A hard act to follow?

The Act Dubai

Photo courtesy The Act

Dubai; Stepping out of the lift on the 42nd floor, a swimming pool looms ahead. Where ARE we going? Thank goodness someone intercepts us and whisks us through a fire exit door, and then another one blasting ‘no photography’, and then…oh wow. We’re in another world, all dark and Victorian burlesque – think boudoir, sexy cabaret and Moulin Rouge. It’s more intimate than I expect.

We’re in The Act at the Shangri-La, one of Dubai’s string of new glammed up supper clubs as I call them. This one’s a Simon Hammerstein Las Vegas theatre club concept offering a first here, Peruvian cuisine. It’s the highest theatre in the world apparently, gosh we even beat Las Vegas. It’s the same peeps behind Blue Marlin in Ghantoot.

The hostess glides across and we follow her to our table a few steps up from the stage – yeah a banquette! Up above are private enclaves, who knows what goes on behind those drawn curtains. We’re mesmerised, almost speechless as we take in our surreal surroundings. It’s so good to be somewhere different. Our waiter who turns out to be Macedonian and hugely adorable, scores brownie points immediately by unearthing prosecco not on the wine list (Zonin – very reasonably priced for Dubai at AED 265). Given the wine list is pretty extortionate, he doesn’t even attempt to upsell, well done…for us not the owner.

He runs through the menu which is divided into a number of starter options from ceviches and tiraditos to enrollados and salads, mains and accompaniments, with the idea of share and share alike. Allow me to explain as our trio progresses through the meal.

Our starters  - The ActProseccoMain courses - The Act

Ceviche, made world-famous by Nobu who worked in Peru before setting up his own business is raw seafood marinated in citrus juices which helps cook it a tad. In our case we opt for the yellowfin tuna, which arrives diced – and in this case cured with aromatic citrus yuzu whose sweet mandarin undertones complement the robust chive, ginger and soya seasoning. I eat spoonful after spoonful, and could easily order another portion.

The tiradito resembles carpaccio and our slithers of tender octopus sit on a bed of olive sauce topped with spicy diced rocoto, a South American red capsicum species, and sprinkled with togarashi, a Japanese chilli spice infused with orange, sesame, ginger and seaweed that I discovered at Chez Sushi (incidentally supermarkets here do sell it – makes for a great rub on steamed fish or just sprinkled in a salad). Needless to say this is one hot and spicy dish.

The enrollado, basically Japanese sushi without the wasabi and soya accompaniments. Our combo has rolls of beef, seared chifa-style, a Peruvian take on wok-style frying, along with beef tartare and crispy potato – all on a bed of strongly smoked onion and tomato confit. I love the smoky antidote, but one of my fellow diners isn’t too keen – a subjective preference though.

Next up is a portion of prawns coated in quinoa and fried – personally I find the Argentine superfood quinoa bland and hugely over-rated, but this reincarnation makes for a moreishly good crispy coating with a sweet and tangy passion fruit and rocoto dip plus some baby violet potatoes.

The grilled seafood dish arrives on a sizzling platter, and given it’s a main course the portion is only marginally larger than our well-sized starters yet three times the price! The calamari in particular impresses with its slightly spiced and buttery texture. Accompanied by a portion of grilled ratte potatoes – soft and nutty.

My friend digs into a sorbet duo of maracuya passion fruit and pisco sour, whilst we settle for cocktails, in my case gloriously good and tangy Pisco Sour.

By that stage three hours and four performing acts later of which only one, the twisting acrobatic chica on the rope, is truly memorable. They would certainly benefit from adding a few more shows. Service is slick and knowledgeable, one of the best I’ve seen in Dubai. Whilst the Peruvian food is exquisite, the huge discrepancy in prices – our starters range from AED 100-170, and the main at AED 300 – makes for a very expensive meal. But then again with no cover charge, you’re paying for a theatre experience. Beware though make sure to exit at midnight, otherwise you’ll be whacked with a hefty AED 3,000 minimum table charge. And exit we did, just like Cinderella…to the hotel’s cosy Balcony Bar for cheese and port.

