The sweet potato fries seemed like they were invited to the party simply because they are on trend.
I would like to start this restaurant review by saying that Souk Madinat must have the hottest, smallest car park in the world. I would also like to apologize to Souk Madinat because,for some reason, I had it in my head that the Souk was a ghost market, a relic of days gone by. However, I was surprised to see it was as bustling as a Bangkok street corner on aSaturday night.
Frioul Bistro de Lux is operated by the same people that bought you Pacha Club and is a re-incarnation of the old Jam Base space, except with a more confusing entrance. Frioultakes its name and apparently its inspiration from the archipelago islands of Frioul off the Mediterranean coast of France.
What this means for the menu, is that they can pretty much serve any type of cuisine, as long as they can loosely link it back to the Mediterranean diet. Take their Calzone, forexample, which is originally from Naples, Italy – the same home as the pizza. Naples is almost 800 kms away from the Frioul islands, which, strangely enough, is the same distanceFrioul’s entrance is from the Souk itself.
Thanks to the restaurant being virtually empty for the duration of our meal, we could take a good look around the space. The main theme was elegant white, which can sometimesmake you feel like you are eating in a hospital. However, Frioul got it right and the restaurant is spacious, light and according to my partner, super female friendly; she is a femaleherself, so she should know. The kitchen, all the way in the distance, is an open-plan design with great accents of deep amber to break up the room.
The space really was very skilfully done – possibly one of my favourite rooms in Dubai. Even the bathrooms were properly lit, clinically clean and had some thoughtful designelements to them. You know a restaurant is of good quality when they embed the toilet roll holder into the wall so it is flush against the tiles. That’s some significant attention todetail; I’m a sucker for Molton Brown hand soap as well.
According to their website, they boast a potentially destination-defining roster of jazz musicians from world-class venues such as the 606 Club in London. However, according to thewaitress, they haven’t had a musician in the place since before Ramadan and won’t have one until maybe October. What a disappointment, because I can imagine live jazz musiccould create magic in that place.
After some slight confusion, we were given food menus which were totally different to the ones advertised on their website. One word for that, “lazy management”; OK, twowords. However, the menu choices were a hodgepodge of international cuisine, from pizzas and pasta to Wagyu sirloin to Quinoa salads. This is where the cracks of confusion startto show in the concept, in my opinion.
I couldn’t quite get a decent grip on what the chef was trying to do here. A menu is more than just a listing of F&B choices. It is a statement of who you are and what you stand for and Frioul’s menu left me a little bewildered, I’m afraid. My bewilderment turned to dread when I read it was a sharing menu. Sharing menus are a diseased trend that has spread quite far enough across the restaurant industry. If done right, in a tapas bar, for example, it can be quite agreeable. However, being crow–barred into a French Bistro de Lux is adifferent story, unfortunately.
Luckily, no-one told the service staff about the sharing concept, and the food was served in the correct order and at the same time to the right person – just like in a real restaurant.Even the bread was Silver Served* by an eager young waitress. Anyway, who Silver Serves bread these days? I haven’t been served bread since I was accidentally upgraded toBusiness Class by Emirates.
*Silver Service is when the waiter or waitress serves you the food from a service dish to the guest’s plate. There are a bunch of old-fashioned rules thatcome with it, but are far too boring to write about here. Funnily enough, however, the French call this “service à l’anglaise” or “English Service”. But in thiscase, it was actually a Filipino who served us the bread. Confusing, I know.
The beetroot and pear salad was simple and direct, and I enjoyed it. I think the pears were canned, as they had that metallic sweetness that comes from living in sugar syrup, but Icould be wrong. The bruschetta was complicated and over seasoned. The tomato was cubed too thin, and the bread was soggy with the basil paste. Bruschetta bread needs a crunchloud enough to shake the toilet roll holders in the bathrooms.
The lamb cutlets were over-salted; a sign of an unsupervised cook with more youth than experience on his side. I had hoped the couscous would be light, fluffy and refreshing, butinstead it was flattened by the lamb and then drowned in its jus.
The steak minute came with a mushroom sauce that had some really good depth and flavour to it. However, the sweet potato fries seemed like they were invited to the party simplybecause they are on trend. For the Serb, they didn’t bring anything to the dish. However, to be fair, nothing apart from meat is really necessary for the Serb.
Even so, maybe I am over analysing it all, because taking a step back from everything, the entire experience was acceptable. However the food could have been better, which isdisappointing but the future looks promising as apparently there is a brand new menu being developed. I think if I could have had the full experience of a busy, vibrant restaurantwith great live jazz, it would have been a very different review, full of energy and adrenalin.
But luckily, there were enough hints of potential for me to want to try Frioul again, even if Souk Madinat does have the world’s hottest and smallest car park.