Don Alfonso 1890, located in the Shangri-La, is the latest expansion of the renowned two-Michelin starred Italian restaurant. It follows successful launches of the popular dining bolt-holes of Macau, Marrakech and Rome, and boasts cuisine that fuses authentic Mediterranean cuisine with the locally-sourced ingredients for fresh and truly authentic dishes.
In-line with Don Alfonso's philosophy of "living off the land", his family owns the farm from where the restaurant sources most of the produce it uses. And he swears by the following basic ingredients of lemons, virgin olive oil and tomatoes to produce a good meal. There you have it, a simply philosophy that is at the crux of this much praised Italian chef. Chef Christian de Nadai helms this restaurant and does so by following Don Alfonso's pedigree.
At once stylish and compact, the restaurant offers a bar, visible as soon as you walk in, and 12 tables spread across the central dining area. At first glance, the space seemed a bit small for a chef of such caliber, the interiors, while certainly aiming to be sophisticated, appeared a bit outdated, as if they were trying too hard. This was all made up by the charming service and some of Don Alfonso's specialties. Our first forkful was into the Mozzarella Soufflé. It was a sigh of relief to not be served the much-loved but now very much common Burrata. This dish was wonderfully innovative and utterly delicious. The warm and cheesy core of the soufflé was the main hit and this was complement by a side condiment of parmesan, basil and tart cherry tomatoes. A winner.
Other starters included a Calamari Clam salad with eggplant puree and ginger foam and a Yellowtail tuna salad served with fava beans underneath. The latter was an interesting mix, a seeming attempt to try something new, but not quite there yet. Yet another star was the Alfonso pasta. A simple pasta dish of spaghetti and tomato sauce, one could tell that the ingredients were as fresh as could be – a tantalizing taste that brings the comfort of homemade pasta to a night out. We were in love.
The Saffron Risotto was another hit. It was perfectly creamy and complemented by the crab meat, which at first taste might take some getting used to, until it mixes well with the risotto for a savory primo piatti. We culminated the meal with a lemon Concerto. And a concert it was, with various chocolate and lemony sweets and elegantly arranged at that. The meal was exquisite, heartening and pleasant. It is definitely worth a revisit to this up-and-coming Italian restaurant in town.
Don Alfonso 1890 is located in the Shangri-La Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. Tel: +971 44438215 www.donalfonso.ae