Sass Café – oui ou non?

Burj Khalifa view from Sass CafeMy expectations are low. Firstly, until a PR alert lands in my inbox, I had never heard of Monaco import, Sass Café, a restaurant let’s be clear, as far removed from a café as Dubai is from Dammam. Admittedly my one and only visit to Monte Carlo was before its inception I think. But more importantly, Sass Café is operated in Dubai by Bulldozer Group who also run Toko, which when I reviewed didn’t live up to sky high expectations. Credit for the name goes to its Monaco owners – Salvador ‘Sassa’ Treves and son Samy Sass.

Located in Al Fattan Currency House, right next to the main DIFC building (incidentally where Greg Malouf opens in September), Sass is hidden away up some escalators and on a terrace with this rather lovely Burj Khalifa view. Shame there’s no alcohol licence al fresco for now given our steam-free days are coming to an end. On that note, the wine list is limited whilst Sass awaits its full-fledged booze licence.

It’s much more intimate than I expect, in fact a pretty illuminated oryx bar is teeny – overlapping into the piano lounge and dining room, with a second storey reserved for private booths. The décor with huge fiery red chandeliers is a flashback to Boudoir at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort and a tinge of The Act – sultry, sexy and perhaps even burlesque. The lighting is moody and spot on – at least we can see, and kind-of photograph our food.

Sass Cafe barSass Cafe restaurant

Our intention is to have drinks and nibbles but there’s no bar menu per se and frankly no space either, so after bubbles, the hostess manages to squeeze our party of five into the restaurant and a banquette table. It’s buzzing on a Tuesday night so do book ahead.

The compact menu is French-Mediterranean inspired. With so many dishes appealing, we settle upon sharing a selection of entrées. But first up, a complimentary trio of tapenade, diced tomato and chicken liver pâté which serves as delicious bruschetta toppings. A sea bream ceviche is marinated in lashings of lime, red onion and coriander – a little too zesty in my opinion but that’s a personal opinion. A tartare of salmon and avocado arrives with slithers of moreishly good feather light black rice crackers. I can eat these forever. A dense yet smooth foie gras terrine is smothered on toasted brioche with a dollop of apple onion jam – polished off pronto. And on request they kindly oblige with more brioche.

Sea bream cevicheSalmon and avocado tartareFoie gras terrineVeal piccata

My main course of veal escalopes is cooked a la piccata – coated in flour and browned in butter. Served in a silky smooth lemon sauce oozing with butter – just a tinge of tartness and oh so decadent. A sprig of rosemary and a single roasted cherry tomato makes for a no-frills garnish. I nab a forkful of langoustine risotto and the rice has just the right bite to it, whilst there’s no skimping on shellfish. Simple fare all round with quality ingredients.

For dessert, crisp cigarillos ooze with warm dark chocolate but the cinnamon caramel sauce is a little redundant in my opinion. Nontheless, a sweet ending to a surprisingly excellent meal. Its only weak link the rather lacklustre presentation of every dish on boring white crockery.

I have two small qualms with the service – the very obvious upselling of expensive caviar dishes. Consumers have wisened up and don’t like to smell the sell, so don’t do it or if you insist, weave in a more affordable dish as well. Plus our champagne glasses for a pricey Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne (someone is celebrating – merci The Hedonista) are not chilled in advance, and Mrs H is not asked to taste. Issues easily remedied, but for a restaurant of this calibre unacceptable.

Sass Café is not going to rival our top-notch French-Mediterranean restaurant duo here – La Petite Maison and La Serre – but for a reasonable AED300 per person without booze it certainly exceeds my expectations. Here’s to a 3.5 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.

What’s your expectation of Sass?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3.5
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8 Responses to “Sass Café – oui ou non?”

  1. Sarah Walton May 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Spot on review. Will add, it’s the same crew that opened Toko Dubai.

    • FooDiva May 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Thanks Sarah. Toko’s mentioned in the opening para 😉

      • Sarah Walton May 7, 2014 at 5:27 pm

        Oops. It’s revealed. I’m a skimmer :0

  2. IshitaUnblogged May 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Isn’t AED300 per person without booze a bit too way expensive?

    • FooDiva May 7, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      It depends what you’re comparing it to Ishita. La Serre and LPM are around AED350-400 per person without booze. I am not saying it’s cheap but it’s below the going rate for an upscale restaurant in the heart of Dubai. Is there somewhere similar that offers better value for money? I’d love to go there 🙂

  3. Sally - My Custard Pie May 7, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    My Gorgonzola gnocchi were good and reasonably priced for this kind of venue in Dubai. It wasn’t all high-end luxury foods – some nicely executed comfort food (with elegance). I thought the service was pretty good and they were quite subtle at chucking us out at the appointed time. I like boring white plates! And as a citrus freak I adored the ceviche 🙂
    Excellent review. As they haven’t been open long there were surprisingly few errors.

    • FooDiva May 7, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks Sally. I felt the presentation of the food (on the boring white plates!) was a little slapdash and similar to each other – the veal in particular. Perhaps I am just being too critical. It’s definitely a place I would happily return to.

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