Rare review: Five dishes to try at Indian restaurateur's Dubai steakhouse

From South African Wagyu to slow-charred octopus, this smokehouse knows its meats

Oyster blade steak with Chilean-style salsa. Photo: Rare
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The National's Taste Test series takes you inside the latest restaurants just before they open their doors, and ask chefs what dishes they would recommend and what makes them special, for you to then order (or, indeed, avoid).

Here we get a preview of the menu at Rare, a steakhouse in Dubai that opens this evening.

Inside Rare

In many ways, Rare is a much-awaited evolution of its sister restaurant CMP Bar & Grill, which was among the restaurants that closed down last year due to redevelopment plans at The Pointe. Rare opens on Friday at C2, the new licensed restaurant hub at City Walk.

“CMP was my first venture, and operated at The Pointe for four and a half years,” owner Sahil Anand tells The National. “So it was definitely an experience and I've brought a lot of that here.”

The steakhouse features a muted colour palette, with earthy hues of maroon and green, as well as wood elements. A prominent central bar, plus marble-top surfaces, plush velvet seating and a stylised ceiling add to a sense of glamour.

“I wanted to meld a laid-back Parisian brasserie with a New York cocktail bar,” says Anand.

The restaurant's name offers sufficient clues as to the food offering – it is a smokehouse with all manner of steak on the menu. Even though Anand's family are vegetarian, the Indian-born restaurateur is a self-confessed carnivore.

The menu, designed by chef Jesse Blake, has more than 60 items, ranging from succulent meats to eclectic sides. “When you go to a steakhouse, all you tend to get is tenderloin, rib-eye or strip loin, but here we're adding more. We'd like to do as much of the animal as we can, including tongue” says Anand.

The restaurant can seat 140 guests between its indoor and outdoor areas and, when it opens on Friday evening, Anand and Blake recommend trying the following dishes.

Wagyu tartare with potato hash

“The tartare is seasoned simply with pickled radishes, diced shallots and a touch of horseradish. At the centre, we serve it with a wasabi creme fraiche and top it with a slow-cooked egg yolk,” says Blake, who was one of the chefs who opened Michelin-lauded Lowe. “We serve with it a side of potato hash fingers dusted with smoked sea salt.”

Taste test: I expected a bit more heat in the tartare given how pungent wasabi can be, but it's subtle and provides a fresh boost to the raw meat. The yolk adds textural variety to it, making the dish thicker. I'm not a big fan of the added creaminess, but the flavours are a hit. Something I would add is a hint of citrus to balance it out. The hash fingers are divine, though, with an interesting smoky flavour due to the sea salt that I would happily buy bottles of.

Charred octopus skewers with pickle

“We slow-cook the octopus to the point they are tender, but not overly so. We don't want it to melt in the mouth per se, as people should still feel like they are eating octopus,” explains Blake. “The meat is also glazed in a fermented chilli and garlic dressing, served with a fresh salad of pickled fennel, golden gooseberries and a little bit of aioli.”

Taste test: Octopus meat can be tricky to cook, but Rare does it with aplomb. The spicing is beautiful and subtle, and tenderness Blake refers to renders the dish soft but with a chewiness – all of which allow the meat to shine. The salad really brings the dish together, with the sweet gooseberries acting as a palate cleanser to remove the vague taste of the sea octopus meat inevitably has.

Strip loin with wasabi cream

“This is South African Wagyu, which is a relatively new product here, while the wasabi adds a Japanese influence to the flavour profile,” says Blake. “We make our own yakitori tare, brushed on the steak before finishing it with a beef glaze to accentuate the flavours. It's got some wasabi tobiko for pops of that wasabi freshness, and for crunch and texture we add tempura batter crispies.”

Taste Test: Wasabi makes for an interesting ingredient to cut through the richness of the meat, which is cooked to a perfect medium rare. Blake allows the meat to shine through with an easy hand when it comes to the marinade. Charred broccolini and snow peas (ordered separately on the side) are a fitting complement to the steak.

Oyster blade with pebre salsa

“The oyster blade comes with a simple salsa made with local cucumbers and tomatoes, plus a touch of jalapeno, green onion, and red and yellow chillies. There's also lime juice and coriander to make it more refreshing, because oyster blade can be a little fatty at times,” explains Blake.

Taste Test: The fattiness makes this an interesting cut for a steak because it's all the more rich, flavourful and juicy even on a medium rare cook. The meat sits on top of the bed of salsa, which lacks the acidity I was expecting to cut through the richness of the oyster blade. Although the simple flavours were spot on, it was a tad sweeter than expected given the drizzle of honey.

Whipped burnt cheesecake with maple-grilled peaches

“This is our take on a peach pie cheesecake flavour combination. There is whipped burnt cheesecake for the caramel flavour, but also that cheesiness. The maple-grilled peaches are poached and finished on the grill,” explains Blake. “We also add yuzu pearls for pops of freshness and a salted almond crumb.”

Taste Test: There is a lot going on in this dessert both visually and taste-wise, which can be tricky to appreciate after a rather heavy steak meal. But once I dig in, I enjoy the flavour combination with its delicate sweet-and-savoury dance. The yuzu pearls are a great addition, providing a prominent citrus taste to balance the sugary cheesecake and caramelised peaches. My only grouse is that the fruit was not cut smaller to allow every element of the dessert to fit into one bite.

Updated: March 15, 2024, 10:35 AM