Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor
Fine dining can so often mean finite-sized plates, but at Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor that trend is boldly bucked. The restaurant’s claim that visitors can expect “art on a plate” is enough to sends shivers down the spine of those with a healthy appetite, but happily we can report that substance is not sacrificed in favour of style.
Kapoor is one of the most famous faces in food – a judge on Indian Masterchef and TV superstar in his homeland – and has been delighting Dubai diners since setting up his first restaurant in the city way back in 1988.
Signature, housed in the Melia Hotel in Bur Dubai, is aptly named as Kapoor’s stamp is all over the menu – traditional in its roots but elevated to a sky-high standard. With Kapoor understandably in demand and often globetrotting, the day-to-day running is left to Chandrachur Chamoli, a man admirably carrying his employer’s torch.
For Brits like this scribe, Indian food represents something very specific, very comforting. The smells and the spices transport to colourfully carpeted upstairs rooms and memories of a cuisine that over the years became as familiar as fish and chips. That type of garish décor is a far cry from the dramatic, dimly lit surrounds of Signature but the soul of the food is the same.
Take the poppadoms. A familiar starting point for an Indian meal but brought to life at Signature, neatly packed into a toast rack alongside a vibrant selection of accompaniments. Vivid green coriander and mint dip sits next to fiery pickle, tomato salsa, pretty pink baby onions and an outstanding combination of pineapple and cumin.
Familiarity firmly gives way to finesse in the appetisers. The Murg Parmesan Tikka sees velvety chicken morsels loaded with parmesan shavings, the salty cheese sitting brilliantly with the smoky flavor of the tandoor oven. Elsewhere, the tandoor hits all the right notes again with the Balchao Prawns - marinated with traditional goan spice mix – and the Kasundi Tawa Mahi (or dory, as you might know it), a meaty mouthful with toasted curry brioche.
Among the main courses, the unquestionable star of the show is Signature’s Dum Nariyali Prawns. Cooked, and then served, in a coconut, the top is theatrically pulled away to reveal plump prawns lying in a deep, creamy coconut gravy. The portion is plentiful, with enough sauce to warrant a terribly uncouth but oh-so necessary mopping up with beautifully buttery garlic naan. The smoky, black lentil dal is also worthy of individual praise, not least because one chef is dedicated to crafting it for 3-4 hours each day. Time well spent indeed!
It turns out the open-topped coconut is not even the most spectacular dish that Signature offers. That honour belongs to the ‘Electric Kulfi’. Dense, almost-custard-like ice cream is infused with saffron, deep fried and served on ice with a giant, table-turning sparkler on the side. It is sweet, gooey and accompanied by a mouthful of popping candy, utterly moreish.
The ‘Electric Kulfi’ exemplifies a restaurant that, given the profile of its owner, understandably exudes gastronomic glitz and glamour. But despite all the (literal) fireworks, Signature’s greatest draw is that at its heart, the food remains reassuringly recognisable.
Here are our three dishes to try:
Murg Parmesan Tikka
Smoky and salty: a winning combo. AED95
Dum Nariyali Prawns Curry
Rich, creamy and generous. AED159, extra for rice, naan and dal
A little bit of razzmatazz in every mouthful. AED39