The opening of a new restaurant at Emirates Palace is a huge deal. The iconic hotel has become synonymous with unrestrained luxury since its opening 15 years ago and has in that time garnered a reputation for fine-dining, unparalleled levels of service and food adorned with edible gold. Martabaan by Hemant Oberoi , the newest culinary addition, fits perfectly into the Palace’s dining repertoire as FACT’s David Tapley finds out…
Bringing ‘contemporary classic’ Indian cuisine to the five-star hotel thanks to acclaimed Chef Hemant Oberoi, Martabaan has been a project of passion. A man who is recognised as much for his innovative cuisine as his humanity and heroism, having helped dozens of guests to safety during the 2008 terror attacks at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, Chef Oberoi’s illustrious career has seen him raise the bar as the Grand Chef of the legendary Taj Group of Hotels and his enviable guest list includes Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The restaurant space begins with a corridor of ornate archways, on which the left side is flanked by a fully-licensed bar. Mixology forms an integral part of the Martabaan experience and the team of cocktail maestros are happy to concoct some of the most innovative beverages in the capital. Think toffee based mixtures adorned with popcorn and served inside coffee cups, or beguiling mocktails presented in coconut shells branded with the restaurant’s simple logo.
Being Emirates Palace, Martabaan’s dining room feels particularly regal. Decor is kept to a minimum with accents of gold and simple furnishing which are brought to life via vivid textiles and vibrant artworks. A terrace boasting spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf will likely be in demand once the weather cools down but we’re happy with our comfortable booth-style table in the centre of the dining room, from which we have a good view of the open kitchen.
Martabaan’s menu offers up a number of intriguing dishes which are showcased via striking presentation devices that have been all the rage on the Dubai dining scene for some time but are only just beginning to debut here in the capital. Some work better than others, with the kursi chaat (AED60) of particular note. Presented on small chairs, crispy papadi, yogurt, mango chutney and fruit leather jostle for attention upon the dollhouse furniture but ultimately pack quite a flavoursome punch to the palate. Another strong dish, the can can chicken (AED95) offers a tender chicken tikka in a beautiful butter sauce, yet the presentation within a tin can (which is opened table-side) works against the allure that the restaurant is so intent on achieving.
Oberoi’s penchant for strong flavours and his innovative recipes have impacted the Indian culinary world and take centre-stage in dishes such as the snow mushrooms (AED85). Presenting thinly chopped mushrooms, mixed with Indian spices and served with a mushroom soil in the shape of a mushroom. It’s a visual treat and one where the interplay between theatrics and flavour marry perfectly.
Having mastered his craft over the past four decades, Chef Oberoi is clearly having fun with his cuisine and Martabaan affords him the opportunity of free-reign over a menu that is at times audacious. Paying tribute to the Middle Eastern location, his hummus Martabaan (AED65) makes for an exciting choice that perfectly balances the flavours of the Levant and India thanks to cumin chickpeas, pickled hummus and truffle. The humus is an impressive dish but one that could be excelled by providing diners with more of the accompanying mini naan breads – bite sized morsels which are particularly moreish.
As the name suggests the signature Martabaan is not to be missed! Referring to the large glazed jars traditionally used for food storage, the Martabaan ka meat (AED115) houses a piquant lamb that is undeniably tender and pleasantly appetising. Paired with a glass deg biryani in which the rice is served inside a glass bowl, makes for a visual treat through which we can see the distinct colourful layers. The main course feels aromatic, nostalgic and all at once homely, as Chef Oberoi weaves his culinary magic upon long-forgotten recipes, while updating them for the modern diner.
Dessert leaves us feeling somewhat torn as we instantly fall in love with the depth and sweetness of the Masala chai creme brulee (AED45) and the Gulab jamun tiramisu (AED65). The latter offers an interesting take on the traditional Italian dessert by replacing the ladyfingers with soft gulab jamun that harmonises perfectly with the creamy layers.
Martabaan certainly offers something new for the Palace and brings an exciting interpretation of Indian cuisine to the capital that has the potential to rival the likes of the already popular Tamba and Namak. As expected, the prices are reflective of not only the stellar service, but the ingredients and of course the location. Martabaan is definitely one to check out and brings an additional touch of luxury and excitement to the culinary canvas at Emirates Palace.