Review: Experience viva l’Italia at the Zest restaurant, One&Only The Palm, Dubai

There’s something magical when you enter the Zest restaurant at the One&Only The Palm. Apart from friendly staff, you are greeted by a bright and airy expanse of interior décor where magnificent pillars decked in snow-white are marked with quartz crystal carvings reminiscent of traditional Arabian floral designs. It’s a Monday evening and dinner is made of a lavish spread of Italian dishes, curated by three Michelin-staf chef Yannick Alléno. The food stations include: The cheese station, bread station, antipasti station, main course station, live cooking stations and the dessert station. Mind you, the spread of delectable Italian dishes is quite elaborate that it is impossible to try each and every dish.

Glasses about to be filled with tasty virgin pina colada

On another day, my colleague and I would have chosen to sit out in the terrace and dine al fresco, to enjoy the meal in a space of peace and quiet, away from the buzzing city. This time, however, we opt to sit inside, relaxing in a cozy corner and enjoying our drinks while stirring up an appetite.
Catching sight of the chefs creating risotto and grilling meats at the live cooking station almost creates a flurry of tastebuds coming alive and in this state I make my way to the bread station. The bread station is a huge avalanche of different types of Italian bread that you can ever think of – a true representation of Italian breads made in different parts of the country. My favourite is the squid ink and the tomato stained grissini, or breadsticks. Crunchy to munch while I decide to help myself to some aglio focaccia (garlic bread) and olive topped little breads that look like mini pizzas. The bread-tasting session proves to be a sublime one.
Other breads are pretty to look at, like the swirling colours of the rosmarino focaccia (rosemary flavoured bread) as well as mozzarella con basilico focaccia, mozzarella filled bread topped with whole basil leaves.

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Bread galore – a testament of authentic Italian breads

Next stop is the antipasti station which is very close to the cheese and pizza station. I already pile up my plate with a happy mix of antipasti, cheese and bruschetta. Trying fresh burrata (Italian cheese made from mozzarella, cream and stracciatella cheese, which looks like palm sized white doughballs in cream. Tough on the outside, it yields into the melt-in-the mouth softness that can be attributed to the mozzarella and cream filling.

I help myself to burrata

Balance is good and so I swing to the antipasti section which has carne secca (cured meats) and antipasti di mare (seafood antipasti) of sorts, vegetables as well as a delicious spread of bruschetta. Soft anchovies seated on a bed of finely chopped tomatos or artichoke with truffle oil (carciofi al tartufo bruschetta), anatra affumicata bruschetta (smoked duck bruschetta), vegetariano bruschetta (vegetarian bruschetta) or carciofi al tartufo bruschetta (artichoke with truffles bruschetta) sitting delicately on wooden platters. It only means one thing. When I eat brushetta, I feel like I’m at home.

Moving onto the main course. I have decided not to go for bubbling and cheese smelling lasagna or cannelloni, as I am more interested in seeing how the chef prepare my meat cuts at the live pit. If you decide to go down the route that I did, that is select the various cuts of meat as well as seafood, the chef will guide you as to the right amount of time to grill these. The outcome? Succulent meats, perfectly finished and garnished with Italian herbs – another hallmark of the evening.

Grilled prawns and fish, perfectly prepared.

While the risotto is being prepared for my colleague, I have a conversation with the chef who tells me how they prepare ravioli from scratch as the focus of all foods is to have the fresh bite when guests eat them. I opt for the carciofl con ricotta (artichoke with ricotta cheese), the other choice being ravioli con prezzemolo funghi (parsley ravioli with mushrooms). The freshness as the ravioli is served to me is unbeatable. Stern on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, the goodness of the ricotta cheese with an unbeatable blend of the artichoke.

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Freshly prepared ravioli yet to be cooked.

The risotto ordered by my colleague is poured into a solid mound of parmesan cheese and the heat melts the cheese so that it gets incorporated into the dish. The chefs use a seven cheese combination which is a secret recipe.

The chef mounts the freshly prepared risotto into the parmesan mound.

Now, if there is any dish I’ve never tasted before it is a sausage looking roll that is rolled with sage leaves. Upon further investigation, I find it is a salmtimbocca, a veal tenderloin wrapped with bresaola and sage leaves and as it grills on the spit, the smoky taste of sage leaves start to emanate as the chef seasons the dish with a dash of lemon, salt and pepper.

Veal salmtimbocca wrapped in sage leaves
Lamp chops and risotto

Dessert is easy. I go straight for the Baba con zenzero e limone (Baba with ginger and lemon), a traditional Italian dessert from Naples. These little cakes have a bite before you feel the sryrup moisten the tongue. I then try a piece of panettone, a heavy Italian cake brimming with fruits and nuts, originating from Milan. It goes well with a hot drink, thus ending the meal on a sweet and memorable note.

My favourite – Baba con zenzero e limone (Baba with ginger and lemon)
Slices of panettone worth trying, for those with a sweet tooth.

Where:Zest restaurant, One and Only The Palm
The Palm Jumeirah – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 440 1010

Images by Sally Jane.

The luxe factor is

8.5 Food
8 Beverages
9 Decor
7.5 Service
8 Ambiance
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