The Ritz Carlton in Dubai's financial district features a steak house that delivers on its main courses.
Center Cut steak house
After peering furtively around, searching for some sort of indication that we were in fact where we wanted to be, we decided to simply take the plunge and ask the woman behind the reservations desk if this was, in fact, Center Cut.
This lack of signage (even over the entrance) struck both my friend and I as odd. Given this anonymity, it is perhaps not hugely surprisingly that the restaurant feels a little like an extended hotel lobby.
As the name suggests, the focal point here is the steak. The menu offers a good selection of different sizes and cuts of meat from Australia (Black Angus and Wagyu) and America (USDA graded). The fish and shellfish options are somewhat limited (just sea bass, hammour and lobster in the main course department); and a vegetarian who chanced upon the place, or was dragged along by a friend, would struggle (there aren't any specifically vegetarian main courses on the menu).
Having chosen the fillet mignon for my main course, I opted for the Atlantic salmon pastrami to start. In its traditional form, pastrami means salty, smoked beef; by contrast, the slices of thick-cut, raw salmon I was served lacked seasoning and certainly didn't taste smoked. In order for it to be truly enjoyable, raw fish has to be the freshest possible, and this simply wasn't. I'm not suggesting it was off or bad, but it tasted too fishy for my liking.
The salmon was served with chilli oil (which lacked sufficient citrus zing to cut through the fattiness of the fish) and was topped with slivers of shaved celery and a pile of what I initially assumed to be finely sliced red pepper. Upon tasting it, I quickly realised my mistake: it was raw red chilli - fiery and mouth-wateringly hot. While this amused my friend no end, I wasn't quite so pleased. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the salad was comprised of a whole red chilli (sliced), three or four pieces of celery and a few mixed salad leaves. Even the most ardent chilli fan would surely struggle to eat the whole dish and enjoy it, let alone be left with taste buds intact. I barely touched my starter, and it was cleared away by our waiter without comment or question.
My friend fared better, in that his scallops were nicely roasted and properly cooked. The pea "soup" (purée) that they were served with was minty, but it was khaki coloured rather than the vibrant green that you'd expect.
We hoped that things would improve with the main courses and to an extent they did. Unsurprisingly, the meat was the high point. My friend's veal chop was large, flavourful and cooked medium-rare as requested. My steak was nicely charred on the outside, with a pleasant smoky, salty crust and a soft, pink centre.
As with most steak restaurants, you order side dishes at an extra cost. Fat spears of asparagus were green and crunchy and melded nicely with the crumbled white feta that was scattered on top and wedges of potato (cooked in duck fat) were fine, if not particularly hot or crunchy. Nothing we ate was beyond the reach of a relatively competent home cook, though; after all, it's not hard to make a piece of good quality meat taste nice.
The dessert list was short: just four options, if you discount sorbets and cheese. We opted to share the mango snow egg because it sounded interesting.
A slightly confusing incident followed, when our waiter began to refill our water glasses from a newly opened bottle, which we hadn't asked for. Perhaps registering our surprise, he then clocked the existing half-full bottle on the table in front of us. Instead of apologising, he simply took both bottles away, leaving us without any water at all. It might not be the biggest mistake in the book, but it does show a lack of attention to detail that was also felt at other points during the meal.
The snow egg arrived (a ball of mango sorbet enclosed in a caramelised sugar shell, served in a pool of cream) and it was sufficiently sweet, but again, nothing to get excited about. In short, this was an average dinner with a couple of mistakes.
A meal for two at Center Cut, The Ritz Carlton DIFC costs Dh843 including service. For reservations call 04 372 2222. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.