A slogan can be a dangerous thing for a restaurant if they are not able to live up to it. Lounge Cafe Italiano’s slogan is ‘Feed Your Passion for Food’. It made me wonder if that was meant as a statement, a challenge or a promise. After an hour and half eating, I can vouch for the fact that at Lounge Cafe Italiano, it is most definitely all three.
Lounge Cafe Italiano opened in the Arenco Tower in Dubai Media City in January of this year, and I was happy to be invited for a salad tasting at their restaurant.
Despite being located just off Sheikh Zayed Road, the restaurant feels like a haven. First impressions were very good. I got there at 12:30 on a Monday afternoon just as the restaurant was starting to buzz with their well-dressed Media City clientele. Walking through the glass doors, the restaurant embraces you with its warm but modern feel. The first thing I noticed was a modern wooden structure reminiscent of a tree trunk – beautiful and simple. The restaurant’s use of organic materials like wood, glass and leather along with the ambient background music gives the place an inviting feel.
There is also outdoor seating, but since it is getting way too hot to consider sitting outdoors in Dubai on a May afternoon (temperatures are averaging around 40C/104F these days) I happily sat indoors and soaked up the atmosphere.
Lounge Cafe Italiano has a traditional Italian menu with a very good representation of salads. I was lucky enough to try out nine salads, so I got a pretty good all-round view of what they have to offer.
My first platter arrived with the following salads:
– Plain Caesar Salad (AED 25): The dressing was delicious, well-balanced and just enough anchovy to give it a twist. Instead of traditional Cos lettuce, I got a delicious tranche of Baby Gem lettuce and a generous shaving of parmesan cheese. There were no croutons and from the menu it didn’t seem like you could add chicken, so this would make a good light lunch. I really enjoyed this salad.
– Baby Spinach, Avocado and Roast Pepper Salad with Pine Nuts and Balsamic Dressing (AED 50): A mound of baby spinach leaves tossed in an unctuous balsamic dressing, brightened by roasted red peppers. The avocado was perfectly ripe, but out of the three salads on my platter this is the one I liked least.
– Sesame and Honey Coated Tuna Loin Accompanied by a Sicilian Orange Salad and Drizzled with organic Pink Grapefruit and Chives Dressing (AED 52): Despite being in an unapologetically Italian restaurant, this salad had undertones of Oriental flavors with the tuna, sesame, honey and citrus. I loved it.
Platter number two had the following salads:
– Spicy Chicken Salad (AED 30): The chicken in this salad had a warm spiciness which left a touch of heat in your mouth. The chilli was tempered by cool crispy vegetables such as celery, bell peppers and tomatoes. With a couple of slices of bread, this makes a nice lunch for those who like their food spicy.
– Seafood with Zucchini Salad (AED 30): This was my favorite salad on the platter. The seafood was perfectly cooked and well-seasoned. The vegetables were kept chunky. A trimmed baby zucchini and a nice floret of cauliflower seemed like they had been lightly steamed which made them fork-tender. Peppers, spinach and radishes brought a variety of flavors and textures to the salad. I could not pin-point the dressing, other than to say that it was very good and worked with all the ingredients. There was also a generous shaving of parmesan on top, but I don’t actually think the salad needed it – it had so much to offer as it was. A great salad for lunch or dinner.
– Greek Salad (AED 25): The Greek Salad was fine. I like mine drizzled with a little more olive oil, and there was some on the table so I was able to add it. The vegetables were fresh and diced in a similar size which made getting a nice varied mouthful easy. My only reservation was the olives – they tasted like standard sliced black olives from a supermarket. I would have rather had a few really well-marinated whole olives rather than a lot of sliced olives in brine. Overall, a decent salad.
– Couscous Salad: The couscous salad was simple and it would be great as a side dish to grilled chicken or fish, but there was not enough ‘oomph’ for it to be a satisfying dish all on its own.
After trying samples of Lounge Cafe Italiano’s salads, I decided to try something directly from the menu.
– Caprese Salad – Organic Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella with Basil and Oil (AED 57): The Caprese Salad was made from very good simple ingredients. The drizzle of pesto around the plate gave an intense flavor boost, and I would recommend asking for a little bit more if you’re greedy about your basil (like I am). The portion was generous and I really enjoyed this salad.
Although pizza falls outside of my blog’s focus on salads, I have always believed that the best test of an Italian restaurant is to try their simplest pizza or pasta, and if they can get that right then everything else is usually good as well. I ordered a Margherita Pizza – after all, pizza and salad go hand in hand.
– Margherita Pizza (AED 43): The pizza was baked in a wood-fired oven and tasted just as I like it – a thin crust, simple tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.
I was almost too stuffed for dessert, but I asked for the menu anyway just to see what there was. There were several desserts to choose from, but my eye went directly to the Fruit Salad. Now, I know that fruit salad is probably not on the top of most people’s ‘Dessert Wishlist’, but this fruit salad was something truly special.
– Refreshing Fruit Salad served with your Choice of Italian Gelato (AED 40) – This fruit salad was probably one of the best I have ever tasted. Each fruit had been captured at its moment of perfect ripeness. The fruit was cut into perfect bite-size pieces and it looked and tasted like it had been freshly cut very recently. The temperature of the fruit was perfect (not overly chilled) which meant that I was able to taste all the flavors. It was served with Gelato – a choice of pistachio, vanilla and chocolate. Pistachio sounded intriguing but I have a weakness for chocolate. At the waitress’ recommendation, I went for pistachio. Heavenly.
These people love food, you can taste it in their dishes. Chef Juri, the Head Chef at Lounge Cafe Italiano, shows his culinary skills not by trying to over-dazzle but by subtly knowing how to combine ingredients and knowing when to stop. All the salads were made with excellent quality ingredients at their peak of ripeness and seasoned well. They were served at the right temperature, which allowed the flavors to stand out and speak for themselves. The restaurant is also aware of food intolerances, as it says on their menu ‘In case of any allergy or food intolerance, please inform our staff before placing your order.’
The staff was excellent, very attentive, knowledgable, and they seemed happy to be working there. As the restaurant got busier, so did the staff but they managed to stay on top of things. Even when they forgot to bring me a fork for my umpteenth course, a quick reminder was met by an even quicker response and I had my fork within seconds. The only thing the restaurant could possibly do to improve would be to hire a few more serving staff, which is simply a testament to how popular they are.
Although it is a bit on the pricey side for some dishes, portions are generous and you are paying for good quality ingredients. Everything was fresh. I could tell because one hour later I was still feeling really full but in a good way – not heavy, but well-nourished.
If you like to eat well and have an appreciation for simple food, let Lounge Cafe Italiano ‘Feed Your Passion For Food.’
Arenco Tower – shop #1
Dubai Media City
Sheikh Zayed Road
Tel: 04 432 7598 or 800 Italiano
Dine-in, Delivery and Catering available
Open Saturday-Thursday, 7:30am to midnight
Full Disclosure: I was invited as a guest to do a tasting at Lounge Cafe Italiano. All content reflects my honest opinion.Follow Me: