For the ultimate authentic Indian experience, Armani/Amal is the only choice of destination in Dubai. By far…
So the Armani hotel in the Burj Khalifa may have a reputation for being a touch on the pretentious side, but sometimes you have to just take a look for yourself and make your own decisions. You see, there really is no accounting for taste, but one thing I can guarantee is that if your taste is Indian food, the Armani/Amal will leave you quite literally overwhelmed by the standards set in every category. Ever heard of something ticking all the right boxes? You’re just about to.
The hotel is certainly what you would call “very Armani”. Minimalistic without actually being subtle, you’re made quite aware of the large amount of money that went into the design and development of the place. But it’s sleek and it’s dimly lit, so for the complexion it works wonders.
The restaurant setting itself is unforgettable. Spacious, perfectly lit, just the correct level of ambience. The worst aspect to so many restaurants is the owner’s misguided view that cramming as many people into their establishment is a good idea; it ain’t. Maybe you’ll make a bit more money on that night, but nobody’s ever going to come back. Well, at the Armani/Amal, they have this nailed. You have so much space, away from the other diners, you can basically talk about whatever you want, and seeing as for once I wasn’t dining alone, this was a real plus point.
The kitchen is the centrepiece of the restaurant, visible to all, yet segregated by thick plates of glass, probably supplied by a decent double glazing firm (so you can see what they’re cooking, but you can’t hear what they’re cooking).
Undoubtedly, the pièce de résistance is the balcony. Do you like the Dubai Fountains? If so, a visit to the balcony at Armani/Amal guarantees you a view like you’ve never seen before. It was hot when we went, so the balcony was empty, reserved for filthy smokers. However, in the winter months, there’s very few venues that spring to mind that are able to match up to the serenity and sheer understated exuberance represented by a striking view of both the Burj Khalifa and the fountains, which stretch so much further than most of us could possibly have imagined.
We had a waiter, also a wine-waiter (who literally pops up to refill the moment you have just gulped your last mouthful of wine), and essentially a whole team of staff who go above and beyond. Our waiter, named Alistair, was knowledgeable, really rather witty, and so attentive without being intrusive. These guys know when to approach, and when to let you be.
Everything is explained to you, even suggestions for wine based upon your menu choices. They are professionals. They know how to add to the perfect dining experience. You don’t wait for anything, you even get a stand for your handbag (not mine), and they open every door for you. In reality, you hardly even know they are there, yet they are there when you need them. If that’s not the perfect waiter, I’m not sure what is.
There are a variety of options on offer; a taster menu that allows you to sample dishes as diverse as a Duck Jalfrezi, a Tandoori Seared Seabass and a Balsamic Lamb Chop all in one sitting, and an Amal Anise three course menu that offers a selection for each course, although the mains are designed for sharing. It’s great to share in life and everything, but I opted to go for the classic menu option instead.
To start, the Tomato and Lentil Rasan Broth brings together flavours that you probably never knew existed, while the Malabari Rattan (Seared Scallops) got the thumbs up too. Scallops in Dubai often come out overdone and rubbery, searing seems to be a skill that hasn’t quite translated, but the chef’s behind the glass at the Amal have no such problems.
For the mains, the Chicken Madras was the best I’ve tasted. Really spicy, infused with such a small hint of coconut that is barely noticeable, yet so vivid, all at the same time, and beautifully cooked chicken. The portion was huge too. My dining partner went for the Fish Kokum Curry, which was fish chunks in a creamy, tomato-based sauce, with a hint of coconut. The fish was very fresh and flavoursome, and again, the portion generous. We also had a Naan, the obligatory Poppadoms, and some Sag Aloo (which actually never came, but I’m sure it would’ve been nice if it had).
The overall food quality was the highest you’ll find anywhere. The menu is well put together, with a great deal of variation (and plenty of seafood options if that’s your thing).
It doesn’t come cheap of course, it is the Armani Hotel after all, but when you take into account the level of service, the food, the restaurant ambience and the setting (remember it offers you a view of the fountains unlike any other), you kind of have to feel that you are getting what you paid for. That said, it’s probably best off being reserved for special occasions only, rather than your weekly curry fix. A couple of curries and a nice bottle of wine will set you back somewhere in the region of 700AED. I did say it wasn’t cheap, didn’t I?
It’s another of those Dubai must-do’s. Expose yourself to the opulence, the grandeur and the spectacular setting. You won’t have an Indian dining experience that comes close to that offered by Armani/Amal, a restaurant that offers all the luxurious prestige associated with the brand.