Normandy is haute-cuisine heaven. Inspired by its 400-mile coastline, farms and orchards, the food from here is rustic and robust; simple yet lit from within. So, when Dine in the City was invited by the Roda Hotel team to try out the French menu on Thursday night, I was intrigued.
Located downtown near Terminal 3 of DXB, lies this little gem. Prior to my visit, I had no idea that the Roda Grill existed and, if I am honest, my expectations were not the highest. But, what I found was a lovely little restaurant – classy and discreet. Not such a bad option if one is looking to spend a low-key Thursday night out. The comfiest chairs ensconce you, tempting you to sit there all evening running through their extensive wine collection while listening to the musicians play on. Quite pleasant.
On Thursday evenings, guests of the restaurant have the option of ordering their special menu. Once a month it changes and for January it is a Normandy French menu, put together lovingly by Chef Christophe Pudhomme from Normandy, France. Chatting to us about his 5-course menu, he took inspiration from his childhood growing up there, where robust and hearty food is paramount and he recalls picking watercress down by the riverbanks for his mother. In February, however, it will be changing to a Spanish menu which should be something to look forward to.
Each course was paired with specially selected wine. Probably my favourite course of the night; the one that captured my imagination and which felt a little inspired, was the amuses bouche which was a delight. The vichyssoise with whole pine seeds sprinkled over set the tone. Served alongside a thin slice of crusted bread with melted goats cheese and little leaves including the Australian leaf – lending that herby goodness – and salmon eggs. The saltiness of the salmon eggs seemed such an odd addition. It looked great on presentation but I was a bit dubious as to whether it would work with the rest of the other components of the dish. Yet, as there were only three it seemed to just add an unexpected flavour cog to a delightful dish, elevating it into something special. It certainly did entertain. Full marks.
The wine paired for both the amuses bouche and the starter was the Mouton Cadet a Bordeaux blanc. We were served the 2014. A combination of sauvignon blanc and semillon was a good way to kick off proceedings. I went back to it a few times over the course of the evening after sampling the others; it left a lasting impression. On the nose, it had a bouquet of fruits…maybe some pear. Upon tasting, peach seemed to come through. A little winner of a wine.
Marinated prawns done with a tomato compote was good and robust. Not overly fancy or finnicky, I enjoyed this. The accompanying scallops were done well. All in all, a nice dish. Just ticked the right boxes. Not too rich either, due to the vinegary zing brought in by the compote. Plenty of watercress on the plate also helped to brighten up the all the flavours with a nice pepperiness.
Rather than being an interlude, this dish – lemon sole almost felt like a main course. It was substantial and the portions generous. A lobster bisque is something of a dish that should be tried once in your life. And, it was something myself and my fellow editor Lucy were looking forward to. It was not a letdown. The lemon sole was beautiful. However, both of us were not particular convinced by the lobster cravatte. We suspect that it was not because we didn’t particularly like the preparation. Rather, that neither of us have ever developed a predilection for it. So, we have settled that perhaps we are just not ever going be the biggest lobster fans on the planet. But the sauce was savoury and warming. Its reassuring texture went well with the celeriac fondant and made it a hearty dish. Paired with the sweeter Gewurtztraminer – a trimbach white – it was a little moment of happiness.
So, after the Interlude we were beginning to run out of space. Yet, still had a beef fillet medallions to look forward to. Traditional tournedos Rossini served with foie gras and a truffle jus, it was a satisfying dish. I couldn’t really finish it as I was too full. So, unfortunate. I was left dreaming about it the next day. The dry, smokiness of the accompanying red wine– Côte de Nuits-Villages’s albert bichot – worked well. It wasn’t too heavy yet complemented the overall dish.
And, finally to round off everything else we were treated to the King’s cake. Normally served at the end of the Christmas season or pre-Lenten celebrations prior to the Mardi Gras period, the puff pastry was crispy and buttery. Chef Christophe explained the traditional game in that in one of the King’s cakes a little trinket or bean is hidden. Whoever, manages to find it will have various privileges and obligations. Unfortunately, we were not that lucky yet we enjoyed the novelty of the experience. However, it was just too much richness for me at the end of the meal. I would have enjoyed something lighter but for those with bigger appetites, you will leave the Roda Grill satisfied. Beyond a doubt.
Of course, I’d always rather have too much than too little. There is nothing worse than feeling underfed after a multiple course meal and at the Roda Grill, there was no danger of that happening. The food and wine are plentiful which is implicit in the French approach to food and life. Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup is a wonderful French saying that translates into “eat well, laugh often, love abundantly”. Well, our little experience did encompass that. Plenty of wine, the strains of the piano accordion playing La Mer, the rich, countryside flavours of Normandy all came together to provide a worthwhile evening out. One that I shall be remembering for a while.