Intersect By Lexus – Ticket to Ride, or Baby Don’t Care?

Intersect by Lexus - Dubai restaurantsLet’s start a little differently here. Before reading this review, take a moment to look at the Intersect By Lexus website. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere; take your time.

Ah, you’re back.

So are you feeling confused? Are you uncertain what Intersect By Lexus actually is, what with the faff about how it’s “neither a dealership, nor a traditional retail space”, but rather a “third space between home and work for our guests to experience the brand without getting behind the steering wheel of one of our cars”? Or that it’s “a comfortable destination between work and home, that offers an inspiring networking opportunity for luxury lifestyle seekers with an interest in design, art, fashion, culture, music and technology, through its comfortable lounge, inviting eatery, exclusive library and inspiring garage space”. Have your eyes glazed over yet? Do you have any inclination to visit DIFC Gate Village to find out what Intersect by Lexus actually might be (it presumably has something to do with food if you’re reading this on FooDiva, right? And Lexus is Toyota’s high-end car brand, right?), or are you completely put off by that corporate verbal effluent?

It turns out that Intersect by Lexus is a perfectly fine restaurant – even a potentially excellent one – serving a modern international menu with some subtle Asian twists, and helmed by chef Tomas Reger (co-founder of Dubai’s secret supper clubs). The overt Lexus branding is largely restricted to a sporty concept car down some steps, but hidden from the dining area. It’s definitely a restaurant rather than a dealership. But the corporate concept machine has done its level best to obscure that.

So let’s focus on the restaurant and chef Tomas’ food. I’m going to do him a favour and ignore the further outbreak of corporatese that attempts to describe the menu, and the ill-judged cursory attempt to ram in a wholly unnecessary and misleading sharing concept (pet peeve, I know). It’s enough to say that the tight, focused menu of nine starters and eight mains (and, separately, five desserts) has some excellent modern international dishes that are well worth seeking out.

Intersect by Lexus - Chef Tomas Reger - Dubai restaurantsWe started with a kale and avocado salad with dehydrated linseed wafers and Portuguese charred octopus in romesco sauce. That salad may look slightly unpromising, but was an unexpected delight, with the linseed wafers offering good contrast to the slippery avocado and well-dressed kale. It’s the best raw vegan kale-based dish I’ve ever had (conceding there might not be too much competition). I’m a big fan of Portuguese food, and the octopus was perfectly cooked, with smokiness coming from both the charred exterior and sauce, but with the tentacle flesh still lovely and tender.

Mains followed the same high-quality pattern. My beef short ribs with celeriac and leek puree was a beautifully unctuous cut of meat that had been cooked for 36 hours, with some beef crisps on top adding some crunch, and the smooth puree served on tiny cubes of apple offering welcome balance to the rich meat. The portion size was also perfect. My dining companion’s dish of Chilean seabass glazed with smoked onion puree, and served with pak choi and yuzu-dressed turnips, was a real highlight. The thick, moist cut of fish was one of the best I’ve ever encountered in a restaurant, and I really liked the sharp yuzu kick on the little turnip balls.

Desserts were perfectly good without perhaps reaching the same heights of the starters and mains – though I suspect chocaholics might disagree with me when it comes to my companion’s lichu hazelnut chocolate cake and its single-origin ganache. My kalamansi merengue [sic] tart, with its citrusy core and ice cream offered a welcome counterpoint to the richness of my main; but they really do need to change the spelling of ‘meringue’ on the menu. Unless, perhaps, the idea is diners will start dancing the merengue afterwards?

Service was uniformly excellent; attentive, professional, and friendly without being overfamiliar. For example, if a glass of wine is ordered, the bottle is brought to the table, and a tasting is offered before the glass is poured; as it should be when a single glass is ordered in a good restaurant. The dreaded Dubai principle of forgetting about a table once the plates are cleared wasn’t a factor; staff stopped by at appropriate intervals to check on us, and I was able to ask for the bill without any issues. However, as my dining companion pointed out, given how empty the restaurant was – just two covers on a weekend evening – it would have been remarkable if we hadn’t had really attentive service.

And therein lies a problem. The food was excellent. The service was excellent. Prices were entirely fair given the quality of the food on offer – AED500 for two (excluding alcohol). The carefully designed and well-lit modern dining space with its warm wood and leather feel, and white bookcase columns filled with art and design books is welcoming without being too informal. But Intersect desperately needs to draw in more punters. Our friendly waitress stated that the restaurant is really busy at weekday lunches, so it’s apparently succeeding in bringing in the DIFC lunch crowd. Dinner, not so much.

Given how good chef Tomas’ food is, that’s a real shame. I can’t help but feel that confusion over the concept might be an issue here. Intersect By Lexus isn’t a “comfortable lounge, inviting eatery, exclusive library and inspiring garage space”; it’s a restaurant, not a car dealership with foodie extras. Yes, it has an attractive concept car hidden down some steps, and there’s a scattering of Lexus corporate branding, but it’s a restaurant first and foremost – and a really promising one at that. For now it’s 3.5 out of 5 FooDiva knives, but sort out the confusing corporate concept, generate some evening atmosphere, and this could easily be a four knife restaurant.

Are you more or less likely to visit a restaurant associated with a luxury brand? What matters more to you – the restaurant concept or the food?

The Man in the White Hat.

