x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The Noble House

A Chinese restaurant that serves exquisite Wagyu beef, The Noble House is reasonably priced, too.

Diners can enjoy stunning views of Sheikh Zayed Road at The Noble House.
Diners can enjoy stunning views of Sheikh Zayed Road at The Noble House.

What better way to start a Chinese meal than with a cup of piping hot tea? Well, it could be served to you from a teapot with a long, needle-thin spout, by a dexterous waiter who wields his apparatus around his head like a sword, and manages to spill not a drop while doing so.

Tea was traditionally served in this manner in China at wartime, when the emperor wanted to discuss tactics with his generals, without anyone (not even his attendants) being able to get close enough to overhear. At The Noble House, this practice simply provides a sense of occasion and raises a smile.

This sleek, smart Chinese restaurant is done out in traditional red and black and offers fantastic views of Sheikh Zayed Road. The menu features a number of refined contemporary dishes, with a few nods to the classics and liberal use of luxury ingredients.

We began with two plates of dim sum; the first of which, chicken siew mai dumplings with foie gras, was pretty standard. The dumplings were fresh, but the taste and texture of the foie gras were all but lost in the minced chicken filling: you had to really seek the flavour out to identify it. The Tobiko potato dumplings, on the other hand, exceeded expectations. Thin, golden strands of fried potato encased balls of fluffy mash, which hid a sprinkling of black truffle in the centre. Like I said, this is a luxury ingredient kind of place.

The standout dish of the evening came courtesy of a shared starter: crispy Schezuan Wagyu beef fillet. Strips of meat were served on a pile of mint and curry leaves, which had been fried and scattered with dried chilli. This base provided an interesting contrast of textures and flavours (refreshing and spicy) and made the tongue tingle pleasantly, but, quite rightly, it is the beef that deserves all the praise. The pieces of meat had a salty, crunchy exterior, but they must have been cooked for mere seconds because the inside was perfectly tender, rare and, as the cliché always applied to Wagyu goes, melt in the mouth. In a word: delicious.

A main course of soft-shell crab with chilli sauce and shimeji mushrooms was interesting and well executed, but not exemplary. Soft-shell crab is quite a strange ingredient to eat, being both crunchy (crab shell) and soft (crabmeat) but here I enjoyed it. The sticky chilli and garlic sauce was full of flavour, yet it cleverly managed not to overpower the pleasantly mellow crab.

My friend's main course featured slivers of nicely cooked, roasted duck that was served simply (perhaps too simply) with a clear, syrupy sweet, perfumed plum sauce. There was nothing at all wrong with this dish, it just lacked a certain wow factor.

Chinese cooking is not known for its desserts and for this reason we almost didn't want to order them. Coconut ice with glutinous black rice was served amid billowing clouds of dry ice and although it was refreshing and light, the taste certainly didn't justify the hype of the presentation. What tiramisu was doing on the menu I don't know, and why it was served in deconstructed form is even more baffling. What I can tell you is that when it arrived, the block of coffee parfait in the middle of the plate was rock solid. It was so hard that I had to wait several minutes before setting about it with a spoon. When I did, the texture confused me. The parfait didn't melt in the mouth as it should (suggesting a heavy hand with the gelatin) and it tasted ever so slightly old; as if it had been hanging around in the freezer for a while. And perhaps it had - who goes to a Chinese restaurant and orders an Italian dessert, after all? The thing is, though, if it's on the menu it should be treated with as much care and attention as every other dish, and this clearly had not.

The Noble House has a reputation for being expensive and is often labelled as only a special-occasion destination. I think that for high-end Chinese cooking, the pricing is really rather reasonable and for this reason I'd recommend a visit; try the Wagyu beef, just don't worry about dessert.


A meal for two at The Noble House, Raffles Dubai, costs Dh545 not including service. To book call 043149888. All meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.