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Vegetarian abroad

Updated: 2012-07-16 15:05
By Wu Liping ( China Daily)

Vegetarian abroad

Ossiano Bar, the signature restaurant of Atlantis The Palm, is a seafood restaurant with an awe-inspiring vista of a huge aquarium with 65,000 ocean creatures. Provided to China Daily

Vegetarian abroad

Rocket salad with Parmesan cheese. Wu Liping / China Daily

If you don't eat meat, eating away from home may be a handicap. But in Dubai, Wu Liping finds some delicious options.

Dubai. The name conjures up an image of a seaside paradise of tours, entertainment, shopping and, of course, dining. As an ovo-lacto vegetarian - one who eats eggs and dairy products - I sometimes allow myself some meat when I have to travel on assignment, especially when much of the trip is focused on food coverage. In Dubai, for example, seafood dominates the tables. Oysters, scallops, lobster and sashimi fish are imported from around the world, and they all taste extraordinarily fresh. The meats, including foie gras of different textures, steaks, grilled duck and chicken are all amazing treats for both palate and vision.

But it was the vegetarian food I had during the trip that was the most delicious for me.

We arrived at Atlantis The Palm of Dubai in the early morning, and the start of our fabulous food journey began with breakfast - Cantonese-style dim sums from the chefs of the Asia Republic restaurant of the hotel.

The hot noodle soup and the porridge, accompanied by preserved carrot, and red and green fresh chili, were perfect for travel-weary diners. The chefs use little salt, sugar or strong seasonings, preferring to keep the flavors fresh.

The flavor was also represented by the steamed bun stuffed with chopped vegetables. The wrapper was thin and transparent, allowing diners to see through to the fresh green filling.

Other vegetarian choices include spring rolls, mushroom dumplings and stir-fried mixed vegetables with garlic and soya.

At Atlantis, diners with a taste for Asian food can also visit Saffron, the Chinese restaurant with about 20 cooking stations scattered in its main dining hall.

"Asia Republic is newly opened, while Saffron is one of our most popular restaurants," says Helen Xiao, a Beijinger who has been here for more than 10 years, and is in charge of the two Asian restaurants.

"To cater to the local customers, most of whom are fond of meat, we often separate the meat and vegetable in the dishes."

It is not an exaggeration to say that Atlantis The Palm is a haven for diners. There are 23 restaurants in the hotel, a mix of high-end and popular restaurants from different countries.

Ronda Locatelli is an Italian restaurant brand created by Michelin-starred chef Giorgio Locatelli. It features classic Italian countryside cuisine.

We are immediately immersed in the warm, family-style ambience and enjoy the aromas wafting from the bread baked in its wood-fired brick oven. We are offered some as soon as we sit down.

Faced with the overwhelming choices on the menu, the eight of us decide to order the main dishes and share.

Among the signature dishes, which include char-grilled tiger prawns and braised beef with mashed potatoes, the rocket salad Parmesan cheese and vegetable pizza with eggplant and tomato best suited my palate.

The rocket salad came with chopped tomatoes, mushrooms and blanched vegetables, and was almost too pretty to eat. Red tomatoes, green vegetables, white cheese bulk, and brown mushrooms on the plate became a work of art.

For me, the highlight of the dish was the Parmesan cheese. The chewy layer was at once soft and melting and every bite was an exotic moment.

The dessert I ordered was chocolate tart - and again, it was the most delicious I ever tasted. It was not too sweet but rich and decorated with blueberries and cherries. It was liberally swirled with dark-brown caramel and mixed berry sauce, and it looked like a miniature avant-garde sculpture normally seen in modern art galleries.

The texture was succulent but velvety and the flavors morphed from the light bitterness of the coffee and chocolate to the fruity sweetness of cherry and berry.

On the second day of our stay at Atlantis The Palm, Mark Patten, vice-president of cuisine, leads us on a tour of the major restaurants in the hotel.

Nobu, which has a branch in Beijing's Jianguo Road in Chaoyang district, blends Japanese style with Arabian influences. The buffet in Kaleidoscope restaurant mainly features Arabic and Mediterranean dishes, complemented by Northern African and Indian cuisines. The Burger Joint provides classic American burgers with crispy fries and snacks.

In all the restaurants, vegetarians can always find enough options for a satisfying meal.

The signature restaurant, though, is the Ossiano Bar, the renowned seafood restaurant with an awe-inspiring view of the Atlantis' Lost Chambers Aquarium, a huge underwater world with 65,000 ocean creatures.

It's a seafood restaurant, but it is worth the visit just for the unusual dining experience.

The dining area is bathed in mysterious marine hues - an appropriate ambience as you dine and watch shoals of fish swim almost right up to your table. A giant shark may surprise you with a sudden appearance.

It is a time warp moment, in which you can feel disoriented in space and place.

After two-days at the Atlantis, we were transferred to the One & Only Royal Mirage and One & Only The Palm in Dubai. They are two properties under the same brand, with one featuring home-style destination and the latter presenting private vacation experiences.

One & Only The Palm has three restaurants, all under the guidance of Michelin-starred French chef Alleno Yannick: Zest, STAY and 101 Dinning Lounge and Bar.

STAY, which stands for Simple Table Alleno Yannick, has a branch in Beijing at the Shangri-La Hotel. It is one of the leading French restaurants in Beijing.

Unfortunately, STAY at One & Only was closed for renovation while we are there, and we were invited to dinner at the 101.

The restaurant is built on a very small island that is connected to the main hotel by a trestle. It boasts a panoramic view of the Dubai's skyline of skyscrapers.

The facade of the waterfront restaurant is glass, allowing diners to blend the beauty of a sea view with the enjoyment of their meals.

Dinner starts with tapas - pickled green peppers, grilled cheese and steamed egg custard with mashed vegetables - a nice selection for vegetarians. The glowing sunset comes free.

Main dishes featured mainly seafood such as steamed prawns, scallops a la plancha and a grilled duck breast, but I was made happy with sauteed baby spinach and the cheesy ravioli.

The spinach came with pine nuts and Manchego cheese, and the grainy texture of the Spanish cheese complemented the refreshing tenderness of the vegetable, triggering all pleasure buttons in the brain.

The cheesy ravioli were served with scallops and the ravioli were stuffed with goat cheese, which had a strong aftertaste.

In all, Dubai can be a vegetarian's delight, considering the wide options available in both Asian and Western flavors. I certainly enjoyed all my meals.

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Vegetarian abroad