There are some eating spaces where the food, rather than the ambience dictates the mood. Sicillia, the Italian trattoria at the Ibn Battuta hotel, Dubai, focuses firmly on pleasing the eye and palate and keeps your attention on the plate. The Italian chef loves feeding hungry souls who harken for familiar dishes with a hint of newness, and his menu reflects his roots.
We started with the cipollotta, which was a confection of aged goat cheese, pistachio and walnut topped with an onion confit on a pumpkin pan brioche served with a poached pear in spiced syrup. The sweet-spice flavour of the pear cut the sharpness of the cheese and left traces of sweet-salt on the tip of your tongue. The carpaccio de manzo was another delight. The slivers of cured beef served with sautéed mushrooms, potato crisps, Castelmagno cheese shards and balsamic caviar are an excellent example of how simple ingredients can complement flavours.
I'm always a bit wary of pizzas at 'Italian' joints because you never know what qualifies as thin or thick crust. Here though, the pizza conformed to thin-crust standards. The sauce was also a winner, made from fresh, juicy tomatoes and sprinkled generously with herbs. We tried the buffalo caprese which was topped with tomato sauce, fresh tomato, buffalo mozzarella, black olives and herbs. This basic pizza works well if you don't like competing textures.
If you enjoy fish, the baked Mediterranean bream, with semi-dried plum tomatoes, kalamata olives, and capers served with a zucchini citrus vinaigrette is recommeded. The dish was clean, wholesome and healthy. There are enough vegetarian options on the menu as well.
For me, the dessert said it all. The tiramisu came up trumps with the right quantity and contrast of sponge and cream. Another favourite was the saffron apple terrine with cinnamon cream and ice cream; inventive but familiar.
The chef knows his ingredients well and peddles his dishes just the right amount. Sicillia may not excite with its regular interiors but you make concessions for the staidness because of the food, which is a happy amalgam of the best of Italy.
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Meal for two Rs 4,000 (excluding taxes); for reservations call .. (+971-4) 444 56 13