Mesmerized by the name, I couldn’t possibly resist a dinner at Vanitas, literally translated from Latin as “emptiness” in reference to earthy achievements and pleasures. In art circles, this term is closely associated with still life “memento mori” paintings, visualizing the worthlessness human desire – power, money, sweet luxuries – through the symbols of rusting metal, decaying silk and burnt candles. Obviously learning the history behind just one word, I was intrigued to visit Vanitas.
Hoping to explore the gothic side of Palazzo Versace in Dubai, I chose to wear a rather contrasting romantic gown with open shoulders, floral motives and the most cheerful skirt ever made by Dubai based designers at Si Fashion Galerie. Boy, was I wrong!
Decorated with the freshest and very fragrant red roses, Vanitas restaurant greeted me with a spacious well-lit hall, a prevalence of beige marble floors, wooden parquet, traditional Italian wall art and crystal chandeliers. So chic. So Palazzo. So Versace!
As the evenings are still quite warm, I sat indoors where the lighting was slightly dimmed, setting a very charming intimate atmosphere. Candles, red velour on upholstery, bright royal blue dinner plates, roses and my beloved Versace prints celebrated life at her brightest, with a clear focus on the art of dining well.
The minute I got into my seat, the dinner had started with arrival of warm and fluffy focaccia bread and beautifully young olive oil.
The amuse-bouche placed in front of me clearly indicated chef’s desire to experiment with textures, forms and ingredients, and ultimately with the audience. Vanita’s chef intended to transform the stereotypical perception of traditional Italian cuisine to the taste of millennials, hard to impress Dubaians and savvy travellers aiming to create an unforgettable dining ritual.
While Lucia helped me to navigate through the Italian menu and must-tries, the place filled up with couples, families with well-behaved, well-groomed kids, joyful friends and even a solo diner. When I finalized my order, tables seemed to be rearranged to accommodate all and staff quickly moved from one corner to another prepping for a busy night. It was the generous serving of burrata surrounded by crunchy veggie rolls, lettuce and sweet tomatoes that turned my attention back to the table. What a creamy burrata it was!
My next appetizer, a plate of octopus with purple potato puree, greens, chips and black olive powder was as tasty as it looked. Chef’s creativity deserves a special compliment.
A few minutes later my table started to resemble a state feast with the finest china and cutlery, sparkles of gold and stylish Mediterranean touches at every level of detail.
The foie gras was layered like an opera cake with parmigiano ice-cream, grapes filled with tender goat cheese and crispy lettuce that could easily be mistaken for dessert. A really rich one!
My mains continued with chef’s tendency to surprise. The seafood risotto featured nicely cooked rice with a lovely touch of black pepper. Interestingly the seafood bits, octopus, shrimps and fish were cooked separately and served on the top to add a crunchy texture to an otherwise creamy dish. I asked for extra Parmesan as I’m addicted.
When I tasted the linguini it took a while to figure out chef’s trick. There was a very familiar softness in both texture and taste. The truth was revealed: the Pasta’s recipe was based on potatoes with a little help of wheat flavour. No wonder I though of homemade gnocchi at the first bite.
I’m wearing a tailor-made gown with incredible skirt from Si Fashion Galerie.
At the lobby level of Palazzo Versace, with indoor and outdoor seating facing the main pool and magnificent Creek (especially at night), Enigma delivers on its namesake, “delightfully mysterious”. So did my incredible gown from Si Fashion Galerie.Si Fashion Galerie.
It’s best to call it contemporary Turkish with warm Mediterranean influence, reflected in the ingredients, flavours, colours and distinguishable Versace prints.
The installation of branded wall mirrors result in dramatic reflections of candlelight and exteriors, creating an Ottoman palace effect. The soft fabrics used for seating arrangements including pillows, sofas and chairs create a “divan culture”.
Signature cocktails, designed around everyone’s favourite beverages and well-known landmarks like Constantinople and Bosporus, show the bartender’s obsession with the history (of the world and drinks).
One can never underestimate the freshly baked fluffy bread with crispy edges and sesame seeds, paired with a selection of sauces, including my favourite tomato and red peppers, sweet pear puree and sliced marinated to crisp onions.
The real magic starts when the chef appears with a long serving table and house cured meat, pastrami layered with black pepper, fenugreek, anise, bay leaf, white pepper and obviously a secret ingredient. While the chef slowly slices pastrami on white plates carved of stone, he engages in a conversation explaining the magic behind the softest and the most fragrant piece of meat one can dream of.
But the masterpiece of the night was octopus, cooked in a vacuum pot for as long as five hours, then quickly seared on a hot pan.
I’m wearing a beautiful tight gown from Si Fashion Galerie.
The first impression is one of being transported to the galleries of the ancient Rome. Panoramic floor to ceiling windows allow for lots of light and an open view of the central pool and Dubai Creek. Elegance is literally in the air!
I opted to hide at the lounge during the hottest time of the day as Mosaico is a perfect location for a cup of morning coffee or 5 o’clock tea.