Vivaldi by Alfredo Russo. No, I’ve never heard of him either. At first I thought it was a pasta dish with Alfredo sauce. But apparently he is a Michelin star chef. Do they give these stars out in cereal boxes? There does seem to be a lot of them about.
Vivaldi must be one of the oldest restaurants in Dubai. It’s in the Sheraton Creek Hotel which was opened in 1978. The hotel is so old I think they built the creek after the hotel opened, but I might be wrong. The hotel has undergone several face-lifts since then and stands firm at the edge of the creek – a reminder of Dubai’s early ambition and a measure of the city’s phenomenal growth. The fact that there are some whiskeys that are older than this hotel should put into perspective what Dubai has achieved.
Vivaldi is a perfect example of how a hotel operates F&B. From the décor to the service to the communication, Vivaldi is one hundred percent, a hotel restaurant, with an Italian chef’s name on the door. It is old school in its fundamentals – a throwback to days gone by where hotels had the monopoly on restaurant locations and acted accordingly.
However, you can see they have tried to keep up with the Joneses, and their efforts endear you to them. For example, their exposure on the Interweb is through the form of their website where they boast a “Gastronic Menu” that will “pamper you.” Yes, I spelt gastronic the way it is on their website and no, I don’t know what it means. There is a facebook page, but it looks like it was created by accident because the only picture they have is of a random man sitting at his hotel room desk, who I presume tagged Vivaldi by mistake. No-one has corrected it, although the man does look rather satisfied with his desk. It is endearingly amateur and makes me like them even more.
They have a DJ spinning his MacBook, (not literally) which for a restaurant named after one of the greatest Baroque composers the world has ever seen, seems a bit of a mismatch. They could have called it Tiesto by Alfredo Lasagna, I suppose.
The room is above the swimming pool and overlooks the creek. It is spacious with neutral light colours and a pleasant feel. The spacing of the tables are generous and they have used the room well. Apparently their views of the creek are unparalleled, but unfortunately when we ate there, the condensation on the windows meant I ended up staring at a frosty reflection of myself for the entire evening – which is definitely not a good view, believe me. Luckily for me, the Serb had put on make-up and was looking particularly attractive that evening, even by her high standards.
Vivaldi was largely empty for the majority of the evening – three other couples were enjoying their evening, and all of us were seated in the same corner of the dining room. So, our little section was super busy, but there was a cavernous empty room behind us.
We started with the smoked scamorza, which is a more intense, rubbery mozzarella cheese. It was served on a wooden board with six bowls of other stuff, and some toasted bruschetta bread. The presentation was complicated and un-necessary but the flavor of the cheese was great – firm yet stringy, subtle yet smokey. I would like to say they smoke the cheese themselves in house but I got the impression that it was off the shelf of a local supplier. I could be wrong.
The Serb ordered the spinach and ricotta ravioli. I did clarify that this was a vegetarian dish, with no meat and she returned my statement with a steely glare. This dish was a musical flop – the ravioli was stuffed with pureed spinach, and had a powdery artificial texture to it. It didn’t resonate well with either of us.
I tried to order the Alfredo Russo for my mains – a joke that skipped across the creek in the same way a bowling ball would. Eventually, I settled on the penne pomodorino. Penne pasta in a smoked cherry tomato sauce with cream of mozzarella. I keep saying that the strength of Italian food is in its simplicity, and one can usually judge a kitchen on how well they can cook a simple dish. They did a good job – if the whole dish was a concerto then the sauce was the treble – fresh, sweet and light, allowing the mozzarella cream to provide the bass.
Vivaldi restaurant was a nice enough experience, but the reality is that Italian cuisine is a crowded, highly competitive space with some excellent operators out there. Vivaldi have the added obstacle of trying to bring people back across the creek, which must be difficult, a bit like going the wrong way in a one way system. To move beyond the hotel restaurant stigma, Vivaldi need to be bringing something really special to the table.
Instead they bought an old school Sheraton branded bill folder with a bill for 410 dhs for two (including Prosecco) which are actually very old school prices for once.
My recommendation would be to give Vivaldi a go – they have a certain humble charm, the menu is enjoyable and the prices and views will more than make up for the taxi ride.