Fusion confusion: EauZone agreeable bar some curious oversights

EauZone at the One&Only Royal Mirage, Dubai, is a pricy spot, with room for improvement.

UAE - Dubai - May 02- 2011:   Eauzone restaurant at the One and Only Royal Mirage hotel.  ( Jaime Puebla - The National Newspaper )
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Let's begin with the positives, because EauZone is certainly not devoid of potential. The restaurant is set in the grounds of the stunning One and Only Royal Mirage hotel. It feels calm and secluded and really quite romantic, particularly when you're sitting on the wooden terrace, looking out over lagoons lit up with flickering lights.

The menu is perhaps best described as eclectic. The chef, we were told when we asked, is from Singapore and let's just say he has a keen eye for fusion. There are dishes with their roots in France (foie gras ballotine), Japan (sashimi and tempura), Italy (risotto and tiramisu) and Thailand (green curry). The appearance of boulangère potatoes flavoured with hoisin prompted me to order the beef tenderloin, with which it was served, out of curiosity alone. Well, that and the promise of morel mushrooms. Fusion food is all well and good, providing, of course, that the kitchen can pull it off.

Whether they can or not (and I'm not convinced they can), I came away from our meal at EauZone feeling that there were more important issues in need of attention here. The steak I had for my main course was fine. It wasn't the best that I've ever tasted, but it was far from the worst. The meat was cooked medium-rare as requested, although it certainly wasn't so tender that it made a steak knife redundant (it wasn't provided). Not one of us sitting around the table (including two Chinese friends) could pick out any hoisin flavour in the potatoes. On reflection, this was probably a good thing - they were tender and slightly creamy, with a crisp, golden-brown upper layer, just as boulangères should be.

The absence of the morels was an issue I couldn't forgive so easily. Morels are probably the most prized of all mushrooms: they have a specific taste (slightly sweet, earthy rich, a little smoky) and an even more distinctive appearance. They are also very expensive to buy, particularly in the UAE where so much of the produce is imported. But despite the promise on the menu, there were no morels on my plate, not even in dried form. I combed the sauce, searched underneath the other vegetables and then asked my friends to take a look.

While I had been given some sliced mushrooms to accompany my beef, they certainly weren't the prized funghi I'd so looked forward to. It makes me seethe when a restaurant makes a claim like this and then fails to honour it. It's unfair to the customer.

The other main course, vegetable tempura, was fine, if a little boring - but that could well be the fault of the person who ordered it. There's little you can do, I suppose, with deep-fried vegetables, apart from ensure they are nice and tender and the batter is light and crisp. Which they were, and it was, although a touch more salt, a wedge of lemon and a more interesting dipping sauce would not have gone amiss.

A starter of foie gras was essentially good, if a little lacking in the execution. The ballotine itself was rich, smooth and creamy and every bit as decadent as it should be. It also came in a very generous portion. And with it? A sliver of bread. Not even a whole piece, but a wafer-thin, toasted crouton that was possible to devour in two or three bites. Of course, we asked for more bread, but why not serve a slice that is proportionate to the amount of foie gras in the first place?

Like my friend, I enjoyed my starter, which was a duo of crab cakes and soft-shell crab. Everything tasted freshly cooked, the crab cakes were pleasantly chewy, the soft-shell crab was crunchy and the zingy lime dressing prevented it all from being too overpowering.

And so, in a roundabout way, we reached the dessert course. The panna cotta was clean and citrusy, with a pleasant wobble to it. It wasn't a particularly memorable pudding, but the flavours worked nicely together to provide a refreshing, cleansing end to the meal.

The EauZone tiramisu was rather more decadent but no less pleasant, at least to begin with. Halfway through the dessert, amid the frothy layers of cream and the assertive espresso flavour, we encountered a layer of peanut brittle. This addition to a classic Italian dessert (made from ingredients people are so familiar with), seemed more than a little odd. Pondering this rather summed up our thoughts regarding the evening as a whole.

A meal at EauZone isn't cheap and while it certainly isn't all bad, there is ample room for improvement.

A meal for two at EauZone, One and Only Royal Mirage, Dubai, cost Dh575 not including service. For reservations call 04 399 99 99. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito.

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