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FACT Review: Can Sfumato make vegetables fine dining?

With a female chef at its helm, the menu brings to life the beauty of vegetables.

When you were younger, did you have trouble eating your veggies? If that was – or still is – the case, Sfumato will change the way you think about vegetables. The concept takes humble vegetables and elevates them to a thing of beauty. So much so, you’ll be picking up your phone before your fork, so you can savour the moment.

First things first, what does that name mean? Sfumato refers to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting technique, which is about softening the transition between colours. The most famous example is Mona Lisa’s eyes, which give her that world-famous smize. The restaurant draws inspiration from this technique, and has an almost academic-like approach to its cuisine.

Sfumato is located in ME Dubai, which was designed by Zaha Hadid. Set in the heart of the atrium, it gives visitors the chance to admire the architecture and peek into the open kitchen. As you sit beneath the white undulating roof, the space is filled with soft brown, grey and navy seats, which are punctuated by gold touches, potted plants and swirling carpets.


It’s not often that a female chef heads up a restaurant in the UAE. Ukrainian chef, Alena Solodovichenko, is the Executive Chef at Sfumato. She has featured in the MICHELIN Guide, and is behind the best-selling cook book, Miss Varenichnaya. She explains: “I will show you how vegetables, when nurtured and prepared through a combination of old-world knowledge and modern gastronomic technique, can rise above even the most exalted ingredients: caviar, wagyu, lobster and oysters”.

Sfumato serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we sample dishes from across the menus. The dinner menu is divided up between local veggies, world grown veggies, from the sea, Josper meat and Chef’s new vision. Don’t leave without ordering from the latter – the restaurant prides itself on its locally sourced produce, and it’s here that the concept truly shines. The unique combination of flavours is so surprising, it makes you rethink some of the simplest ingredients.

The experience begins with cabbage bread and butter, and we’re told that this is the only restaurant in Dubai serving this kind of bread. The warm, low-carb bread makes for an unexpected start.


The Stracciatella with Beetroot is a delicate dish with fresh flavours. The Baked Peach with truffle stracciatella and a soft side of brioche is on the smaller side, but is oh-so scrumptious and soaks up the flavours. Both are beautifully presented and served in glass bowls shaped like a flower.

The Hamour and Octopus dumplings served in smoked roots sauce is creamy yet chewy, and we finish it within a matter of minutes. The Ukrainian-inspired Borsch soup with smoked pears and slow cooked beef has comfort food credentials, and a sweet yet sour combination.

Sfumato’s desserts do not wow us as much as we were expecting. The Rhubarb with strawberry and labneh reminds us of school dinner trifles, and the Cocoa Opilana with tonka and mushroom has a love-it or hate-it taste. The other options range from a Pavlova Caviar to Apple with coconut and milk.


It’s not often you go to a restaurant and the general manager directs you to the non-alcoholic drinks first. At Sfumato, the non-alcoholic drinks are just as exciting as the alcoholic drinks. The highlight is the Centoquarantauattro (aka number 144), which feels like a grown-up milkshake. It combines lavender with sour cordial to create a floral, milky drink.

Sfumato’s signature cocktails range from the Otto with berries, citrus and vodka to the Tredici with capers, reisling tomato and tequila. Plus, if you just want to rock up for drinks, there are stools by the bar.

Sfumato, you make us want to finish our vegetables.   

GO: Visit for more information.

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Kohinoor Sahota - Deputy Editor
A sucker for a good story, if you invite Kohinoor to a gallery, comedy night, new restaurant, hiking trip, cycle ride, pool day or just about any activity, she’ll probably say yes – that is if she isn’t busy planning her next adventure.

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