Back to Earth: New Vegan Dining Menu at Akira Back Dubai
French fries, salads, steamed vegetables and plants – all clichés of a vegan menu. But does it really have to be that way? Modern vegan food is punk rock. It’s a revolutionary sub culture that threatens the mainstream way of eating, but the lack of vegan options in Dubai fuels the misconception. Enter Chef Giovanni Ledon, shaking up the fine dining scene with fully dairy and egg-free, innovative, and excitingly flavourful dishes. The American chef has created a vegan menu for the newly opened restaurant at Akira Back, one of the culinary stars of W Dubai – The Palm.
Brand new to Dubai, Chef Giovanni, hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, has carefully crafted the new menu at The Palm’s latest luxury lifestyle hotel. He recognised the need for creative, fun, and appetising dishes, catering not only to those following a dairy-free diet, but appealing to all who are looking to try something new. And newness is key for Chef Giovanni. Personally explaining the thought process and development of each dish as they reached our throne-like booth overlooking the entirety of the Dubai Marina, he emphasised the importance of creating vegan offerings that would be enjoyed by even the most faithful carnivore.
The dimly lit, contemporary space flows seamlessly into the outdoor seating area, glowing with neon pink fluorescent lights and a floating bar. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow diners to overlook a panoramic view of the Marina and Palm skyline. The friendly team brought us an array of mocktails with creative, complementary flavours, such as the Fuji featuring fragrant lavender and lemon juice, and the Korean Mule, a medley of cucumber, mango and ginger beer.
In many of the dishes, the chef expertly showcases the versatility of mushrooms to recreate textures and flavours that one would associate with traditional Japanese cooking, such as in the eringi mushroom pizza appetiser; shaved mushrooms top a crisp tortilla with a base of umami aoili and drizzled with truffle oil – a collection of potent ingredients that combined in what was a flavoursome yet light introduction to the meal.
The edamame risotto main that followed had a satisfyingly chewy texture due to the use of Korean pearl barley and featured mushroom “scallops” and a fascinating sake foam, creating a visually pleasing and hearty dish. The vegan sushi satisfied a long-time craving, and it wasn’t just carrots and cucumbers. Since becoming a vegetarian, sushi has eluded me – but no longer. The filling roll included ingredients not typically associated with sushi, but they just work: marinated tomato, grilled eggplant with sweet soy sauce, and refreshing avocado with coriander and ponzu, all wrapped up perfectly and topped with smoked mango. This roll most certainly scratched the itch. And this is just one of the many vegan sushi rolls available.
On to dessert – a delicate nod to flavours from the region. The aptly named Spice Souk was a stand out. The light sponge cake is soaked in a spiced sugar syrup (think cardamom and orange blossom) and topped with a light cashew cream, candied kumquats and strawberries. The moreish cake was paired with a pretty pink quenelle of strawberry sorbet; sweet and fragrant, dancing on the taste buds. This is not a menu reserved for vegans alone. Meat-lovers, make sure you don’t miss out.