Is BB Social Dining just another DIFC restaurant?

BB Social Dining,BB,BB Dubai,DIFC,DIFC restaurants,Dubai restaurants,Dubai restaurant reviews,Restaurants in Dubai,Asian restaurants in Dubai,Asian restaurants,FooDivaIt’s hard to get excited by yet another restaurant opening in DIFC, in particular because of some closures, but that changed when I heard Alex Stumpf (head chef at Peyote) was the culinary mastermind behind BB Social Dining, along with wife-restaurateur Shabnum Stumpf, and front-of-house guru Spero Panagakis (ex-Zuma and many other ventures).

BB Social Dining is a far cry from the likes of Peyote and Zuma. Combining intimacy with a three-storey design, there really is nothing like BB in Dubai, and even better, the restaurant makes you feel like you’re not even in the city – partly because it sits in a former art gallery location. One of three entrances is at DIFC’s main Gate Village (8) valet parking on the ground floor. The only thing to indicate its presence is a hostess stand amidst rich, lush foliage and a sad excuse for a sign with two inconspicuous letters ‘BB’. It’s not even lit up at night, as if they don’t want you to find it. I find myself beaming with the thought Dubai could finally have its first restaurant speakeasy, if such a term even exists. The hostess is alert and sees me wandering around looking for the place and immediately calls out to confirm my reservation. Within seconds, I am inside the restaurant and boy, is it love at first sight.

I am greeted in harmony by not one, but three members of staff – I feel like I’m in a musical and by this point, it’s mindful to note they are all standing in different pockets of the restaurant on the first and second floor. Quirky black and white floor tiles, exposed pipework and potted plants are dotted throughout. Spiral staircases; hanging balconies; dim yellow lighting; and a beautiful al fresco dining terrace borrow modern European design influences. An open kitchen and bar area are perfect for an intimate a deux affair.

Like its interior, the service is equally refreshing. Judging from each team member’s interesting character, it is obvious the restaurant hires personalities. There is also a joyous sense of camaraderie and synergy between the front-of-house and back-of-house teams, which explains the efficiency. Over the course of our dinner, in addition to our waitress, the hostess and general manager popped by our table, making the entire dining experience personal, intimate and cosy.

On the munch front, BB (unsurprisingly) disregards the traditional menu format and opts to categorise dishes based on its Bs – baos, bowls, bbq and bites. Taking inspiration from the East, West and Middle East, the menu encourages social dining (read sharing) at very reasonable prices – calling all DIFC folks, here’s to your new local!

Soft shell crab bao - BB Social Dining - Dubai restaurants - FooDivaWe go with the habibti bao (softshell crab, watercress, jalapeno dressing) and crispy duck bao (foie gras, cucumber and lime hoisin). Sticking true to its ethos of differentiation by delivering a ‘continued evolution of the menu and serving dishes with a bold and creative approach’ as quoted by chef Alex – the baos arrive in its rightful size (as in Asia), but not served in the typical manner. Being Chinese, baos hold a very deep sentimental value, and that means I like them the way my grandma makes them – the traditional way. However, I must say Alex’s rendition – with the baos steamed and then toasted giving the shell a slight crisp is absolutely delectable. Traditionally, baos are only steamed to give rise to a soft spongy texture making it the perfect accompaniment to wet sauces, broths and gravies. However, whilst I am blown away by the creative marriage of flavours (jalapeno dressing with soft shell crab, and crispy duck with foie gras) – I wonder why eliminate such a key feature (almost a strength I reckon) of the bao? It almost seems like a wasted opportunity.

Moving onto the bowls (easily main courses), we opt for the duck ramen and beef pho. Hands down the most authentic Vietnamese pho in Dubai. The rice noodles are perfectly al dente with a smooth and delicate consistency balancing the stronger flavours in the bowl – lime, mint and basil. The beef is tender and flavourful on its own and most importantly, the dish is not drowning in garnishes (a common mistake in many Vietnamese restaurants). The only peeve I have is they could definitely be more generous with the serving of the broth. Nonetheless, the flavours are perfect and I feel like I’m in Vietnam. The duck ramen transports me back to my childhood days in Singapore and interestingly, the dish reminds me of a traditional Chinese herbal duck soup – thick, gorgeously bitter and bursting with flavours that can only be attributed to hours of overnight cooking and of course, duck fat just like my grandma’s. The sous vide egg is cooked with a soft, runny yolk – and the fried onions give a smokey yet sweet note. All in all, the flavours are on point and true to their taste, however I am a little underwhelmed by the lack of originality in BB’s bowl selection. For a restaurant priding itself on ‘pushing boundaries’, there’s not one bowl I haven’t tasted before.

Baonut - BB Social Dining - Dubai restaurants - FooDivaOnto desserts, I head straight for the baonut. Yet another interesting take on the traditional bao, the doughnut (made from home-made bao dough) is pillowy soft, light and fluffy and even better, served with fresh Chantilly cream and homemade strawberry jam on the side – almost similar to English scone accompaniments. The dessert is light with no particular flavour overpowering (a good thing for doughnuts). The waffle apple pie goes from crunchy to brittle to creamy with no overbearing sweetness from the black sesame ice cream and salted caramel. An interesting presentation of a salted caramel syringe allows you to control the sweetness. Paired with a refreshing Garden Tonic (rosemary & thyme infused Tanqueray gin, elderflower and tonic) – the combination of sweetness from the desserts, and the zest and fizz from the cocktail, surprisingly, works well together. On the drinks front, BB also has Dubai’s most affordable Champagne by the glass.

At a very reasonable AED145 per person based on three dishes each, plus an affordable wine list, home-grown BB is a casual yet chic concept serving a menu that is mostly Pan-Asian with a flair. I am not sure it fully qualifies as a speakeasy, but it is a hidden gem and a new local haunt that differentiates from the rest of the DIFC pack. BB deserves a high four out of five FooDiva knife rating. The all-star trio have done it again – bravo.

Have you tried BB? Where’s your go-to restaurant in DIFC?

Jovel.

Who is FooDiva’s guest reviewer? Jovel has lived in some of the world’s best culinary destinations including Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Switzerland working as a marketing and PR professional in the F&B industry. On the weekends, Jovel works off her Dubai dining by teaching indoor cycling classes and practising yoga.

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 4
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One Response to “Is BB Social Dining just another DIFC restaurant?”

  1. Monica January 13, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    Very good review and it’s inspired me to seek out and try thanks so much to you vua Jovel!

    Mx

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