Social by Heinz Beck at Waldorf Astoria – does it differentiate?
In a city like Dubai, where a new hotel or restaurant opening is as commonplace as roadside construction, one must truly be able to stand out from a rather formidable crowd. Will a restaurant whose name above the door is a German chef known for his three Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome and cutting-edge cuisine, and a landmark (arguably) location allow for Social by Heinz Beck to differentiate itself from the pack?
Social by Heinz Beck can be found at the newly opened Waldorf Astoria, tucked away on the east crescent of Palm Jumeirah. After passing by the iconic, if a bit hectic, Atlantis and Sofitel, the calm elegance of the Waldorf is appreciated, as is the sleek yet cosy interior of the restaurant itself. For the hotel having only opened earlier this year, it was surprisingly bustling (and became increasingly busier as the evening wore on).
Given the relatively new status of Social, however, there were no growing pains in service; from start to finish, the staff and service at Social was top notch. Each role was adeptly filled by a charming and knowledgeable individual. The hostess was gracious, inquiring if we would prefer to sit near the sliding glass doors that gave view into the bustling kitchen or in a quieter corner near the back with window views of Dubai beyond the Palm (we opted to view the action of the kitchen from the former). The bartender ambled by offering pre-dinner libations suggestions (we indulged in a cosmopolitan and dry martini at his urging). The chef de cuisine himself (not Heinz who flies in every few months) emerged from the kitchen brandishing the amuse-bouche platter. Our wait staff were attentive (if a bit overly so) knowing their menu, and the friendly sommelier kindly proffered wine selections to accompany our dinner.
At first glance, the menu appears to be fairly straight-forward; however, as soon as the amuse-bouche platter containing bubbled, black tapioca chips, miniature savoury macaroons (scarlet beetroot as well as black pepper with a tapenade filling), and a foie gras mousse with nuts was set before us, it was clear that this would be no ordinary dining experience.
At our waiter’s suggestion, we placed an order for two starters: the grilled tuna with wasabi mayonnaise and lobster medallions with spring salad and papaya. The tuna was cooked to pink perfection and the wasabi mayo had just the right amount of bite – the lightest ‘mayonnaise’ that I have ever had the pleasure to taste. The lobster medallions did not hold the same weight, particularly for the price tag (AED138). The plate was predominately comprised of the spring salad, and the medallions themselves were a little under-seasoned (and sparse), lacking the same flavour punch that the tuna delivered.
For our mains, we opted to split the tomato and rucola risotto with tuna tartare and pecorino (AED82) and the fillet of sea bass ensconced in a liquorice crust on almond cream with artichoke (AED172). Neither dish disappointed. The risotto was cooked perfectly (no mean feat), matching a topping of an equally supple tuna tartare. A wholly different dish, the generous portion of sea bass offered a delightfully sweet and savoury taste combination – a testament to the liquorice crust (harkening memories of a Christmas meal), coupled with the saltiness of the artichokes. The sea bass fillet itself flaked exceptionally well and the almond cream complimented both the fish and vegetable nicely.
By this point in the evening, both my husband and I were quite full (or ‘had sufficient’ as my grandmother would politely demure), but knew we could not resist one final dish; Chef Heinz’ signature raspberries 1.0 (AED60). A true testament to Heinz Beck’s culinary creativity, this sweet ending showcased ten different textures and methods of preparing the raspberry. You’ll have to forgive me for only recalling nine of the ten as we inhaled the dessert so enthusiastically, I neglected to note all of the versions; crystalised raspberry sugar, raspberry meringue, raspberry sorbet, fresh raspberry, raspberry mousse, raspberry jelly, raspberry cookie, raspberry sponge cake, raspberry chocolate. The dessert lived up to the hype and yes, despite our protestations that we were full, we managed to finish every last iteration of the fruit – stopping short of licking the bowl. The dessert was innovative, true, but beyond that, each version of the raspberry was fresh and robust – a veritable feast for the eyes, nose, and tongue – almost like having ten miniature desserts in one.
The Dubai restaurant scene certainly has a rival for an exquisite dining experience at Social by Heinz Beck, but one that doesn’t come cheap – with starters priced from AED68-138, mains ranging from AED78-200, and desserts between AED55-60. That being said, the impeccable service from friendly staff, the sleek elegance (without taking itself too seriously or trendily) of the Waldorf-Astoria and the restaurant itself, and of course, the artfully created dishes from the team behind the genius that is Heinz Beck, Social is no doubt worth (almost) every fil.
Do yourself a favour and reserve a table soon, as I’m certain it will quickly become a challenge. If you’ve already had the pleasure of dining at Social, do you think it’s on a par with other top dining experiences in Dubai? Is it worthy of a four out of five FooDiva knife rating which is my recommendation?
So who’s our new guest restaurant reviewer? “I’m Abby, a twenty something (a lady never reveals her true age) self-proclaimed foodie, exploring my new home – and restaurants – here in Dubai. I’m a former healthcare consultant turned expat wife and writer of my own blog.“