When I rang up to book a table at Voi for that evening, I was told that they could fit us in only at 7.15pm or 9pm. Neither of those times was ideal: the early start would mean rushing home from work, while 9pm is that bit too late to eat during the work week. Was there not, I asked, a possibility of us sitting down at eight? Alas, no, they could manage 7.30, but that was it.
Imagine my surprise then, when we entered the restaurant at 7.37pm (and counting), to find the room completely empty, bar a table of four in the corner. A good hour or so later, two more tables of two sat down, but that was it. Which begs the question, when you're clearly not going to be inundated with customers - remember, I only booked the table that morning - why not be more accommodating towards the people who do want to eat there?
The restaurant is stately, grand and really rather elegant: the ceilings are high, the white walls embossed, drapes billow from the windows and large, sparkling chandeliers dangle from the ceiling. The atmosphere is grown up and refined and so is the service, although it does veer towards the over-attentive.
Voi serves Vietnamese style food with a French influence. There is a confidence about the concise menu which appealed to me, although I do think that vegetarians would struggle for choice here. Having spotted several dishes we liked the sound of, my friend and I decided to try the "Voi Experience" six-course tasting menu, priced at Dh395 each.
When it came to the eating, the menu didn't quite deliver on its promise. Of the seven courses we sampled - he had duck for his main, while I chose fish - only one was memorably good. A tasting menu is supposed to showcase the very best the chef has to offer, yet many of the dishes were very simple and we were left underwhelmed, particularly by the fruit salad and sorbet dessert.
The snow crab salad we had to start was pleasant enough. The crab was meaty and fresh and the dish had a salty-sweet chilli kick to it, but the diced avocado had started to turn brown and the tomatoes were pale.
A light brown, crispy spring roll filled with shredded chicken and shrimps and perched on a lettuce leaf came next. There was nothing wrong with the dish, it just lacked personality and pizzazz - both in terms of taste and presentation.
Things took an upwards turn with the arrival of course number three, a cleverly named pot au pho. I could smell the meaty aroma of the light broth as soon as our waitress poured it into the bowl in front of me. Pieces of fresh mint, shredded spring onion and crunchy pak cho floated in the pale amber liquid and provided a really nice foil to the richness of the bone marrow and soft, braised beef cheek - a squeeze of lime finished this fragrant dish off nicely.
The next course, which featured rubbery scallops served with under-seasoned mushrooms and a lemon grass foam, brought us firmly back to reality, though - and this is where I remained for the rest of the meal. My roasted cod was presented on a mound of braised vegetables and chilli, with little pieces of roasted clams folded through. I was disappointed by the dryness of the fish. While the flavour was nice, it refused to flake when prodded with a knife, suggesting that it had been frozen; it disintegrated into tough little pieces in the mouth.
On the other side of the table my friend was happier: his duck was cooked medium rare as requested and he liked the tangy tamarind sauce that accompanied it. We both found the smoky flavour of the Brussels sprouts rather too strong, though.
The tasting menu we selected promised us an "experience" and our expectations were raised thanks to the opulence of the surroundings and the standard of the service. Unfortunately, however, they just weren't met.
A meal for two at Voi, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, The Palm, Dubai costs Dh840, including service charge. For reservations call 04 453 0444. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito
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