Restaurant review: Dubai’s Sass Cafe lives up to its name

Sass Cafe Dubai Review

We’re about to be served our mains – a finely cooked steak for me, and a lobster salad for my companion – when the restaurant suddenly starts buzzing. It’s been reasonably sleepy for most of the evening, owing to the fact that it’s the middle of the week, and because, tonight, there’s a musical event that doesn’t get going until midnight. This means that the increased excitement at the venue is palpable – something’s going on, and diners are looking up from their food and craning their necks to see what it is.

Our eyes drift towards the raised reserved seating area in the middle of the restaurant, big enough to accommodate at least 20 guests. They’re all standing to welcome the woman of the moment – Eva Longoria, who’s taking a break from the demands of the Dubai Film Festival to celebrate her just-announced engagement. And she’s chosen Sass Café Dubai as the place to do it.

It’s an episode that illustrates just how well the Dubai branch of Sass Café has done to replicate the glamour of its Monaco-based counterpart. Located in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), it’s yet another internationally celebrated restaurant to have opened up shop in Dubai. The difference here is, while some of the Dubai franchises attempt to put their own mark on the menu, Sass Café has stayed true to its roots, replicating almost everything from the Monaco restaurant with which it shares the name.

This is no bad thing, because, along with a fabulous Mediterranean-Italian fusion menu, Sass Café offers all of the glitz and glamour of a fine Monaco eatery cum piano bar. In a market like Dubai’s, this makes Sass Café pretty unique. The original was founded in 1993 by father & son team Sassa & Samy Sass. It combined family intimacy with an upscale atmosphere, catering to a jet setter crowd.

As mentioned earlier, the food is billed as a blend of Mediterranean and Italian, though it’s easy to detect the French influence in the menu, too. Whichever influence you choose from, though, Sass Café does it well. On the starter menu, opt for the Burratta Cremosa with cherry tomatoes and olive oil, or else the foie gras terrine with apple onion jam and brioche. For the mains, you really can’t go wrong with the classic garlic pan-friend beef tenderloin with butter sauce. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the BBQ-grilled Canadian lobster with red chili and lime coriander butter is a real highlight.

Weirdly, though, it’s after dinner that Sass Café really comes to life. Slowly, the food is cleared away, the lights are dimmed and replaced with high-energy music, creating an atmosphere electrified by the contagious liveliness of Sass Cafe’s infamous Piano Bar entertainment. The restaurant even flies its Monaco performers to Dubai regularly, meaning it’s always worth sticking around for the musical entertainment.

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