Late Eatery review: Four dishes to try at chef Aadel Ouaoua's new venture

International menu perfectly demonstrates the chef's wide culinary experience and world travels

Labneh with baby beetroot, olive oil and roasted hazelnuts is a hearty and tasty starter. Photo: Late Eatery
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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 Late Eatery, a full-service restaurant that opens in Dubai on Thursday.

Inside Late Eatery

If you live in Dubai South, like I do, the new restaurant is a bit of a trek all the way up north to Al Khawaneej, a predominantly Emirati locale bordering Sharjah. It sits within Valley 77, an up-and-coming culinary destination filled with food trucks and other eateries. It's a little bit like Last Exit, albeit more modern in look and feel.

While most brands occupy small sites, Late Eatery is a full-blown restaurant, with airy interiors, natural light, olive green tones and natural design elements such as wood and stone.

The highlight, though, is the expertise of Aadel Ouaoua who has been tapped to create an international menu. The French chef is known for his work at RSVP, a Michelin-lauded French-Japanese fusion restaurant in Boxpark, at the other end of town.

“I like moving from one place to another,” Ouaoua tells The National, adding he still consults with RSVP but is adamant about wanting to “further explore”. His broad experience working in Europe and Asia is reflected in the menu at Late Eatery, but with a touch of local flavours via ingredients popular in the emirate, from saffron to beetroot.

You can have escargot for starter and move on to a main of robata steak with teriyaki sauce. There's hummus on the menu too, as well as flatbreads.

“This restaurant will cater to the local population in nearby neighbourhoods,” he predicts. However, those who don't live around would still do well to sample the new restaurant – and enjoy a mini-road trip in the process.

When it opens on Thursday, Ouaoua recommends ordering the following dishes.

Labneh with beetroot and hazelnuts

“This is a very simple dish that's perfect during the summer,” says Ouaoua. “It's basically labneh and baby beetroot. There's olive oil and roasted hazelnuts, as well as a bit of honey in there for a touch of sweetness.” It is served with thinly sliced sourdough.

Taste test: I'm not a big fan of beetroot's earthy taste, but the creamy labneh perfectly masks it. Although on the heavier side, the dish is a good start that can complement most of the mains on Ouaoua's menu. The labneh provides a cool and fresh base, the beetroot delivers crunch, while the roasted hazelnuts add depth to the otherwise simplistic flavour, tied together by an olive oil drizzle.

Charred red pepper with feta

“The capsicum is cooked nicely in a charcoal oven to give it the smoky flavour. I use a special olive oil from Spain,” says the chef. “We add bits of feta cheese on top, as well as roasted pistachio and herbs.”

Taste test: I am partial to red bell pepper, but what Ouaoua does in the charcoal oven made it even more divine. The freshness is apparent upon the first bite, while the smokiness adds a lot of character to the dish. The salty tang from the crumbled feta cheese creates a delightful contrast, with the nuts and herbs elevating its texture. This can be easily eaten with sourdough, too.

Robata steak with teriyaki sauce

“We don't marinade the tenderloin; we only put salt and pepper,” says Ouaoua. “This dish is also cooked in charcoal at very high temperatures, which gives it a smoky flavour.” The chef explains he uses Japanese techniques to cut the tenderloin, which plays a key role in the end result.

Taste test: The flavour combination of smokiness (from the robata cooking) and sweetness (from the teriyaki sauce) is superlative. Despite its smoky essence, the meat is perfectly tender, and the sauce complements the cut beautifully with its touch of umami. Ouaoua also served another sauce, a green oil concoction he says has a “secret ingredient”. I would happily buy bottles of its smoky goodness.

Truffle flatbread

“I like my pizzas really, really thin,” says Ouaoua, as the flatbread is served. “The toppings are simple: Parmesan, cream and truffle – both paste and shavings.”

Taste test: Even after very generous servings of the other dishes, I still had a few too many slices of the flatbread. I normally brush off truffle, but this time I embraced it in its full glory. The bed of cream is perfectly salty with the Parmesan doing the heavy lifting. The punchy taste of the truffle is enough, too – there is no need to add any other topping or spice.

Updated: June 05, 2024, 4:39 AM