Bice – is the Italian still buone?
Dubai; Bice, the slick and sophisticated Italian restaurant at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah (not to be confused with its seafood counterpart Bice Mare at Souk Al Bahar operated by different owners) has always been a firm favourite – not just of mine, but with two seatings a night in its hey day, by many a resident and visitor too. Admittedly I used to work for Hilton, but work or play, I would always relish a Bice lunch or dinner date. With a complete overhaul last year – decor, chef and restaurant manager included – a FooDiva review’s been long overdue. So how does it fare?
Walking in for a late Saturday lunch, the interior appears larger and lighter – some of the middle banquettes are long gone, whilst a wall’s been knocked down to create more of the much-craved window seating. But the decor am pleased to say is still very much Bice - crisp white linen tablecloths included. What I don’t understand is why the prime window tables are reserved for smokers…anyhow given our fellow diners were not puffing away, we picked a secluded table in the far corner (perfect for sneaky photography).
If my memory serves me correctly, the menu’s been embellished with some new creations, whilst all the classics remain making it one helluva big menu. We took forever to decide, but in a good way, spoilt for choice. FooDiva’s octopus carpaccio starter was served with a diced potato and tomato tartare tower, tempura capers, balsamic marinated cherry tomatoes, black olives and a drizzle of basil oil. Oh my the tempura capers were to-die-for..simply addictive…a plateful would not have gone amiss. I demolished the tartare tower as quickly as a game of Jenga (I don’t play Jenga well). And lastly, the thinly sliced octopus was fresh and ever so tender – unlike that rubbery texture found in many a sushi joint. This dish was as fabulous as I remember it, perhaps even better.
Now here’s a bit of an idiosyncrasy for my friend’s starter, described on the menu as ‘Prosciutto San Daniele con melone – Parma ham with melon.’ Now Parma ham and San Daniele ham are two different prosciuttos from differing regions in Italy. But honestly, perhaps FooDiva shouldn’t admit this but as it was served already sliced, I couldn’t tell the difference – can you? San Daniele tends to be stiffer and saltier, so I’d say this dish was Parma ham. I shall enlist the taste buds of Italian chef next time. The sweet melon wasn’t quite sweet enough, but then again it would have been imported and it’s not quite in season yet. Quite bizarrely a large slither of parmesan adorned the creation – not complaining though.
As for mains, FooDiva opted for one of the specials – a risotto bursting with parmesan, chunks of pumpkin and slithers of crispy bresaola. Now as you can see this dish doesn’t look that appealing, but when does risotto make a pretty sight? Despite its richness and huge portion, the slightly al dente risotto was so creamy, buttery and more-ishly comforting. Meanwhile, our other dish from the main pasta menu – a squid ink and egg tagliolini was beautifully presented as if styled for a food photo shoot – topped with plump tiger prawns, crunchy asparagus spears, chilli, garlic and olive oil. Another divine dish.
For dessert, we could only stomach a sorbet trio of mango, strawberry and lemon – apart from the juicy mango, the other two flavours were nothing worth writing about it. Infact the lemon had the same watery, lime taste as The Farm’s – same supplier perhaps? But my only real bug bearer with the whole lunch, is why Bice still umpteen years later, continues to serve tea (awful Lipton jasmine tea bags) in chunky coffee cups. When I queried it with the lovely waiter, he promptly brought us some mugs but still for coffee, not tea. FooDiva may be fussy, but there are plenty of tea drinkers in this town, so pretty please do invest in some delicate tea crockery. Sometimes it’s the finer things in life that count – and attention to detail is key to any successful operation.
Apart from having to ask for the bread basket to begin with – by the way the tomato foccaccia goes down as Dubai’s best – warm, buttery and light as a feather – service was good. FooDiva should disclose that towards the end of the meal I was recognised (we had simply walked in with no reservation). Bice wasn’t exactly rushed off its feet when we arrived, but by the end of our leisurely lunch around 4ish, the regular Saudi royal contingent were dining in the restaurant – and hence why FooDiva refrained from snapping some interior shots. At AED 260 per head, it’s certainly not cheap, but the same menu applies to dinner in which case Bice does offer excellent value for money for a licensed restaurant. I am glad to say that bar the odd glitch, Bice has retained its high standards on all accounts – food, service, atmosphere and price – and shall remain as one of my favourite Italians in town. Here’s to a four out of five FooDiva knife rating.
Bice is located at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah on JBR Walk. Licensed. Open daily for lunch and dinner. AED 260 per person.
How do you rate Bice? Have you dined in any of the other 25 Bices around the world? Do you have a favourite Italian in town?
P.S – this month’s Gourmet is on the shelves for another week. My column aside, check out my review of Alfie’s by Dunhill at Jumeirah Emirates Towers.