So who’s FooDiva’s anon guest reviewer, The Man in the White Hat? He has an abiding interest in both history and food; his holidays tend to combine an intriguing local cuisine with a UNESCO World Heritage site, and he’s eaten his way across some 50 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Australasia. While now based in the UK, his work occasionally brings him back to Dubai.

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3.5
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10 Responses to “Intersect By Lexus – Ticket to Ride, or Baby Don’t Care?”

  1. Marta January 26, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Can’t wait to try it!

    • The Man in the White Hat January 26, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      Let us know if you do give it a try, Marta – I’m always interested in seeing what other people think!

  2. KJ January 30, 2016 at 2:11 am

    Thanks for sharing , Will definitely check them out soon 🙂

  3. Apeksha February 4, 2016 at 11:31 am

    ‘the sharp yuzu kick on the little turnip balls’ this is the cutest culinary agro prose i’ve read today 😀
    I did visit Intersect last month, since we get an Al Futtaim employee discount and you are right the website does do the place a disservice. I’m vegetarian so i stuck to the kale salad. Your review of that mirrors my thoughts exactly on the salad.

    • The Man in the White Hat February 4, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Glad you liked the kale salad, Apeksha. I ordered it specifically because it sounded so unpromising; I’m not sure ‘dehydrated linseed wafers’ are something I’d usually search for on a restaurant menu. So it really was a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be so good. The branding may be an issue (I’ll expand on that when I reply to Jayeim below), but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the food.

  4. JayEim February 4, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Heyyyyyyyy. MWH, welcome back…….a bit too windy in old Blighty?
    How is the six pint a week rule doing.

    This place is the typical branding gone haywire.

    The individual elements are present however with an acute nonsymbiotic branding.

    The interior does have some nice elements and some grossiers ones. I personally dislike the marble table/bar for the sheer use of marble=cold.

    The menu reads nice but the website makes it a point in calling the place an “eatery”. Why?
    To add insult to injury, the video on the website is showing a nightclub ambiance with a DJ. Why?
    The crowd looks more familiar with smoking mesacaline than ordering a mesclun ladden dish…..nevermind eryngii…..can you smoke that as well?

    Egg yolk confit……so they poached the egg in butter or oil. I should try that sqeezed in a croissant.
    Oh, I know, egg yolk confit over a slice of Foie Gras on top of a pate a choux dressed with a sauce ciboulette.

    The usual dilemma of branding is Endorsement. The use of a well known or famous person name or product is a difficult decision as lot of consumer/costumer reaction will be based on the endorsement proposition.

    Here we have Toyota endorsing a restaurant. Am I supposed to buy spare parts for my hunger or a tune up for my palate??????
    I would expect anytime a person in a blue and white Al Futtaim overall with a big screwdriver crossing the room………

    Branding stops being branding when you want to shuv it up your customer throats.
    Can I offer you an oil change with your salad Sir?

    It is a shame as the menu is interesting but the crowd sucks.

    So here you go, my Alt review and comments based on your review and comments

    Did I say welcome back 😉

    • The Man in the White Hat February 4, 2016 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks for the welcome back Jayeim; nothing to to with the British weather – everything to do with a new contract; but it’s short-term this time.

      As to the key points…

      There really is a good restaurant here. The menu’s tight and well-thought out. The quality of the food is good. The restaurant decor balances the needs of relaxed and formal. The evening atmosphere needs work, but this might come with time. If this was ‘Intersect by Chef Tomas Reger’, I’d have likely written a rave review.

      But you’re absolutely right, the branding has gone haywire. The website and other branding does its level best to obscure what Intersect does well – it’s a good restaurant with a talented chef – with any amount of nonsense about ‘third spaces’, ‘eatery’, and the various retail and car-related options. So many disparate elements are thrown into the branding that it’s almost impossible to know in advance what ‘Intersect by Lexus’ actually is. It’s not attractive luxury lifestyle branding, it’s _confusing_. I went to the restaurant expecting to find a high-end car dealership with a good-quality cafe attached; instead I found a likeable restaurant with a car in the basement.

      And let’s be honest, is anyone here really more likely to go to a restaurant because ‘Lexus’ is part of the branding – especially if the branding doesn’t even manage to get across that it _is_ first and foremost a restaurant? Lexus is a reliable premium car brand, but at the end of the day it’s still a posh Toyota. Maybe we can revisit the idea of car branding for a restaurant when someone opens ‘Nexus by Bugatti’; granted, that’s arguably an ultra-posh Volkswagen, but at least it’s a sexy ultra-posh Volkswagen.

      Chef Tomas clearly has a very promising future; he’s an excellent chef. But the corporate PR people at the brand he’s currently working for could perhaps usefully rethink their approach.

  5. Sally - My Custard Pie February 4, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I went along pre official opening and only because I’m a fan of Tomas Reger. A car brand restaurant is a disincentive to me. However I was so surprised at how nice the space is and warmed to it immediately. Must go back for dinner – and I hear they have a very distinctive wine list too.

    • The Man in the White Hat February 4, 2016 at 7:23 pm

      It is a good wine list Sally – well thought out, compact (a bit like the actual menu), and fairly priced by DIFC standards. And likewise the space.

      So I think the consistent message here across posts is: ignore the corporate fluff and Lexus branding, and focus on the restaurant!

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