If what we are eating sets the standard for Peruvian cuisine in Dubai, then Coya when it opens next year at the new Four Seasons will have a hard act to follow. Here’s to a four out of five FooDiva knife rating.

Supper clubs can be defined in different ways. If you’re after a similar experience, everyone raves about the Music Hall at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and bizarrely in the same hotel, the soon-to-open original Supper Club. I can still remember eating salmon ceviche with a latex glove in the Amsterdam outpost. At the same time, the London trend of dinner parties at unusual and often underground locations is catching on here thanks to social concierge Lime & Tonic’s monthly secret supper clubs, as well as similar concepts by Restronaut and Dinner Club 57 – and these are home-grown affairs, a far cry from the international imports Dubai loves.

The National discusses Dubai’s supper club trend here, with a quote from yours truly 🙂 What does a supper club mean to you? Any experiences you’d like to share?

The Act Dubai is located at the Shangri-La on the Sheikh Z, 42nd floor – entrance at hotel rear. T; +971 (0) 52 8119900. Open Thursday and Sunday only from 9pm to 3pm. Licensed. Price per head without booze AED 290 – with two bottles of Prosecco and five cocktails AED 558 each.

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 4
  • Posted under
    Dubai, Hotels, Licensed, Peruvian, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, Sheikh Zayed, Supper club, Theatre club

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22 Responses to “A hard act to follow?”

  1. GA June 27, 2013 at 10:39 am

    I have been waiting in the wings for you to do this one, it was either going to be a huge success or one major disaster. The 3000 table charge after midnight has caused some major discussion with some of my friends. Sounds like a good but expensive experience, will be doing a Lime Tonic event later when the best friend gets back after the summer 🙂

    • FooDiva June 27, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      There’s really no need to stay after midnight three hours is plenty…you are allowed to go to the bar but that was heaving as we left. And the Balcony Bar makes for a great nightcap. I’ll definitely do another L&T supper club after Ramadan – next week’s is booked up apparently. x

      • GA June 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm

        Good things sell out 🙂

  2. NC June 27, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Gosh I so disagree with you on this one FoodDiva! I agree that the venue is very Moulin Rouge, although its a good thing its dark as the wear and tear on the place is terrible. I’d also agree that the food is really excellent, nice Peruvian/Japanese fushion that was very tasty and creative, albeit pricey.

    But the service! We seem to have had very different experiences… From the Hostess being late so we were queing in the heat for 10 minutes downstairs, to being seated at a table not set for the right number in the booking, having to stand up to get drinks ordered, stand up to get food menus, have a waitress say ‘yah yah yah wait a minute’ when we asked for attention, then waited 30 minutes for Cervices to be served, 45 minutes for Rolls to be served, and to be told at 2335 (when mains were served at 2325 after much complaining about the long wait for the food) that “here is your Bill you have to leave the table in 5 minutes…..” The Service was overall seriously arrogant, unpleasant and unacceptable. We asked to order dessert and ate them slowly just to make our point, reluctantly paid the whole hefty bill and walked out the door of ACT vowing never to return.
    Honestly they made some of the other well known Lounge bar venues known for their arrogant staff seem pleasant and friendly!

    • FooDiva June 27, 2013 at 3:30 pm

      Gosh your service really did differ! Sadly and I’ve said this many times before, Dubai is generally inconsistent in all aspects of the dining experience, in particular service. So clearly The Act doesn’t get it right all the time. Well let’s hope they are monitoring this review. If you didn’t, you should send them a written complaint after such a negative experience. Appreciate your comment.

  3. Kellie Whitehead June 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you for another thorough, intelligent review.
    Annoyingly, costs and table cover charges are not going to go away any time soon – remember being stung with the same at Sanctuary Nightclub at Atlantis – what , 5 years ago – and not a great place ( is it still open?)..
    Unfortunately, there are plenty of people with more money that taste to spend it.
    What is just brilliant is the trend of homegrown experiences as you detail above – , and no imports in sight – Authenticty in Dubai! very much welcome 🙂

    • Julie June 27, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      We were there last weekend, and immediately were extremely impressed with the decor! The Food we found overpriced, but were expecting that, for dinner with a show and no cover charge. Where it fell very short we all felt, was the lack of a show. If you are at a supper club and are expecting dinner and a show and you watch 4 short and frankly quite average acts (except the acrobat which I loved), its massively disappointing.

