Can Laluz shine a new light on Spanish cuisine in Dubai?
Spanish cuisine is extremely underrated outside Spain with many believing it is principally tapas and paella. The truth actually unveils a cuisine with an integrated history of contrasting cultures and regional traditions, all combining to create flavoursome dishes as deep as the roots of the country itself. Each one of the 17 regions in Spain has different dishes and produce they are proud of, which is evident when you look at the Catalonian-inspired menu at a new independently operated Dubai restaurant, Laluz – located in the Four Seasons DIFC (with its own dedicated entrance).
Chef Alain Devahive worked under Ferran Adrià at Elbulli (for a decade not for just a stage), heralded as the best restaurant in the world and respected for its experimental recipes before its closure in 2011. At Laluz, meaning ‘the light’, the chef has taken some Catalonian regional classics, along with broader Spanish and Mediterranean dishes and added a splash of novelty to really transform the cuisine. The food in Cataluña is a fusion of Mediterranean and French cooking, with less Moorish influences than other regions of Spain. The proximity to the sea gives Catalonian fare a wealth of seafood, whilst many dishes are similar to neighbouring regions, but with an added twist. For instance, paprika is omitted from sausages which differentiates them from Spanish chorizo – and their version of paella is made with squid ink rice and seafood.
We begin our evening with our waiter talking us through the menu and explaining the different plates on offer – falling slightly on deaf ears for my Spanish partner, who is busy scanning the menu for his favourites. The team is extremely well prepared and know what they are talking about, with numerous Spanish voices, adding a touch of authenticity to the experience.
Never being able to resist this dish when I see it on a menu, I start with a beef carpaccio with foie gras and truffle vinaigrette – very much Italian-inspired – while my partner chooses the poached egg with asparagus and truffle sabayon. Eggs are such a staple in the Spanish diet with the likes of huevos rotos and tortilla, he can’t resist. Love or hate, the serving style is sharing, just like tapas. But that’s where the similarity ends. The beef carpaccio is probably one of the best I have tasted in Dubai. The sprinkling of toasted pine nuts blends well with the truffle and foie gras, while the occasional shaving of orange peel brings the dish to life with a zesty kick. The poached eggs are not so adventurous. Although intricately presented, the asparagus and truffle flavours are slightly bland, with only the strong taste of egg emanating.
Although our main courses arrive a little too soon after we finish our appetisers, they look intriguing so we are eager to taste. The Mediterranean prawn black rice is served with a prawn carpaccio and seafood foam covering the squid-tinted rice. As I take my first bite, I am instantly transported to the Barceloneta beach with the taste of freshly caught seafood and Valencian ‘bomba’ rice melting into the rich squid ink flavours. The Spanish baby lamb ribs are tender and almost fall from the bone. They are simply grilled in effortlessly light Spanish olive oil and served with well-seasoned, roasted carrots. The mains are well rounded, although portions are a little small for the price tag, and a side dish is definitely needed. On that note, the pimientos de piquillo, a type of sweet red chilli pepper, is a little too heavy for my liking, but my partner surprises himself by saying they are even better than his grandmother’s – something he most definitely won’t be telling her! However, our spirits are dampened slightly, as our waiter continuously asks us how our meal is progressing, and lingers close by to remove our plates the second we finish, making us feel rushed.
When I see the dessert menu, I know we have to try the “torrija” with yeast ice cream, a typical sweet served during Easter in Spain, and a particular favourite of mine. Although the torrija by itself, a fried, milky bread, has been slightly over-caramelised, the delightful flavours come together when combined with the ice cream and the sprinkling of cocoa powder.
Laluz has ‘date night’ written all over it. The soft jazz tunes playing in the background are loud enough to add a lounge-esque touch to the restaurant, without having to raise your voice, and the buzzing hum of people enjoying cocktails at the bar is reassurance of a venue well chosen. The interiors are extremely understated, with a subtle elegance that doesn’t show off too much. The lighting, not surprisingly given the name, is designed in a particular way to shine light onto the centre of each table, while still reflecting a mysterious, mood-lit ambiance.
The cuisine at Laluz marries an exciting, experimental cooking style with simple, traditional dishes to elevate the existing Spanish offering in Dubai (the closest contender is El Sur‘s attempt). Starting at AED330 per person for three courses (without alcohol), it is certainly more expensive than its counterparts, but in line with expectations of a high-end DIFC restaurant. The overbearing service is one that needs addressing though. Here’s to a 3.5 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.
What are your favourite regional Spanish dishes? Do you think Dubai represents Spanish cuisine well?
Until next time,
Note – Laluz is open for daytime dining over Ramadan as is most of DIFC. Here’s FooDiva’s round-up.
Holly Woolston has spent the last five years writing about restaurants, hotels and destinations in the UAE and on her travels. She is addicted to tasting new food, whilst discovering new destinations.
— FooDiva (@FooDivaWorld) June 13, 2016