I think when you review a restaurant, it is important to arrive with a positive attitude. Start the score at a 10, so to speak, and only begin detracting from this when things go wrong.
So it was with good intentions that I visited the Italian restaurant Bussola, at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, this week. After unsuccessfully trying to secure a table at the relaxed (and very busy) pizzeria upstairs (Bussola on the Beach) on Saturday night, we opted for dinner at the more formal Italian restaurant on the ground floor.
The setting is really very pleasant. Outside on the breezy terrace the atmosphere was relaxed, with enough people dining to create a bit of a buzz. It wasn't quite busy enough to excuse the scatty service, though. The staff may have been well-meaning, but they were also very absent-minded. For example, although we noticed that surrounding tables were given bread baskets and dishes of olive oil to start their meal, we ended up having to ask for ours - receiving them only after the starters had arrived.
These starters were pretty good, though. Thin slivers of beef carpaccio were ruby red, with a rich, buttery taste; the rocket leaves were peppery and crisp and the shavings of Parmesan generous. In all, a fresh, light, enjoyable way to begin the meal. A selection of cold meats with olives and pecorino cheese wasn't up to much in the presentation stakes, but again, the quality of the meat was high. However, it did seem strange that despite being listed on the menu, the platter offered just three olives and a small shard of cheese.
Unfortunately, things then started to go downhill. My main course of stuffed chicken breast was rather dry and the meagre amount of ricotta and lemon filling provided neither moisture nor flavour. Although the rice in the white asparagus risotto that accompanied the chicken was tender, overall the dish was just too bland. But I had, at least, received what I asked for.
My companion had gone for the braised veal cheek, yet after a couple of mouthfuls we were both convinced that this wasn't what was on his plate. Yes, the wilted spinach was there, as was the rich gravy but in terms of appearance, taste and texture the meat didn't resemble veal cheek. It lacked the succulent, melting softness that this cut acquires when it has been slow cooked, and the fattiness of the meat led us to believe that this was probably a piece of beef chain - the strip of meat that runs along the fillet, and more often than not removed and served braised or in a stew. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but we firmly believe (although we may of course be wrong) that it wasn't what he ordered.
So to dessert. I chose to try both the pistachio and the praline ice cream, primarily because I was surprised that they were charging Dh22 per scoop. And while it was good, I'm not entirely sure that the price tag was justified.
The ice cream was far better than our other choice of dessert, though. The menu billed the dish as white chocolate mousse served with strawberries and raspberries, yet on the plate this translated to half a strawberry, a raspberry coulis and a mousse concoction that tasted grainy - due to either the chocolate splitting or too liberal a use of powdered gelatine, we couldn't be sure.
All that was left to do then was pay the bill and leave, feeling a touch deflated. Never a good way to end a meal.
Bussola at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina. For reservations call 04 399 4141. A meal for two, not including drinks and service, costs Dh486. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by The National.