Shi review: former Hakkasan chef leads fine-dining Chinese restaurant in Dubai

The signature rice stone pot is a culinary masterpiece, for more reasons than one

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While Zhen Wei and the soon-to-open Demon Duck at Caesars Palace Dubai both offer high-end Chinese cuisine on Bluewaters, Shi is the first gourmet Chinese restaurant on the main island.

Every aspect of it exudes fine-dining flair, from the culinary creations — courtesy of former Hakkasan Mumbai chef Li Yuan Hui — to the lush interior, eclectic entertainment and knowledgeable service.

What to expect and where to sit

The two-level restaurant is nestled in the shadow of Ain Dubai, and has The London Project and Alici as its immediate neighbours. The ground level has two open kitchens and indoor and outdoor seating, while upstairs has a more lounge feel — DJ, violinist and all.

After being greeted by the life-size Bearbrick doll and armoured Chinese warriors that man the entrance, my dining partner and I are led up past a colourful mural to the first level. We opt for terrace seating, which has a waterfront view of JBR. This is definitely the place to sit while the cool weather is still with us, while the plush, jewel-toned armchairs within will do nicely in the summer.

The space is decked with more Chinese figurines and wall hangings, while shelves that house miniature colourful teddy bear collectibles break the space between tables.

The menu

The menu leads with a selection of nine recommended signatures that range from starters, mains and rice dishes to the restaurant’s most expensive creation: Peking duck with black caviar, which will set you back Dh990 ($269).

We select oshizushi (Dh110), an appetiser from this section. The pressed sushi comes with Norwegian salmon tartare, cucumber and avocado inside, seared salmon, yuzu garlic and truffle on top, and garnished with foie gras. The moreish flavours are worth every mouthful.

Our "regular" appetiser, a crispy soft shell crab with almond flakes (Dh95), is a bit fishy for my taste, but we do indulge in the equivalent of culinary doodling with the slivers of toasted almonds while waiting for our next course.

From the dim sum, we get mixed mushroom dumplings (Dh60) and beef taro puff (Dh95). The first is steamed, green-hued and a great choice for vegetarians; it comes with a medley of crunchy shiitake and shimeji mushrooms. Crunch lovers will also enjoy the deep-fried taro dumpling with tender Wagyu, although it is more puff than beef.

The main event is my all-time favourite dish, cod (Shi does the grilled Alaskan with miso sauce or black bean sauce), plus smoked sanpei chicken. For accompaniments, my partner feels like the noodles in XO sauce, but it’s the rice stone pot from the aforementioned signatures that I have my eye on.

It’s the perfect quartet, with diverse flavours and textures, yet consistently good quality. The tender, flaky flesh of the miso cod is offset perfectly by the smokiness of the chicken, while the noodles add texture and the firm yet moist rice is cooked tableside (more on this below).

We don’t have room for dessert, but the chef-recommended mochi aside, Shi does an interesting-looking cheesecake (Dh75), which is served with a smashable egg and miniature hammer.

Stand-out dish

Normally this would be a tough choice between the cod and the rice, but the latter triumphs solely for its cooking method and presentation. As the debate gathers steam on whether using cast iron, earthenware and other traditional cookware results in more tasty food than mod-con non-stick pans, I can attest that the stone-pot-cooked rice is healthier-looking and more flavourful than any other Chinese fried rice dish I have tried (we are talking countless grains) over the years.

Chat with the chef

Chef Li Yuan Hui is from China and, in addition to Hakkasan Mumbai, has worked with the brand in Doha, as well as Turandot in Moscow, Lebua in Thailand, Yaumay in Tokyo and Novikov in Dubai.

“Seafood with Cantonese spices and sauces is my favourite type of food to cook with because the city I was born in is close to the sea,” chef Li says. “I pride myself on using fresh ingredients cooked a la minute and serving guests immediately.”

In addition to the dishes we sample, the chef recommends tofu and aubergine with black bean sauce for vegetarians; Wagyu beef with black pepper sauce for meat eaters; Chilean sea bass with honey sauce for seafood lovers; and claims that “Shi has the best mochi in town”.

Price point and contact information

The menu is divided into soups (Dh55-Dh80), salads (Dh65-Dh175), appetisers (Dh30-Dh95), dim sum (Dh60-Dh95), mains (Dh110-Dh435), signatures (Dh95-Dh990) and desserts (Dh50-Dh75).

Shi is open for lunch from 1pm to 4pm, and for dinner from 6pm to midnight from Sunday to Wednesday and 6pm to 1am from Thursday to Saturday. Reservations can be made by calling 04 718 1189.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: March 11, 2022, 6:01 PM