As you wander distractedly through the Ottoman-inspired corridors of the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel in Dubai, you may overshoot the entrance to Vôi restaurant. The ceiling-high, wood-panelled doors remain firmly closed to those without a reservation, making the dining experience a discreet and exclusive one.
Once inside, cream-on-white embossed wall panels, art deco mirrored columns and chandeliers give the restaurant a certain French formality. Contrasting monochrome striped chairs with vibrant, lime silk cushions inject a sense of fun and Asian flair.
The menu is one of the best I've seen for gluten-free options. In that spirit, I started with the snow crab salad. My dining companion opted for the Vôi Experience set menu, which came with two starters; tiger prawn and foie gras followed by imperial dumplings.
Beautifully presented though mine was, I was all too quickly left with a mound of mango, enoki mushrooms and very little snow crab. Whereas the standout appetiser for my friend was the steamed parcels of guinea fowl, spring onions and mushrooms.
Wagyu beef served two ways followed for me and despite being a keen meat-eater, the generous portion proved too much. The tenderloin was succulent and cooked to pink-perfection, closely matched by a slither of braised beef cheek, which sat atop a carrot and five-spice purée.
My companion found her entree of Angus beef and sweet potatoes tasty but packing a surprisingly peppery punch, the heat of which somewhat overshadowed the dish.
All was redeemed, however, once the expertly crafted deserts arrived. My friend's pandan leaf-flavoured sago, paired with passion fruit, made for a cool and classy combo. Meanwhile, my Vôi Den & Trang (white chocolate, coconut and ganache) dish was the ultimate antidote to a richly savoury main.
Vôi's chef Phan Xuan Cuong undoubtedly has a sweet tooth, for attention had been paid to the very minutiae of our desserts. A case in point being the black discs of caramel and sesame seed that garnished my plate. No bigger than a dollar coin, the lace-like creations tasted as good as they looked.
Served in traditional silver filters, sweet and aromatic Vietnamese coffee came next, along with a complimentary plate of petit fours. Tantalising our taste buds were handmade micro-cookies, candied lemon slices and curried truffles.
There's no doubt about it: dining at Vôi is a grown-up experience where good posture and minding one's Ps and Qs are a must.
With its well considered and reasonably priced colonial French-Vietnamese cuisine, a meal at Vôi is a refreshing break from the norm. Another bonus is that the hundreds of speed bumps that used to fringe the peninsular roads of the Palm Jumeirah seem to have recently been removed, meaning that what used to make for an overly long, jolting journey to the man-made island's extremities is now an altogether enjoyable affair.
Ÿ A meal for two at Vôi costs Dh695, excluding beverages. For reservations, call 04 453 0444. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito
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