In a new series, called Star-grazing, The National visits a few of the spots that won stars or were included in the Bib Gourmand category, which is "not quite a star, but most definitely not a consolation prize", according to the guide.
The first restaurant we went to is Torno Subito located in W Dubai — The Palm.
The story behind Torno Subito
The Italian restaurant was launched by Massimo Bottura — the culinary mastermind behind Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Modena — in February 2019.
Torno Subito marks the acclaimed chef's first venture outside his native Italy, and while Bottura regularly visits the UAE, the restaurant is helmed by his protege chef Bernardo Paladini, who spent seven years at Osteria Francescana and Franceschetta 58.
"When we opened four years ago in Dubai, there was no Michelin Guide here, so there was no expectation that: 'You must win a star'," Paladini tells The National.
"We came to Dubai to represent Italy at its best, and to create a contemporary rather than fine-dining restaurant, serving everything from beautiful Italian street food to more elaborate dishes.
"However, winning a star is a great feeling and an incredible achievement."
Paladini will soon move to Miami to open Torno Subito there, while chef Alessio Pirozzi will take over the reins in Dubai.
What's on the Michelin-starred menu
Following from its debut Michelin star, Torno Subito has put together a menu featuring what chef Paladini deems are some of the best dishes from his kitchen. Diners opting for this set menu will pay Dh450, plus Dh250 if you opt for the beverage pairing.
Scroll through the gallery below to see the dishes on the Best of Torno Subito menu
The meal begins with pappa al pomodoro, a thick, tangy and crunchy tomato and basil-infused amuse bouche, which the chef informs us is made from stale bread, in a bid to reduce food waste.
"The dish works well because of the combination of tomatoes, crispies and cheese. The foam on top is an extraction made from Parmesan crust that normally people throw away," explains Paladini.
Next comes a prawn cocktail, a delicious and uncharacteristically warm bite of steamed shrimp with cocktail foam and seaweed essence.
The next course — a rice salad without rice — encapsulates Torno Subito's mission to be a “fun dining rather than fine dining restaurant”, says Paladini. The dish comprises mussels, clams, scallops, octopus and cuttlefish, with seafood dressing, pickled vegetables and lemon essence.
This is followed by a rock lobster roll in a potato bun and with horseradish mayo, served in a Torno Subito-branded burger box, another playful touch.
The next two courses assuage any fears of going hungry: the tagliatelle al ragu (Bottura's signature dish, which is also served at Osteria Francescana) features egg pasta with hand-chopped Wagyu ragu, and the roasted Wagyu flap steak comes with olive oil-infused potato cream, crispy giardiniera and balsamic barbecue sauce.
The mains are followed by a small serving of pink pasta. However, one dish named Peaky Blinders is not your Alfredo-meets-arrabiata concoction (an affront to most traditional Italian chefs and diners), but rather Bottura's version of what pink pasta should look and taste like. For one, it's sweet (and labelled a pre-dessert on this menu) and the pink colour comes courtesy of marasca cherries, beetroot puree and beetroot powder, all topped with Parmigiano foam.
The final course is Tiramisubito — an exquisitely layered version of tiramisu with mascarpone, coffee and cacao under a crispy cocoa shell emblazoned with the restaurant's name. It's the most filling dish on this menu.
All in all, the Best of Torno Subito menu is hearty without being heavy, and effectively encapsulates the restaurant's playful vibe. Even the decor is inspired by Bottura's childhood on the Italian riviera, and includes everything from beach ball-shaped lights and a live dolci counter to a colourful canoe and gelato cart on the patio, which is open in the cooler months.
The a la carte menu is also available, with dishes priced between Dh75 and Dh155 for starters; Dh90 and Dh240 for pasta; Dh95 and Dh155 for pizza; Dh120 and Dh390 for mains; and Dh55 and Dh75 for dolci.
Torno Subito is open for lunch from 12.30pm to 3.30pm and for dinner from 6.30pm to 10pm; reservations can be made by contacting 04 245 5588.
Look out for Michelin-lauded restaurant Tasca, coming up next in The National's Star-grazing series