Food served from a birdcage? We go on a unique adventure into the world of Chinese cuisine.
The Dubai food scene moves in trends, and while recent years have seen Peruvian, Greek and Pan Asian restaurants come and go, the attention of Dubai diners is currently gravitating towards high-end Chinese restaurants.
With the arrival of the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Dubai earlier this year, we saw several Chinese restaurants bestowed with the prestigious accolades, including one star for Hakkasan and Bib Gourmand recognition for the newly-opened Demon Duck and Tàn Chá.
It’s impressive to see how a recent opening such as the aforementioned Tàn Chá captured the MICHELIN inspectors’ attention. Taking over the space formally occupied by GQ Bar at the rear of the world’s tallest five-star hotel, Tàn Chá is less than six months old.
The vibey restaurant effortlessly segues from dining to nightlife across a multi-faceted space, with each of the multiple dining rooms evoking a different feel. There’s a lounge, elevated seating in comfortable leather booths and a private dining room – and that’s just downstairs. On the second floor is another spacious dining room currently utilised for Tàn Chá’s popular weekend dim sum brunch and a terrace boasting waterfront views over the Dubai Canal.
We find ourselves in the atmospheric lounge, where statement lighting, an expansive bar and a live DJ spinning hypnotic rhythms converge into a sultry and intimate dining experience. Backed by an impressive front-of-house team, Tàn Chá’s exciting culinary offering is an intersection of contemporary Hong Kong and provincial China.
Tàn Chá’s innovative and immersive culinary journey takes diners on an exploration of the new and forgotten that encompasses an exhaustive selection of first plates, raw dishes, soup, dim sum, breath of the wok, rice, noodles and dessert. The food from Executive Chef David Pang is served from an elaborate birdcage as it crosses the pass, and the caged bird is a motif repeated throughout the restaurant across illuminated light fittings and state-of-the-art video screens.
We begin with honey nut crispy beef (AED 140), a dish that displays culinary finesse and sees beef cubes triple cooked to achieve an admirable tenderness before being tossed in a sweet and sticky honey dressing and rolled in peanuts. The result is a moreish plate that transpires to be our favourite dish on the Tàn Chá menu. Slathered in wasabi mayo before being dressed with mango salsa and tobiko, the royal wasabi prawns (AED 120) are another splendid choice.
It’s exciting to see that over twenty varieties of dim sum are offered, showing a specialism for the craft of these beautifully intricate parcels. At Tàn Chá, these dumplings are described as the ‘five tastes of life’, covering sour, sweet, bitter, spicy and salty flavour combinations. Our recommendation would be the bumblebee wagyu beef buns (AED 60), presenting wagyu beef and Szechuan honey sauce encased in a pillow-light bun that resembles a buzzing bumblebee.
Despite an appealing selection of claypot and stir-fry dishes, we opt for a Tàn Chá signature – the whole Peking duck (AED 495). Served with or without caviar, the duck is presented in an elaborate box emblazoned with the Tàn Chá logo and stacked with pancakes, scallion, cucumber and condiments. Despite the Insta-worthy theatrics, the end product more than delivers, featuring crispy skinned duck accompanied with sweet bean sauce, foie gras sauce and preserved lemon sauce. The decadence of this main course is heightened by a traditional tea ceremony performed tableside.
We escape into the night past an illuminated sign that reads “the exploration of the new and forgotten, the hidden and the secret”, which is a good summation of our dining experience. Tàn Chá’s juxtaposition of exquisite wallpaper, personalised chopsticks, DJ-driven dining, bespoke art from Grégoire A. Meyer, and low lighting makes for a contemporary Chinese eatery unlike any other in the city. Check it out.
GO: Visit https://tanchadubai.com for reservations and more information.