Ce La Vi's arrival in Dubai has been one of the most anticipated in a city of new openings. The Singaporean original has been the centre of much hype, perhaps due to its Marina Bay Sands headquarters or star turn in Crazy Rich Asians. Now open in Address Sky View, Downtown Dubai, the restaurant offers a 360-degree wraparound terrace, complete with an infinity pool, sky bar, club lounge and restaurant. On one side, you have completely unobstructed views of Burj Khalifa, while on the other are sweeping views out over the coastline.
What to expect and where to sit
Let's be honest, you're here for the views, so it would be remiss to not take a seat on the terrace outside and spend your night fawning over the panorama. On a Friday night, there are quite a few post-brunch stragglers, as well as several tables filling up for dinner from the moment the restaurant opens at 7pm. Most people head for the terrace, making it a humming, yet still elegant atmosphere. It's a stark contrast to the loud music pumping out from the speakers next to the bar.
It's small and succinct, which is a blessing for indecisive diners. We are immediately steered towards the breads and spreads (Dh56), which command a good half page of prime menu real estate. But this is no cob loaf from a local eating house. The "seaweed parker rolls" are served alongside more than your standard butter and pesto variety. The chicken liver mousse and lychee marmalade was a surprise favourite, while the yuzu labneh with pistachio verde and smoked salmon with salmon roe and chive oil were two close seconds.
Considering we found the word doughnut on the starter menu, the sweet and savoury shiitake mushroom doughnuts (Dh36) were another obvious choice – the crumbly, sweetish coating meant the beef-bacon-infused dough was quite the surprise, with the aerated raclette cheese dip acting as the perfect accompaniment. Not one for anyone on a diet, but a good choice if, like me, you've thrown your New Year's resolutions out the window.
Even though we were full of complex carbohydrates, mains came in the shape of the Westholme Wagyu beef and broccoli (Dh145), squid-ink tagliatelle (Dh116) and barbecued carrots (Dh72). And before you go about knocking a plate of carrots as an entire dish, don't, because it might just have been our highlight – which unfortunately, doesn't speak volumes about the mains. The carrots were delightfully roasted and caramelised, infused with curry and pickled lime, and served with a generous dollop of sumac yoghurt, brown butter almonds and sultanas. The Wagyu was seared and crunchy on the outside and perfectly pink on the inside, but simply didn't provide enough in the way of accompaniments. The tagliatelle was an interesting contradiction – pasta masquerading as a curry – with lobster, peas and beef speck slathered in a red curry sauce Americaine.
If there were one piece of advice we'd offer about Ce La Vi, it would be to give the desserts a miss. The sundae banana split was our favourite, but at Dh68 a pop, it's not something we'd order again – given it was simply a slightly seared banana, some ice cream and plentiful toppingsThe miso caramel vanilla mousse (Dh58) with pear and caramelised peanut was runnier than we'd envisage your typical mousse, and the cheesecake creme brulee (Dh58), while doing exactly what it said on the tin and being a cheesecake-brulee hybrid, was far too sweet..
The squid-ink tagliatelle is a winner for its sheer creativity, while the mushroom doughnuts also win in the individuality stakes. If you're looking for a truly standout side dish, order the carrots.
A chat with the chef
Executive chef Howard Ko brings more than 11 years of culinary experience to his post in Dubai. Raised in Los Angeles, he went on to train at the famous Culinary Institute of America in New York, and has since worked at and with several Michelin-starred restaurants. Ko says the main aspect that sets his style apart is the fact that for him "Asian fusion" does not only incorporate the flavours of Thailand, China and Japan, but he also works with distinctly south Asian recipes, meaning that you'll find dishes with an Indian curry base. This was "really important", he says.
Value for money and contact information
Prices reflect the upmarket setting and world-class views and, to be fair, if you’re taking all that into consideration, the price point can be viewed as extremely fair. The majority of starters fall within the Dh40 to Dh70 bracket, and the mains range from Dh90 to Dh145 (with the lamb neck as an opulent outlier). We did find certain dishes (the Dh56 breads and spreads and the Dh68 banana split) a little on the pricey side, but in all, the bill was about right. Ce La Vi is located at Address Sky View, and tables can be booked by calling 04 582 6111.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant