Mint Leaf of London: Is it Still Good?
Mint Leaf of London: Is it Still Good?
Mint Leaf of London, 15th Floor, South Tower, Emirates Financial Towers, Dubai International Finance Centre, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Diwali Menu Special for vegetarians or non-vegetarians, AED345 with two complimentary mocktails (US$94, £71, €80). http://www.mintleaf.ae/, +97147060900.
Written by EatGoSee / See other food reviews here.
Update Feb 2021: Since this review, EatGoSee revisited Mint Leaf eating their main menu. The second dining in Feb 2021 was a significant improvement vs the specific seasonal Divali menu, which is the subject of this post.
15th-floor views into the Downtown Dubai skyline and DIFC
Service remains friendly, engaging and knowledgeable about the menu
Charming Goan Shack cocktail
Valrhona Chocolate Turmeric Latte Kulfi
Overall lacklustre menu and poor execution on dishes
Food is very slow to leave the kitchen initially
Going to Mint Leaf for Diwali
DIFC seems to be inescapable these days. I find myself here almost every week now munching menus and punching out reviews. ICYMI, find here a shamelessly reminder of previous musings about Hutong, Indochine, Ninive and Bull & Bear. In the interest of full transparency, there was also a recent meal at Carnival which, honestly, the less said the better.
Mint Leaf of London gives away that this outlet is the Dubai incarnation of London’s long-standing original. The Dubai Mint Leaf website boasts that Indian food is some of the most exciting food out there. So far, we agree; well-done marketing team. The website follows through with a modest invitation to “experience all that … Indian cuisine has to offer, at the best Indian fine dining restaurant in Dubai today”. The best you say? Mint Leaf’s kitchen helmed by Pradeep Khullar has fierce competition. Sure, Mint Leaf lays before you beautiful modern decor punctuated with touches of classical furniture from which we can drink in the sweeping Downtown Dubai skyline and views of Sheikh Zayed Road and DIFC. You can slump into one of their comfortable leather chairs sipping an impossibly beautiful handmade cocktail before grazing through the modern Indian menu.
You can still do this at MASTI, Tresind, Carnival and Tresind Studio just to name a few and all within this price bracket. Mint Leaf is not alone. Like much in life, no matter how exceptional you are, there will always be company. So having dined at the rest, I look forward to sealing my experience at ‘the best Indian fine dining restaurant in Dubai today”.
Mint Leaf overall experience
However, two things stood out as noteworthy and positive because we must give praise where it is due.
Raj, our server supported by his colleagues, was engaged and attentive. He managed four large tables including one table that started with private disappointment and ended with audible disapproval; this fourth table was us.
Secondly, the restaurant manager stood patiently listening to our simmering feedback for at least 15 toe-curlingly minutes. I must commend him for enduring some pointed feedback which we will get into here. He wanted to ensure we did not leave dissatisfied which is not lost on me. Why?
Many restaurants do not genuinely care about feedback these days. Some chefs and managers claim they “want feedback” but what they want is praise, reassurance and the fastidious grooming of an ego curated over a lifetime. They want, at best, comments tantamount to light cosmetic redecorating. Yet, when presented with the kind of wall-ripping, demolition feedback that identifies wholesale structural alterations, the posture change. I see it time and time again. You structure your feedback thoughtfully but no one takes notes, there are no follow up questions, there is some perfunctory head-nodding accompanied with glazed dead eyes before they close the conversation and saunter away with egos intact, tempered with indifference.
If restaurants can learn anything from Mint Leaf, learn how to want to do better. Mint Leaf was wholly different. They want to know, improve and ensure their diners have a better experience.
Mint Leaf’s food and drink experience
Some courses teeter around. The spinach tempura with mango compote arrives like crisp spinach shards on a swirl of tamarind, sweet yoghurt and mango. A divisive dish but one where, my view, is that green mango would play a stronger role. The sweet, ripe mango lends itself more towards dessert territory than a first-course cold starter. The pani puri arrives billowing with dry ice like a Vegas performance artist. The crisp pani puris collapse but the filling is cloying and overly sweet. Mint Leaf’s pani puri lacks the signature complexity of sharp, sweet-sour tamarind tussling with fiery herbaceous coriander water. I expect that of average street food pani puri. I want more and Mint Leaf does not deliver the imagination found in Tresind Studio Season 5. This is easily fixable.
Our transition to hot starters did not improve matters.
Our pudgy gun powder scallops with seasoned arugula misfired as a cloying, fatty mayonnaise-like sauce coats the mouth and overwhelms subtle scallops accompanied by an unsettling grit from the gunpowder. A chicken thigh in fenugreek is a divisive dish with some considering it over seasoned but overall it feels safe and, again, does not reflect an imaginative, forward-thinking contemporary Indian food menu. Our ever-patient Raj replaces this with a chicken tikka thigh that is moist with a punch of spice and a comforting smoky char.
An achari paneer tikka is a better dish finding that balance between milky sweet paneer seasoned subtly.
I could canter through the rest of the courses. I could tell you that the medium seared beef with berries pulao (ordered medium) is tougher than the leather on the chair I am sat in. That the rest of the mains courses of chettinad prawns with curry leaf poha and gongura chicken and quinoa tahiri are ceremonially submerged in enough sauce to make each dish a soup. I could talk about the parochial silken tofu and zucchini kofta that bears more than just a passing resemblance to a frozen supermarket puck drowned in a gravy boat of rust sauce; it is a total injustice to vegetarian dining when Indian cuisine probably delivers the most cogent argument that meatless eating is both vibrant and breathtaking.
You get the point.
Mint Leaf’s dessert menu
Remarkably, the dessert menu offered reprieve and glimmers of the courage, risk-taking, forward-thinking food drawing out the experimental, consequences-be-damned playfulness that, frankly, I wanted from the last five courses.
A Valrhona chocolate-dipped turmeric latte kulfi was the star of the show tempering bittersweet chocolate with the rich aromatic turmeric-scented latte kulfi. An almond halwa with citrus crumbs and lotus pista biscotti are a little divisive but, again, evidence of some more boundary-pushing.
The menu-listed cocktails are mostly positive with the whimsical, charming Goan Shack leading from the front mixing Bombay Sapphire, Pomme and passion fruit among other things. The Midnight in Paris is Mint Leaf’s take on a French Martini arriving under a canopy of hearts and lights.
Would I Return to Mint Leaf?
Mint Leaf does not compare well with its contemporaries such as MASTI, Tresind nor Tresind Studio. There is a lack of attention to detail and bold direction for the menu that disappoints me most. I am not rushing back to Mint Leaf when Dubai spoils us for modern Indian restaurants.