Flavio Briatore expands his restaurant empire with two adjoining - yet very different - restaurants in DIFC. So, are they worth a visit?
Monaco-born Crazy Fish and Beefbar open in DIFC
Two restaurants, one big-ticket owner, and one important question: meat or fish?
They might be technically attached, but DIFC's newest pair of restaurants deal in two very different specialities.
Beefbar and Crazy Fish have just opened in Al Fattan Currency House - and basically, do exactly what they say on the tin. One deals in prime cuts of meat, and the other in fresh seafood.
They are both welcome news to the DIFC dining scene, which was dealt several blows late last year when not one but three of its standout restaurants closed their doors. Ceviche, in Emirates Financial Towers - which despite being critically-acclaimed managed less than a year in operation - closed around the same time as La Luz and Totora Cebicheria Peruana, both in Gate Village.
Both are owned by Italian business mogul and former Renault F1 team boss Flavio Briatore, who despite his recent run-ins with the law over tax evasion, has a long history as a restauranteur, and looks set to expand on his culinary footprint in Dubai. He's also the man behind Billionaire Mansion, and its five inner venues. Both are concepts that hail from Monaco.
But while the pair might be adjoining, they couldn't be more different.
Where Crazy Fish is all contemporary paintings and pastel hues, Beefbar relies on a slick decor of black marble, leather booths and warm lighting. However, it's not the Ron Burgundy-esque calibre of sophistication that will be the first thing you'll note as you enter the restaurant - it's the glass display case full of meat. Raw meat.
What to order at Beefbar
The full-length wall display of different cuts and types of beef are a real-life ode to the humble cow, and the parts of it you'll find on the menu. You can even choose a lump of meat you fancy and have a steak or two hacked off to take home.
Dubai's Beefbar is its sixth incarnation after outlets in Hong Kong, Mexico, Mykonos, Cannes and, of course, Monaco - so it's a well-established concept. But in a city with a wealth of steakhouses, can this one stand out?
The starters are dubbed 'street food', and are made to share. Here you'll find a mix of cuisines from around the world - think Kobe and Angus beef sliders with truffle cream (Dh95), to black Angus skirt tacos (Dh85) to Kobe and black Angus spiced meatballs (Dh80). They're inventive ways to utilise very expensive cuts of meat, sure, but let's be honest - we've all come for the main affair.
You'll be handed custom-made and engraved steak knives as your cuts of choice are served up on a hot plate. As far as slabs of beef go, the New York City petite tender steak (Dh155) comes recommended and doused in a number of herbs and spices, and the Dutch milk-fed veal (Dh210) is akin to gliding your knife through butter.
But if you know your steak, then the menu basically reads like a glossary of the flashiest names of the meat world - Giraudi: Ranger Valley Australian black Angus “black onyx”, Creekstone Farm American USDA certified black Angus beef and Japanese Kobe (a Beefbar Dubai exclusive for the Middle East).
And what to order at Crazy Fish...
Next-door (or, through the door to the shared bathrooms) instead of a display of meat at the entrance, you're greeted with the catch of the day - propped up on ice and staring right back at you.
It's not a concept yet overdone in Dubai - the seafood restaurant solely serving up fresh seafood - so one would assume Crazy Fish is set to be a large (ahem) fish, in a small pond.
Oysters are available for Dh30 per piece, and served alongside a selection of raw and hot starters - the octopus with rosemary potatoes (Dh70) and tuna tartare (Dh70), served smoking at your table no less, are valiant accompaniments. It's easy to forget you're not beach-side on an island in the Mediterranean: such is the freshness of the catch, it's somewhat startling to hear the restaurant only buys their fish from auctions in Spain or Italy, as it tastes as though it's been hauled off a boat only a few hours prior.
With the glut of dining options down this end of town, and the ghosts of DIFC restaurants past, it would be premature to crown these new eateries as surefire winners - but they're certainly on to a good thing.
Of his recent feathers to his cap, even Mr Briatore spoke of his excitement at bringing more of his concepts to "one of the most incredible cities in the world".
But as competition abounds, success may only come with time.