In the past year, Bahrain has seen a restaurant renaissance.
With the arrival of big name chefs boasting Michelin stars, the bar has well and truly been raised. But after a year’s worth of reviews and multiple visits to the island’s top spots, no restaurant has impressed us more than re Asian Cuisine | Wolfgang Puck, our official Restaurant of the Year 2015.
This is the celebrity chef’s first fine-dining Asian restaurant outside the US. And we, in Bahrain, are lucky enough to be the global guinea pigs he tests it out on.
Our final review of the year takes place on a weekday evening, during a busy night at the venue. We start off in the intimate Blue Moon Lounge (another award-winning venue in its own right) – enjoying the intimate atmosphere, stunning views and a rather noteworthy pre-dinner beverage – before making our way into the buzzing main dining room.
The venue itself boasts floor-to-ceiling windows on one side, which look out across Bahrain Bay and over to the island’s towering skyline. It’s a chic, smart place that would look comfortable in any top dining destination in the world. Giant, glittering chandeliers hang down in the middle of the restaurant and there is both window-side seating, as well as more intimate booths.
It’s the kind of restaurant that would easily attract both big parties and romantic daters looking for somewhere more edgy to dine.
From the get-go, service is a particular highlight. The staff know their menu inside-out and are armed with suggestions for discerning palates. They’re also more than willing to cater for people with special dietary requirements and will bear anything in mind when bringing out the chef’s amuse bouche.
The carefully curated menu is the perfect size: one page of exciting, delicious-sounding dishes which hit every mark – meat, seafood, vegetarian – and takes you through a range of sections including ‘First Flavours’ and ‘Dumplings and Dim Sum’. There is also a tasting menu you could indulge in.
On this occasion we go for a good mixture. To start, the spicy tuna tartare in sesame miso cones are a real highlight. The crunch from the cones counteracts the supple yet meaty texture from the tuna and these flavours work incredibly well with the creamy, chilli aioli and smoky shaved bonito.
The steamed bao buns with wagyu beef short ribs are also wonderful – the meat is tender and juicy, complementing the sweet bean glaze and pickled chilli it’s served with.
For our mains, it’s hard to choose which dish we like best. The miso-honey marinated black cod is beautifully cooked – the flesh flakes and quite literally melts in your mouth. Paired with the sweet bean-sesame dressing and the house pickled vegetables, it’s one of the best examples of black cod we’ve tried.
Meanwhile, the Singapore chilli prawns – usually a great example of street food from Asia – has been given a fine-dining twist.
We cannot get enough of the spicy chilli sambal with the large, springy prawns and the sweet yet savoury mantou crispy buns.
Once we’ve devoured it all, we realise it’s been a while since we’ve been this full. But it’s certainly worth it. Despite this, we move ahead to dessert with gusto. Our server recommends a new dish – the crème fraîche cheesecake. Intrigued, we dive straight in and are wowed. A slight sourness from the crème fraîche is offset by the sweetness of the biscuit base and then a depth of flavour, and hints of the Orient, come through from the ginger coulis and a clever, tart yuzu cream. Absolutely stunning in flavour and presentation.
This review might read more like a gushing love letter and, mindful of this, we’ve racked our brains for a negative point to provide balance. Disappointingly, we came up with nothing. We can even make peace with the steep price tag because it’s just that good and is even more reasonable than other, less impressive venues.
In the end, we’ll just thank Mr Wolfgang Puck for bringing this unique concept to Bahrain and look forward to yet another year of dining there.
The bill (for two)
1 x tuna tartare in sesame miso cones BD7 1 x shrimp dumplings BD8 1 x steamed bao buns BD9 1 x Singapore chilli prawns BD16 1 x black cod BD19 1 x cheesecake BD6 Service charge 15% Gov levy 5% Total BD78
re Asian Cuisine | Wolfgang Puck
Time Out Bahrain staffhttp://www.timeoutbahrain.com