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Confession: I’ve never been one to order salads at fancy eateries, nor did I ever think they belonged anywhere near a night out with friends. I stand corrected. Because not only did I make my way to the recently remastered BA – Boldly Asian at Fairmont The Palm, but I also did so with a vegan friend in tow. Now, Dubai has more than its fair share of incredible Asian restaurants (read: Instagrammable spaces serving complex flavour combinations catering to even the most restricted diet), so the pressure is on.
However, as its name suggests, the restaurant boldly embarks on a culinary journey across South East Asia, starting with décor elements ranging from a mirrored corridor and sheer black drapes to striking red chandeliers and endless iterations of the white tiger motif. That’s the Insta-crowd taken care of. As for its already-buzzy atmosphere? Palpable. You instantly get the sense that diners are there to linger, whether they’re hotel guests opting for the half-board option or Dubai residents who’ve driven from the other side of town – like me. And while BA’s lively vibe certainly adds to the overall dining experience, it’s the food (combined with the knowledge and recommendations of the staff) that I will return for.
The menu looks to China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea for inspiration, translating to dishes that feel familiar in the best way – think: karaage chicken served with yuzu kosho mayo, sautéed mixed mushrooms dressed with soy and yuzu butter, and king crab tacos with spicy mayo offset by cooling mango. And then there’s the soba noodle salad, the game-changing salad that felt hearty yet light and refreshing owing to its combination of pumpkin, radish, avocado, cucumber and more. The creativity showcased by way of its sesame paper garnish is just the proverbial cherry on top. Elsewhere, the generously sized baos are a must-order, with the BBQ chicken and pickled chilli variety getting my vote.
The vegan-ish theme of my meal continued into the mains, courtesy of the mapo tofu that my friend paired with vegetable fried rice. A word to the wise: not only does the former hail from the Sichuan province of China (read: it’s spicy), but it also tends to sell out because of its popularity. The seafood enthusiast in me, however, couldn’t fathom transitioning to dessert without tapping into the sushi selection, especially as this is where decision-making gets challenging. Eager to give one of the more decadent rolls a try, I made a beeline for the Dynamite Scallop Roll that features prawn katsu and Hokkaido scallops with cream cheese, cucumber and dynamite sauce – and I am glad I did.
The toasted Panko breadcrumb topping added an unexpected crunch, which I quite liked, so if you’re someone who appreciates a play of textures, this is the one for you. It goes without saying that ordering dessert is mandatory, especially considering the likes of yuzu citrus tarts, green tea mousse and an assortment of mochi make an appearance. Then again, we’ve waited a (really) long time for cooler temperatures, making the Warm Chocolate Pudding accented with poached pears a no-brainer for obvious reasons.
BA – Boldly Asian at Fairmont The Palm is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 6pm to 2am with entertainment from a live DJ.