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Located in a villa in Jumeirah 1, this contemporary dining space is stylish, elegant and unique — thus befitting the word boutique. Culinary Boutique is a casual dining restaurant, a culinary school, a bespoke event venue and a bakery, all rolled into one. Hessa Al Qasim, the Emirati entrepreneur and owner of Culinary Boutique, combines her passion for food with the desire to do something really different.
“Dubai is sinking under the sheer number of new restaurants and cafes,” she says. “I want to give back to society with my cooking classes. Youngsters today are busy with computers and video games. I want them to not only develop an interest in cooking, but also get conscious about healthy food. This is possible only if they enjoy their cooking classes. Besides, home delivery of restaurant food through a phone call or a mobile app makes matters worse. With obesity and diabetes on the rise among youngsters, I intend teaching them something that will only help them in the future.
“My main focus is on cooking classes, but the restaurant, bakery, and the events venue will help in making the concept economically viable and sustainable. Also, you will get convinced that our culinary school teaches you to create something delicious only if we serve the same thing in our cafe!”
Culinary Boutique aims to attract not just expats or the residents of Jumeirah, but all types of diners from across the UAE. Spread across two floors in an elegant villa on Jumeirah Beach Road, the outdoor seating in the terraces on both floors complement the cosy indoor seating in the ground floor.
Head Chef Pawel Wiktoike’s experience in Japanese cuisine at Zuma earlier has helped in fine tuning the menu, which is more Mediterranean with faint traces of Asian ingredients. The focus is on good quality ingredients, rich flavours and exotic presentation. Culinary Boutique has the same suppliers as Zuma, a fact that probably reflects in the prices. Interestingly, the menu doesn’t show any Emirati or Middle Eastern influences. “At the concept stage I thought of starting a very modern Emirati restaurant,” says Al Qasim. “Then I felt that this might be a trend now, but may not work in the long run. Why would Emiratis come to my restaurant when they are always eating Emirati food at home? But during the UAE National Day in December, we offered Emirati cooking classes and they were completely sold out.”
Al Qasim affirms that her space is not a copy of someone else’s idea. “Each dish in the menu has been tasted and vetted by me. I believe I’m a very good taster. When I choose a dish from a menu in any restaurant, I can visualise the flavour and taste in it and I rarely go wrong.”
With six fully equipped independent cooking stations with their own workspace, fridge and a demonstration area, the cooking classes are hands on and personalised for all age groups and skill sets. There is also a cold kitchen that can be hired out for cooking lessons that involve ice creams, dough making, and so on.
A commercial kitchen is also available for hire for food and beverage companies to showcase their samples to their clients. While the café and the outdoor seating exudes warmth, the kitchen area is spacious and almost Spartan — utility based and gadget savvy. Themed cooking classes are already running though the month. There are Thai favourites, Tapas and mini plates, Provencal dinner, essential knife skills, vegetarian delights and more. Plans are on to add more classes.
The boutique effect
Lavender seems to be a favourite here as dried lavender sprigs are placed on each table in a vase. The menu also has lavender — a Lavender Cappuccino and a Lavender Hot Chocolate. Although it didn’t have lavender, the food that arrived on our table also had a purple shade to it — thin slices of red cabbage and julienned purple potatoes.
The highlights of the menu were the crispy tofu with iceberg lettuce and crispy purple potato, and the eggplant with sesame sauce for starters; Burrata and beetroot salad stirred in homemade pesto sauce, Parmesan and rucola for salad; lobster pasta with saffron, prawn and coconut curry and the pulled beef brioche (homemade) for the mains and the subtle matcha chocolate fondant as dessert.
However, what really remains etched in the taste buds is the corn on the cobs — butter, garlic and hints of yuzu.
Source: Ishita B. Saha, Special to Property Weekly
Founder of Foodemagdxb.com and the author of ishitaunblogged.com
This section features lesser-known places and events that are delightfully distinct in their own way. It could be a quaint little café or simply a charming lake. If it’s got character and brings a smile to your face, it’s a hidden gemthat will find a place on this page. If you know of a hidden gem, email the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.