So how do you stage one that stands out from the crowd?
Belcanto has the answer with a sophisticated weekend fixture that is so good they host it twice.
Whether it is food, art, language, football or music, for centuries they have delivered what the rest of the world craves.
And while their lively evening service, complete with Brazilian live band, has been acquiring something of a must-go reputation, La Festa brunch places this beautifully-designed restaurant amid a very crowded market.
In fact, the ‘journey’ begins with a short shuttle ride from the Boulevard valet parking/taxi drop-off to the opera house front door in a bespoke liveried buggy.
A walk around the outer auditorium and a lift ride transports you from airy, light-filled corridor to a low-lit decadent world very different to previous iterations within the restaurant space. Having overcome initial surprise at the lush decor, it is evident the open kitchens either side of the dining area have not only survived but are thriving.
Glass folding doors to the Burj Khalifa-framing outside enclave - now re-branded as ‘secret green’ Eden - have been replaced with a stage flanked by screens displaying projected imagery adding a modern yet unobtrusive element to the ambience.
While some dining venues throw everything at their interiors, however, this address thankfully devotes as much imagination to richly adorning the numerous plates that land with efficient and enthusiastic service on our table during the next four courses, across four hours.
It begins with choosing mains and drinks from a list that seeks to showcase Head Chef Fabrizio Lusenti’s vibrant summer menu with often playful and highly detailed flourishes.
Fresh salad, dressed with Belcanto’s signature olive oil and at-table grated lemon zest, contrasts some of the richness to follow, and it takes willpower not to fill up on the in-house baked fluffy focaccia.
Pretty plates cleverly combine subtle flavours, including venue hit burrata e pomodori; a substantial orb of Puglia’s finest cheese within a constellation of heirloom tomatoes that delivers a mouthful of pure sunshine.
Similar can be said of crudo of wild sea bass cerviche, tartare di tonno rosso and beef carpaccio.
The latter is rolled and lifted by parmesan, arugula and celery for a refreshing introduction while the tartare comprises a decent serving of bluefin tuna elevated by delicate ponzu sauce, avocado and cucumber sorbet, scooped up with crispy shisho leaf for both visual and texture contrast, although maybe a few more were needed. Fresh oysters are also available.
Veal laced with a creamy tonnato sauce completes the ‘primo atto’ trio.
Diavola pizza delivers another classic distraction after subtle starters…and this wood-fired wonder proves to be a detour into pizza paradise. Beautifully baked crust surrounds a thin base emboldened with one of the finest tomato, mozzarella, spicy beef salami combinations to hit these lips.
Other second act choices include grilled lamb rack for two, ricotta ravioli, beef tenderloin and Cacciatore-style chicken breast. But tagliatelle al Tartufate vied for dish of the afternoon accolade on our table…al dente truffle pasta doused in rich duck ragout to lift those ribbons to another level.
Red snapper was pescato ‘catch of the day’, a homely, bold combination prepared Isolana style with colour and capers aplenty.
Hence, belt loops and calorie counts are further tested by a long plate parading beautifully built naughtiness such as strawberry cake, millefeuille, pannacotta, a cute tiramisu, and a side order of gelato which on our visit was a scarily good whirl of pistachio.
All this comes with an eclectic musical backdrop, notably via the dulcet tones of a songstress who over the course of the afternoon serves up flawless renditions of some Italian classics and other re-worked upbeat hits and ballads.
Personal preference would have her devoting her strong range to more of the Italian tunes rather than a couple of the lesser-suited Madonna songs (love a bit of Maddie, but there’s a time and a place) to embellish the ambience of the occasion.
Belcanto does that in spades, although some might question the wisdom of launching a brunch so close to the summer ‘exodus’ when many expats are heading for the airport door.
Others, however, might say quality is never rushed and invites longevity among those desiring more from their dining experience.
La Festa will likely endure and prosper, summer or winter, as word of mouth puts it on the to-do list of brunch veterans aspiring greater sophistication in their food, surroundings, entertainment and ambience - as a romantic date for a couple or honouring the age-old Italian social ritual of gathering family and friends.
LA Festa brunch happens every Saturday and Sunday, 12-4pm. The restaurant opens daily from 6pm for dinner service.
BRUNCH prices are AED320 for the non-alcoholic package and AED420 for the alcohol package, including house beverages, cocktails, and Prosecco (excluding 22% fees and taxes).
TO book, email firstname.lastname@example.org, go online at https://www.sevenrooms.com/reservations/belcantorestaurant/ call +97144560936 or Whatsapp +971 50 928 9038.
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