Ling Ling review: Atlantis The Royal restaurant offers elevated cuisine with a lounge vibe

Dubai outpost sources its seafood sustainably, and the Cha Ca sea bass is a must-try

The main dining room at Ling Ling. Photo: Atlantis The Royal
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Located in the new Atlantis The Royal, Ling Ling serves contemporary Asian cuisine, and is part of the New York Tao Group, which also operates Hakkasan and Yauatcha.

The concept was born as the lounge area in the first Hakkasan in central London, and Ling Ling now has stand-alone restaurants in Oslo, Marrakesh, Mexico City and Dubai.

Where to sit and what to expect

The Ling Ling entrance is just off the gargantuan lobby of Atlantis The Royal. A private lift at the end of a corridor dominated with white marble columns and a Barbie-pink backdrop, takes you up to the 23rd floor, which houses the main restaurant. You can step down a curved flight of stairs to dine in a less formal dining section on floor 22, which also has a terrace with views of Palm Jumeirah, the Arabian Gulf and Cloud 22, the resort’s skypool.

The dimly lit restaurant exudes a vibe that’s at once intimate and elegant, which pays homage to Ling Ling’s lounge roots, as do the vertical garden walls and the eclectic soundtrack. On my visit, I foot-tapped along to everything from the Bee Gees and No Mercy, to U2 and Carly Rae Jepsen, all interspersed with ambient lounge music.

The menu

Ling Ling’s contemporary Asian menu, we are told, is a “fusion of Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean cuisines, punctuated throughout with the Cantonese origins of sister restaurant Hakkasan”.

This plays out in two ways on the plate and palate: condiments galore and an overarching sweet-and-sour flavour profile.

The crispy BBQ duck bao (Dh120), for example, comes with a welcome trio of condiments – chilli garlic, black soy vinegar and a spiced sweet cilantro sauce. The bao itself is glazed – and is not the dry, fluffy kind that sticks to the roof of the mouth – but I still find myself dipping it generously in one dip and then the other.

The Szechuan dumplings (Dh75), on the other hand, don’t need an external dip at all, given the slithery bowlful is coated in chilli oil and Sichuan sauce to the last fold. The crushed peanuts, vermicelli-like shredded veg and shredded chicken filling make this one tasty dish, although be prepared for a hit of spice.

The remainder of our meal is of the sweet-and-sour variety for the most part, yet done in a way that makes each dish distinctive. The jasmine tea-smoked duck kuih pie tee (Dh95) comprises thick and sticky meat and juices encased in a crunchy shell – much needed to absorb, even tone down, all those rich flavours. The casing is a bit too large for either chopsticks or fork, so feel free to get your hands messy.

The tuna and toro makizushi (Dh140) is a generous portion that comes with premium fish, moist rice and crunchy avocado and cucumber, all mixed up in a hibachi sauce, which is like teriyaki, but thicker. The crispy orange chilli beef (Dh240) is another option with a sticky glaze, but it’s the orange zest between the tender-within meat that makes this dish sing.

The sweet-and-sour theme extends to Ling Ling’s dessert menu. Accordingly, the first three bites of the meringue with lemon sorbet are divine, but after that the too-sweet meringue and too-tart sauce got a bit too heavy for me. Get this one to share.

Stand-out dish

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the one dish that bypassed the glaze coating entirely was the highlight of my meal. The cha ca sea bass satay (Dh175 for two) came with meat so perfectly flavoured and textured (flaky, buttery, yummy), I could have eaten four skewers by myself, forgoing the main course altogether.

Head chef Steven Nguyen, who uses only sustainable fish, says: “We source our Patagonian toothfish – more commonly known as Chilean sea bass – from Glacier 51, which is fished in highly regulated sub-Antarctic waters off Heard Island.

“The dish is inspired by two concepts,” he adds. “First from cha ca Hanoi, which is my favourite classic Vietnamese dish, and second from the Tao group's signature miso sea bass skewers, which are an absolute bestseller in the US.”

A chat with the chef

Chef and former marketing executive Nguyen, who is from Toronto, says he realised early on that “exploring food blogs and experimenting with recipes was more exciting than a nine-to-five job”. After a course in culinary management from George Brown College, Nguyen worked at Otto’s Berlin Doner and Vietnamese restaurant Chom Chom in Hong Kong, before moving to Dubai to open Indochine.

At Ling Ling, the chef says, he’s taken his “classical chef training and applied it to pan-Asian cuisine”.

“I always ask myself: how can we make a dish better while still respecting its roots,” he says. “My style is principle-based. I prioritise the ingredients by finding the best, then allowing them to shine though solid cooking techniques.”

The cha ca sea bass aside, other chef-recommended dishes include: vegan XO noodles with truffles for vegetarians and the tomahawk ssam for meat lovers.

“We use hand-cut noodles with a rippled texture so they hold the XO sauce, which is made in-house from mushrooms. The tomahawk is Australian wagyu sliced on the bone and served as a Korean ssam, meaning you can wrap the steak in a lettuce leaf and dip it in sesame oil and ssamjang fermented bean sauce.

“Finally, if you love seafood and sushi, try the chef’s omakase platter to indulge in king crab, scallops and oysters, as well as a variety of sashimi, nigiri and rolls,” Nguyen says.

Price point and contact information

Small plates and satay range from Dh45 for steamed edamame to Dh210 for the David Herve oysters. Sushi and sashimi options are priced between Dh60 for the avocado tamaki and Dh250 for the black truffle dragon makizushi. Mains go for from Dh105 for coal-roasted cauliflower to Dh1,750 for the binchotan tomahawk steak ssam.

Ling Ling is open for dinner from 6pm to 1am from Sunday to Wednesday and until 3am from Thursday to Saturday. For reservations, call 04 426 2600.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: June 23, 2023, 6:02 PM