A buzz-worthy restaurant paring vibrant flavours with traditional woodfire cooking.
Woodfire cooking appears to be the current trend de jour in Dubai. Dining experiences revolving around open-flame cooking have taken the city by storm, with the likes of Sucre and Hunter & Barrel leading the charge with their smoked imbued dishes inspired by hunt, gather and fire-inspired culinary fundamentals.
New to the scene is the unlicensed 11Woodfire, an unassuming restaurant that has taken up residence in a large villa next to Mercato Shopping Mall on Jumeriah Beach Road. The restaurant comes to us from acclaimed Singaporean chef Akmal Anuar, who many will know as the brains behind the likes of 3Fils, Goldfish Sushi & Yakitori and Sharjah-based Chie.
As its name suggests, the restaurant pairs vibrant flavours with traditional woodfire cooking techniques, resulting in a unique dining destination rooted in earthy soulfulness. As Chef Akmal explains to us on the day we dine: “My inspiration comes from natural cooking: I appreciate the use of fresh and superior ingredients, and I want that to be showcased as simply as possible with the woodfire touch. The concept is wonderfully simple – nothing over the top, just great ingredients cooked over woodfire.”
The simple menu celebrates the earth’s natural bounty and creates a sense of community, especially as this eatery’s core philosophy centres around a warming fire – a place to gather, connect and share food with friends and family.
11Woodfire’s open kitchen is centred around the open flame, offering not only a striking visual when you cross the threshold into the industrial restaurant space but also a distinctive aroma that is both alluring and strangely calming. As a result, the cuisine showcases various grill cooking techniques with an array of wood types, helping to create and enhance flavours.
The concise menu is divided nearly into five distinct sections – Equilibrium (land and sea starters), Botanic Kingdom (seasonal vegetables), Ocean’s Bounty (seafood), Heartland (prime meats) and The Lasting Memory (desserts). We begin with Pine Smoked Scottish Salmon (AED 150), served with caviar sauce and a zesty citrus cream that is both subtle and undeniably moreish.
While an appealing selection of prime meats are offered, including Crispy Skin Duck Leg, Rack Of Lamb, Wagyu Prime Rib, Beef Tartare and Bone Marrow, we find ourselves drawn towards the seafood. Torn between the Spiny Lobster, King Prawns and The Atlantic Sea Bass (AED 185), we eventually settle on the latter, easily enough food for two people to share. The fish is deboned and presented whole, revealing tender flesh beneath a crisp skin that has been adorned with garlic and Kashmiri chilli. It’s a fantastic dish that showcases the subtle nuances of woodfire cooking and is something we would happily order again.
When it comes to desserts, make sure you save room for the glorious Burnt Cheesecake (AED 50) served with a choice of either goats or cream cheese and served with lashings of chocolate. Trust us when we say – you won’t be disappointed.
Ultimately 11Woodfire offers diners a sensory journey from start to finish, exploring various textures, tastes, smells and sounds while showcasing longstanding cooking techniques that enhance primal tastes.
As Chef Akmal explains: “The idea came to me around four years ago: I am a family man who loves hosting a good get-together, surrounded by family and friends, gathered around a barbeque in the outdoors and I always knew that I wanted to recreate this in a restaurant. I started designing the concept of a venue where guests can indulge in the cosy comforts of life, enjoying delicious food in a great setting, where we focus on simplicity and flavour above all else.”