If you haven’t already heard of two Michelin-starred chef Tim Raue, you soon will – especially if you happen to visit your Neflix account anytime soon. Season three of the Emmy-nominated documentary series Chef’s Table, which is said to have created the “food romance” genre thanks to its intimate tone, is due to be released today, with Raue featured alongside five other visionary chefs from across the globe. The episode dedicated to the German chef will take you inside both his life and kitchen, chronicling the story of how his passion for cooking took him from a street gang in a rough neighborhood of Berlin to becoming “Germany’s best chef, by far”.
You’ll undoubtedly find yourself longing to try his food after just one episode, so here’s some good news: Raue recently opened a restaurant called Dragonfly in Dubai, which I had been invited to try out. I have what you would call an “unsophisticated palate” – I’m the one friends and family members come to for recommendations on street food, casual eateries, hole-in-the-wall joints, and where the largest fleet of food trucks is currently parked – but this place and its wonderfully intense ambience felt right up my alley.
Eager to prep said palate for the release of the new season, I make my way to Raue’s latest venture – his first foray outside of Germany – for an evening of contemporary Pan-Asian cuisine. The restaurant can be classified as somewhat of a hidden gem, what with its location in the newly opened “Boulevard” of City Walk, and is certainly one worth discovering.
A meal at Dragonfly begins with an unexpected surprise; a range of complimentary appetizers such as Sichuan-style red bell peppers and romaine lettuce dressed with parsley marinade and jalapeño. The manager suggests pairing the Thai curry-infused roasted cashews with the yellow radish that is doused with Japanese hot mustard – and she’s spot on.
The restaurant is not licensed, but that hasn’t dampened its creativity when it comes to beverages. ‘Jines’, non-alcoholic juices of the highest quality, are given the same amount of care and consideration as adult beverages – bottles and glasses included. Apricot with passionfruit and glutinous rice, plum with tamarind and Madagascar pepper, and cucumber with celery and yuzu are just some of the innovative combinations on offer. The staff will even recommend which flavor will best complement your menu choices.
Head Chef Christian Singer, meanwhile, has worked under Raue’s mentorship since 2011, and it’s evident when you order one of the menu’s signature dishes. Raue’s take on ‘Peking Duck’ is unlike any you’ve ever had, but be warned – it’s definitely geared toward the more adventurous palate. It features roasted duck breast topped with a cracker made from duck skin alongside sauce cooked from duck feet and a leek roll filled with apple-wasabi relish. Two accompanying plates serve a delicate mousse of foie gras and duck hachis as well as duck stock with bamboo mushroom and winter melon.
The ultimate crowd-pleaser at Dragonfly – and hands down my favorite – is the langoustine. Alternating textures and an explosion of flavors come courtesy of a plump and juicy langoustine encased in tempura batter and then deep-fried. The wasabi-mayonnaise dressing lends a hint of potency, which is beautifully offset by the mango salsa and sprinkling of Vietnamese rice flakes. If a dish that is as delicious as it is theatrical is what you’re after, opt for the Canton-style steamed turbot, which is served with hot water and dry ice. Bathed in a ten-year-old kamebishi soy sauce, it is cooked to absolute perfection.
By now, you might be wondering how it is that a German chef found his calling in Asian cuisine, and you wouldn’t be the first. A stint abroad in Singapore led to Raue discovering his affinity for how food is consumed in that part of the world and then picking and choosing the best culinary aspects of the countries he had explored. As a result, he combines French cooking techniques with the spices of China, the flavors of Thailand, and the simplicity of the Japanese culinary mindset – all evident in the complex flavor combination yet simple presentation of each dish at Dragonfly. If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave having finally realized the difference between dinner and a full-blown dining experience.
Building 5, City Walk
(+971) 4 342 7044