Exporting Restaurant Week
Meryle Evans - July/August 2014
Dubai—Fully booked with wait lists…that was the good news for Christian Gradnitzer, culinary director at the Jumeirah Group, when over 60 of the Dubai-based hotel company’s dining outlets celebrated Jumeirah Restaurant Week at the end of May.
While city-sponsored restaurant weeks have proliferated around the world, the concept is a novelty for a hospitality brand with global luxury properties from London to Shanghai. “We took a little bit of inspiration from New York,” recalls Gradnitzer, who spent three years in the kitchens at Manhattan’s Essex House, “and for me, the purpose was to invite our customers with a culinary passion, to come for a good time, and also to cross-promote cuisines. For instance, my German restaurant in Frankfurt featured recipes from Dubai.”
“We set up two categories of three course meals,” Gradnitzer explains, “fine dining, at a cost of around $50, and a casual menu for about $30.”
About two-thirds of the participating restaurants were at the company’s Dubai hotels, catering to an international clientele in a country with a population of over 200 nationalities. The cultural melting pot is mirrored in the diversity of culinary offerings.
At Khaymat Al Bahar, beachside at Madinat Jumeirah, with a decor inspired by Bedouin tents, the focus was on Arabic grills—lamb kofta and marinated chicken breasts with garlic sauce—along with traditional desserts like umm ali, a milk pudding with raisins and rose water. Pai Thai restaurant provided classic dishes from Thailand, and at MJ’s Steakhouse, the menu included Caesar salad and USDA Angus strip sirloin. At the recently opened Mexican restaurant, Tortuga, Gradnitzer notes, “I have 20 Mexican colleagues, and it’s very authentic,” with dishes like black seviche tostada and red snapper Veracruzana. Casual Asian cuisine was a bargain at Noodle House, and would-be high rollers with limited funds could enjoy a buffet extravaganza at Jumeirah’s crown jewel sail-shaped Burj Al Arab.
Jumeirah Restaurant Week, which started small and very local in 2012, has “now gained some traction,” according to Gradnitzer, “and we’re starting to see recognition. I just read an email from a regular guest asking, ‘Why can’t we do it for two weeks?’”