As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to the meat at a steak restaurant, there's no room for manoeuvre - it simply has to taste great. After all, it's not particularly difficult to take a good quality piece of steak and cook it to your liking; for a trained chef, then, it should be second nature, or so my thinking goes. What this also means is that in order for a restaurant to stand out - particularly in a city such as Dubai, where you can find rib-eye, sirloin and rump galore - everything else (sides, sauces, desserts, starters) needs to hit the mark.
The Rib Room in Jumeirah Emirates Towers underwent a refurbishment last year and the result is a shiny, sleek room decorated in muted shades of brown, with cream tablecloths and a gleaming polished wood floor. It's all very glossy and grown up, but not particularly memorable. Unfortunately, when I visited, neither was the food. Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad by any means, I just didn't taste anything really delicious.
As you'd expect in a high-end restaurant like this, there are some nice touches; attentive staff served us little loaves of warm bread with a garlicky chimichurri dip; we were given a shot of smooth pumpkin velouté to begin; and we were well looked after throughout.
My spicy fried calamari starter was pleasant. A large-ish bowl filled with hot, crisp curls of breaded squid was presented on a dark grey slate, alongside a muslin-wrapped lemon half and a mushroom remoulade that was light on fungi and punch. A simple, acceptable gastropub dish, but nothing special.
On the other side of the table, my friend tucked into a generous portion of thick-cut Scottish smoked salmon. The fish had a clean, salty tang to it but the accompanying burnt flour blinis were disappointing; rather than being light and airy, they were really quite leaden. There was also nowhere near enough of them; the four small rounds of pancake were quickly polished off, leaving her with a mound of smoked fish. As with the pâté and not enough bread issue, an off ratio like this is always a bit irritating.
I ordered the 250-gram Donald Russell Irish rib-eye for my main course and my friend plumped for the Oakey Angus tenderloin from Australia. We asked for the steaks to be served medium-rare, but when they arrived they were both rather more decisively medium than either of us would've liked. The rib-eye was tasty, with the juicy line of fat running throughout adding flavour, but it was by no means the tenderest or most flavoursome I've tasted. My friend said the same of her fillet; nice, but not one to rave about.
Despite being crisp and golden, a side order of tempura wasabi fries sounded rather more interesting on paper than they tasted. A portion of French beans, meanwhile, could've done with a few seconds more cooking and while the sprinkling of almonds over the top made for a nice combination, it was difficult to eat the two together - the almonds slid off the vegetables and gathered in a pile at the bottom of the bowl. A jug of Roquefort cheese sauce was served barely lukewarm, which was a shame.
The dessert menu consists of an uninspiring list of classic puddings: cheesecake, chocolate fondant, crème brûlée, lemon tart, mousse cake or homemade ice cream. My friend enjoyed her chocolate fondant, which oozed rich, molten liquid in the centre just as it should. The delicate citrusy filling of my lemon tart with its caramelised sugar topping was very nice; if only the base hadn't been quite so thick and soggy.
Our meal here was certainly acceptable. When the bill comes to almost Dh800 however, I can't be alone in thinking that you want - deserve - rather more than that.
A meal at The Rib Room, Ground Floor, Hotel Tower, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai costs Dh768, including service. For reservations, call 04 319 8088