn't enough of the horseradish sauce. Hidden underneath the fish was the chewy fennel gratin, an interesting and surprisingly tasty accompaniment, and a token couple of spears of asparagus. My main gripe was that there just wasn't enough of the fennel - it was a two-bites-and-it's-gone deal and I had to search to find it. A side order of grilled vegetables was just OK.
Utterly full, it was a struggle to read the uninspired and limited dessert menu (fruit salad, tiramisu), but somehow we managed to pick out a pudding each and we selected the pannacotta with raspberries and the chocolate fondant. My friend was unimpressed with the three raspberries decorating the pannacotta, which was light and creamy. However the waiter noticed his displeasure and quickly brought a bowl of raspberries over to the table. My chocolate fondant was as it should be - with a rich, molten centre that went well with the accompanying ice cream.
As mentioned, the service at BiCE is very good and the setting is lovely. Unfortunately it was too hot and humid to make use of its outdoor terrace, with views of the hotel's futuristic seafood restaurant Scott's, but retiring to the restaurant's bar area for coffee and dessert is a good alternative. The food is not cheap and some dishes were hit and miss, but for an upmarket Italian meal, I would definitely return.
A meal for two at BiCE costs Dh977, including service. For reservations, call 02 811 5666. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito
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