x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Indian fare with a modern twist at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor

With a flexible menu of standout, tasty dishes, Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor is well worth the trip to Bur Dubai.

Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor at the Meliã Dubai is decorated like a nicely lit cave. Jaime Puebla / The National
Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor at the Meliã Dubai is decorated like a nicely lit cave. Jaime Puebla / The National

The evening didn't begin perfectly. After we arrived at the Meliã Dubai and scooted up the stairs to Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor, the hostess manning the reception area couldn't find any record of my (anonymous) booking.

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, we were seated at what was undoubtedly the worst table in the house. We were on the outskirts of the room, close to the swinging door that led to the kitchen, which meant we were right in the middle of a sea of traffic. And when I say we, I mean my visiting parents and me, which made it a little bit worse.

Just as we were pondering whether or not we should ask to be moved, an eagle-eyed waiter appeared, saying that he could see we weren't happy and would we like him to show us to another table. And from that moment on - from the appearance of the attentive, knowledgeable, polite Herald - the night changed for the better.

Signature is a relatively small restaurant, which, thanks to the exposed, textured grey walls, slight curve to the ceiling and swathes of silver material, looks a little like a nicely lit, stylish cave.

As you might expect from a Kapoor-inspired menu, the food is a take on refined Indian cooking, this time with certain Middle Eastern and Mediterranean touches - a hummus garnish here, a Parmesan-tikka fusion there. There is plenty of choice for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, and I particularly liked the fact you can order a number of the dishes in either single or sharing portions.

A tasty amuse bouche of chilled fruit sharbat and an array of pappads, mini poppadums and vibrantly coloured and flavoured chutneys - including a really quite delicious lime pickle - and we were away.

Presented in what looked like a test tube rack, the honey-mustard chicken chat puffs were superb. The puri puffs were hot, crisp and delicately thin, the pieces of chicken in the middle were juicy and smooth and the green mango chutney, which was served in a glass shooter with the puri balanced on top, was clean, grassy and refreshing. As instructed, we alternated mouthfuls of puri with sips of the sauce and the combination of salty, sour, sweet and spicy flavours was fantastic.

Tamarind-glazed tandoori chicken wings and drumsticks were sticky, tasty and again lovely and tender, while the couscous upma served on the side was light, fluffy and deeply flavoured with fried curry leaves.

Moving on to our main courses, the South Indian-inspired dum nariyali prawns brought us another standout dish. Served in a roasted, hollowed-out coconut - which our waiter sliced tableside - the prawns were perfectly cooked and generously portioned and the coconut gravy that they had been simmered in was delicately seasoned, smooth and rich, without being the slightest bit cloying.

Goat shank rogan josh was also excellent, featuring meat properly tender to the point of falling apart, served in a complex, hearty, full-flavoured, almost gelatinous sauce, which coated the mouth and left a lovely caramel taste behind.

Chicken taar korma was also very good, featuring the same properly cooked meat, full of flavour and the well-judged spicing we had now come to expect, but it wasn't of quite the same calibre as the other two main courses dishes - that isn't, however, a complaint.

When it came to side orders, the steamed rice was well done and the bread selection a good one.

The appearance of the chef at the end of the meal - an event that I often find cringeworthy - was actually a pleasure; he stopped briefly at each of the tables in the restaurant at one point in the evening and was friendly and charming. It's not often that I wholeheartedly recommend a visit to a restaurant, but in the case of Signature, I do. Cast aside any preconceptions you have about Bur Dubai being a trek too far and make sure you order those honey-mustard chicken chat puffs.

A meal for two at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor at the Meliã Dubai, Kuwait Road, Bur Dubai, costs Dh566, including service charge. For reservations, call 04 386 8111. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito