Ananta (Indian) – Dubai
In addition to our popular Dubai review of The Oberoi Group’s fine dining hotel restaurant Nine7One located in the Dubai Business Bay, we also went down, literally a floor below, to review another one of their award-winning establishments, Ananta.
In 2014, this eatery won the coveted BBC Good Food Award for ‘Best International Indian Restaurant – Fine Dining’, furthering the company’s reputation for luxury and excellence. In fact, The Oberoi Group is renowned for its professional cooking academies in India that specialise in training chefs to the standards of fine-dining. These same chefs are then encouraged to apply their skills abroad, which allows places like Dubai to then showcase the authentic tastes of Indian cuisine. In this resepct, Ananta is no different with chefs who have worked at several of the Group’s Indian hotels before establishing themselves in Dubai.
In short then, what you should be expecting at such a place is authenticity at every level and of the highest standards, as well as a unparalleled fine dining experience to savour and remember.
As with Nine7One, the design, decor and atmosphere personified class and elegance, just as one would expect of a fine-dining eatery.
With an open kitchen for diners to marvel over the culinary skills of the chefs, this place oozed class and sophistication: the tables precisely set; the utensils perfectly aligned and golden, and very Indian-Maharaja-esque.
The complementary papadums came with lemon pickle, mixed pickle and pickled raisins. While the papadums were crunchy and non-greasy, the pickles were quite tart and, we would think, somewhat of an acquired taste that may, may split the crowd.
These Oberoi taught chefs certainly know how to make a strawberry mint drink. This however wasn’t quite as good as Nine7One’s owing to it either being a little too watered down with the extra ice, not enough strawberry, or a combination of both.
We were recommended to try the traditional mango drink which came out with a strangely peculiar green tinge to it. What it turned out to be was dried mango with spices which tasted similar to what in the South Indian subcontinent is known as chaat masala. Nonetheless, an interesting flavoured drink; quite strong in its intensity given the chaat masala, which is partially offset by the mango. Hence, won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Surprisingly tasty though with the large peppers turning out very soft when fried, along with freshly cut onions and an accompanying ultra minty sauce.
Could have been a little spicier though in our humble opinion.
Nice start to get the taste buds going though.
Isn’t that a simple, yet elegantly presented meal?
The galouti kebab (top right) was made from a combination of such finely minced lamb that it came apart relatively easily. Furthermore, the quantity of spices was just right.
As for the shamshi jhinga, or jumbo prawn, in the middle, then this was marinated in cheese and yoghurt, stuffed with pomegranates and finely diced peppers, and roasted to perfection. Ever so slightly crunchy on the outside, and wonderfully soft and succulent on the inside. You could have a hand full of these and not get board!
The peculiarly looking duck khara sena was cooked in deep fried butter, and left it soft and succulent with a hint of chilli in the background.
Along with the spiced fried onion hiding under the garnish, this whole dish was an exhibition for a perfect starter.
Same as the above, except that this plate had another extra goody added to it in the form of a lightly spiced and deep fried crispy coated block of sea bass that was quite delicious, but quite literally brought to life with the addition of the lemon.
We opted for mildly spiced butter chicken. What we got was something rich and exquisite with a hint of lemon running in the background.
The succulent chicken was cooked in a tandoor before being lightly marinated, and presented with a bowl of perfectly cooked, unbroken rice.
Arguably the best butter chicken we’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting.
Beautifully presented on a palm leaf, we really were experiencing a glimpse of the Maharaja’s life style at this point. But we were here for the important task of delivering an honest review:
- The Aamra Murgh Musallam, or a baby chicken korma, was tender, perfectly spiced, and went really well with the paratha. Perhaps it’s policy for Ananta to present dishes slightly less chillier for the Dubai palate than the chefs would normally for the Asian palate, but we would have preferred the hear turned up slightly. Perhaps it might be a good idea to offer this as an option.
- Jhinga ka salan is a nutty flavoured prawn curry, but not just any old prawn curry we’ve ever tasted. This has concoction of spices we can’t even dream of breaking down. What we know is that the appealingly vibrant deep yellow colour is achieved by mixing yellow chilli instead of a red with turmeric. Aside from that, this thick and creamy and luxuriant, and the best of this assortment with its the rich, tangy coconut sauce.
- Many boast of being able to cook a good a lamb nihari, but only a few can pull off an exceptional one. This was definitely from the upper echelons. The lamb is slow cooked in its own stock before the onions, browned with hara masala (spice), are added.
It could be the case that this is how they cook this particular curry in the way they traditionally, which is the beauty of such dishes since every region has its own interpretation, but in our opinion, not only were there too many onions, but they were also over done. In the end, it comes down to personal taste and preference, right?
- Mung deal makhani is green lentil soup. It was the only vegetable dish we had. What less this down was the heavy handed use of garam masala which left the back of our throats slightly burning. The texture of the soup, however, was nice and thick. And with so many gravy dishes on the menu, a dry vegetable one is certainly an option to mix things up.
- The Dum Turshi Gosht Biryani was mild in taste. We couldn’t quite pick up the distinct taste of saffron, but the simplicity of it all meant it went well with the other curries.
- The lone sheep that didn’t make it into the main picture is the controversial chicken tikka masala. Some believe it to be quintessentially British having allegedly been invented in a UK restaurant, while others forcefully disagree. Whatever the case, the chicken in this particular version was diced smaller than you’d find in most chicken tikka masalas made at home, and also had more tomato added to it too. But again, while a fair amount of spices were incorporated, it lacked that heat factor everyone here in the UK expects of a chicken tikka masalas.
Freshly made naan and roti of different varieties here. You can tell the region from which a roti originates by its size and texture, and we knew that this was evidently a Punjabi inspired one which went really well with the mains.
Gulab ki Kheer is similar to rice pudding in that it’s basically rice slow cooked in milk. This was certainly the Indian version as opposed to the thicker version normally made by its neighbours across the border in Pakistan. This was fairly plain with a semi-thick consistency to it which was, overall, mildly sweet.
Pista Kulfi (pistachio ice cream) wasn’t as good as we expected though. A little too solid for our liking. We prefer our ice cream to be creamier in texture.
Rangeenak Zalebia is dried jalebi that’s made from flour and cheena that’s soaked in both saffron and rose water, no less, before being dipped in sugar syrup and deep fried. What we got was a true show stopper. Beautifully fragrant and soft on the inside, with a very crunchy yet light exterior.
Thankfully, the rose water was used delicately and so you could pick its subtle sweetness in the background. Delicious!
Having dined like Maharajas from the time of the Raj, what better way to finish the meal than with a good cup of Indian spiced tea?
All that was needed to conclude this experience was this simple, yet memorable, hand wash – a damp hot towel with lemon to clean your hands. Fine dining at its finest!
- YES/ YES
- CHILD SEATING
And as would be expected of a fine dining establishment, the staff were properly drilled, well informed, and always on the ready to assist the diners and anticipate their needs.
What makes this place a definite visit if you're in Dubai and seeking after Indian cuisine is not just the high standards, but how faithful the menu is to tradition. This is not fusion cooking; this is honest and authentic Indian food elevated to fine dining by experienced and creative chefs who know exactly what they're doing.
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Al A’amal St,
United Arab Emirates
T: +971 4 444 1 407 | W: www.oberoihotels.com