      We hung around after midnight, lurking at the back by the bar, and found the balance of the acts a vast improvement! It almost makes you wonder, what the point of going for dinner is, when they save all the best for the nightclub part of the night…

    • FooDiva June 27, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      Thank you Kellie. Yes I remember Sanctuary – it has closed down and been replaced by a similar concept I think! On the plus side, Dubai’s dining scene is developing and we now have so much more choice including all these home-grown concepts. Whilst the choice expands, competition rises and costs drop – but not for booze in this town!

  4. Tony C W June 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    A real shame that Clubs are closed during Ramadan as this would have been a good time to ‘try the ACT out’.
    Thanks for your yet another factual review.

    • FooDiva June 27, 2013 at 10:23 pm

      Thanks Tony. Yes I should have reviewed this one earlier!

  5. IshitaUnblogged June 27, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Again another interesting ‘act’ alibi an expensive one. The dining scene is becoming so exciting in Dubai, isn’t it? It’s true even amongst mid-range restaurants. Your posts are as usual great reads, sometimes I wait for you to write them so that I can indirectly visit these places!!!

    • FooDiva June 27, 2013 at 10:32 pm

      In particular the last year, Dubai’s restaurant scene has grown exponentially with so many new concepts – yes many are still imported, but if the market demands it so be it. My review list is never-ending and am now having to prioritise the restaurants I feel deserve a shout-out which is tricky as you can’t always tell until you’ve visited.

      That’s so sweet of you Ishita. Even if my readers can’t always get to a new restaurant, at least I can take them on the dining journey with FooDiva – especially if they’re looking to check out the competition 🙂

  6. dave reeder June 27, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    When the city is crying out for Peruvian food, why overcomplicate with some kind of club theme? Just give us the food!

    • FooDiva June 27, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Some of us want more than just food Dave! Dining is about the whole experience and atmosphere is a key component of that 🙂 Anyhow, be patient you can wait for Coya. Am hoping for a new Chilean restaurant too.

      • dave reeder June 27, 2013 at 11:08 pm

        You’re in Paris. Do you dine at Le Moulin Rouge or Pierre Gagnaire? Exactly…

        • FooDiva June 30, 2013 at 8:56 am

          In my case both!

  7. Natalie September 5, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Food: Lacking in variety. Does not cater for allergies. Not worth 500 dirhams! How they are getting away with serving 2 options of main meal per table of 4 or 6 is CRAZY. Two plates were delivered to our table of 5 (a steak and a sea bass option), we waited a few minutes for the rest to arrive but were told this was it. We were to share the two main meals between 5 of us. 3 of us were allergic to seafood, but there was no option OTHER than the seabass.

    Drink: Lacking in variety. Cheap. Only allowed to order a drink when your glass is empty and you can prove it! Ridiculous at a brunch. Only 3 hours of food and drink included in the way over priced 495 dirhams compared to other brunches that offer 4 or 4.5 hours with considerably more variety and generosity.

    Ethos: Racist towards westerners. Confused about what type of establishment they actually want to be. Example: promotes scantily clad acrobats and women twisting themselves into all sorts of positions, offers free flowing alcohol, servers are wearing sexy corsets, then throws people out when they start dancing (on the dance floor, with everyone else). Bizzare!?

  8. Natalie September 5, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    The Act Dubai. Would not recommend this racist, over priced, poor quality place to anyone. Racism towards white people is rife here. I filmed them violently throwing Dan out (when he was SAT at the bar talking) and they told me they would “break my phone” and for a long period of time they stole it and tried guessing my pass code so they could delete the videos. Nothing to hide hey guys??

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