Choosing Social by Heinz Beck at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, for my first dinner during the inaugural Dubai Restaurant week, was a no brainer.
Firstly, because it is in the Waldorf Astoria, the quintessential luxury hotel brand that I love. Secondly, because I had read numerous glowing reviews about the restaurant in the previous months that had piqued my curiosity.
So what makes Social by Heinz Beck at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai so special that I would jump at an opportunity for dinner at this iconic contemporary Italian restaurant?
How about a menu devised and fine tuned by the executive chef of the only three Michelin starred restaurant in Rome? He may not be permanently on site at the restaurant that bears his name in Dubai, but the excellence of Chef Heinz Beck’s craft was evident in every dish that was presented to us.
On the night of our dinner my friend and I started out a bit early in order to take photos of the restaurant before sunset. Unfortunately, the road works on the Eastern crescent of the Palm Jumeirah dashed those plans, and we arrived there shortly before our 7:30 pm reservation. The cover photo is courtesy and copyright of Waldorf Astoria.
We were warmly greeted by the hostess and led into the restaurant even though we were early for the first sitting. The décor is subtle, sleek and understated, with large oversized seats that are more comfortable than they appear.
As we were the first to arrive, the manager suggested that we could be seated along the window side of the restaurant with a view of the ultra modern kitchen with its glass doors. I had imagined frenzied activity at the start of service, but the kitchen and front of house staff appeared well prepared, efficient and organized.
The bar man dropped by and offered to concoct delicious mocktails, made to order, while we relaxed and perused the 3 course set menu. I requested anything with passion fruit and my friend accepted his recommendation. The mocktails were served alongside a selection of amuse-bouches, and they were a novel way to introduce our palates to the creativity and artistry of the menu.
First up were the saffron and wasabi prawn crackers, closely followed by a mini butcher block of masterful morsels. My favorites were the beetroot macaron with wasabi cream and the savory shortbread with gorgonzola cream (if I recall correctly). The melt in the mouth macaron combination literally took my breath away (wasabi fumes wafting up the back of your throat into your nasal passages will do that). The bread that followed was warm and went perfectly with the flavoured salts and olive oil, but I merely nibbled at it for fear of filling myself up too quickly.
Another complimentary dish was the melon soup with strawberries. It looked sweet but was delicate and savoury and a perfect palate cleanser before the next course.
Next up was an extension to the Dubai Restaurant week menu; Citrus marinated Amberjack on avocado cream, offered at half price during restaurant week. We opted to include it to ensure we had the full experience.
I must admit that if I had to pay AED56 for three teaspoons full of white fish and cream anywhere else, I would not be amused. However, I would not miss this for the world. The delicate flavour of the fish was balanced with the rich avocado cream and tangy sharpness of the citrus dressing.
Our next course was the Starter on the three course Dubai Restaurant week set menu, Fagottelli carbonara. I found the pasta cooked perfectly al dente, but the cheesy burst of liquid filling was slightly too salty for my personal taste.
We elected to take a short breather before the next course. When our Main course of Beef tenderloin with an apple-onion jus arrived, the aroma brought my appetite back to life. Never under-estimate the effect of smell and appearance on a diner’s appetite…
Perfection is not an exaggeration or overstatement when describing the beef that was set before us. My knife glided through it like butter, and it was so moist and tender that I took extra time to savour every bite. My friend is still talking about the best beef she has ever eaten 🙂
When dessert was served a while later, the server challenged us to identify the eleven ways that raspberries were used, reflecting the name Raspberries 1.1.
Of the impressive 11 different preparations of raspberries we only identified raspberry sorbet, raspberry mousse, raspberry meringue, raspberry jelly, raspberry sponge cake, raspberry cookie, raspberry chocolate, crystalized raspberry, freeze dried raspberry and fresh raspberry.
After ordering coffee at the end of the meal we were served with a final complimentary petit fours platter. It was an unexpected but delicious end to a mouth festival of a meal that was a perfect balance of aroma, flavor and color.
You are probably wondering whether we needed to be wheeled out on a stretcher after the vast array of inventive and creative dishes that we enjoyed. Fortunately, they were mouthfuls of deliciousness and perfectly sized to prevent feeling like we had consumed a mountain of food.
The elegant and understated décor is relaxing as well as pleasing to the eye. My only complaint was that for the size of the restaurant, the tables were close enough for us to hear the neighbors on both sides recount their daily life dramas. It may be the acoustics or perhaps the tables are just a tiny bit too close together for comfort.
The service was impeccable and the servers were knowledgeable of the menu and able to accurately describe every course in detail. I would have preferred that our server on the night take more time with the descriptions, but that’s only because I wanted to make notes of the various courses to be able to describe them to you later.
Even as the restaurant filled up during the course of the evening, we never felt rushed, despite there being two advertised seatings for the Dubai Restaurant week offering. I noticed that the level of service we received was the same as that extended to guests ordering off the full priced menu, with alcohol.
I suspect this is what differentiates a restaurant in a luxury hotel like the Waldorf Astoria from others. The same warmth of hospitality is extended to guests with impeccable service and an exceptional dining experience, regardless of the price point.
So if you’re wondering what exactly the price differential was between the Dubai Restaurant week 3 course set menu price of AED 189 plus our menu extension of AED 56 and the normal menu cost, read on.
NORMAL PRICE: AED 525 per person (excluding cocktails) consisting of:
Citrus marinated Amberjack on avocado cream: AED 115
Fagottelli carbonara: AED 85
Beef tenderloin with an apple-onion jus: AED 255
Raspberries 1.1: AED 70
RESTAURANT WEEK PRICE: AED 189 per person excluding mocktails plus AED 56 for the extra optional course
We saved a total of AED 280 per person, availing the Restaurant week dining experience, and I cannot think of money better spent than our meal at Social by Heinz Beck.
If you missed the Dubai Restaurant week experience, why not try the new Ladies Night dining experience on Wednesday evenings that was introduced on 6 April 2016. And wait for it… the 3 course set menu with 2 glasses of grape or sparkling beverage costs only AED 195 per lady, from 7pm.