Restaurant review: Fi’lia Dubai
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Restaurant review: Fi’lia Dubai

Restaurant review: Fi’lia Dubai

Its kitchen is helmed by 25-year Palestinian Jordanian chef Sara Aqel

Fi’lia Dubai

Earlier this year, the SLS Hotels & Residences brought its signature brand currently located in party-central locations worldwide including Miami, Bahamas and Beverly Hills, to Business Bay in Dubai.

The 75-floor property, located near the Paramount Hotel in Dubai, includes 254 hotel rooms, 321 hotel apartments and 371 branded residences – besides a range of F&B venues. One of them is the Fi’lia Dubai, an Italian restaurant whose kitchen is helmed by 25-year Palestinian Jordanian chef Sara Aqel, who learnt the tricks of the trade from none other than the de facto ambassador of Italian cuisine, Massimo Bottura.

Within the lobby of SLS, we’re greeted by a large mosaic with the words – “Fortune Favours The Brave”. But rather than being an oft-rehashed Latin phrase, it could very well sum up our culinary experience that was about to unfold at Fi’lia.

Fi’lia is located in Miami and Nassau, with another one set to open in Paris in 2022. The outpost in Dubai marks the first Middle East entry of the culinary concept. What sets the Dubai restaurant apart is the fact that all the senior management roles at the restaurant – from the kitchen to the managers and the waitstaff – are all women.

We’re whisked up to the 70th floor, and take a seat on the alfresco section of the restaurant which has commanding views of the entire Downtown area and Dubai Design District as well. It was open for less than a month when we visited, and by 8pm, there wasn’t an empty table in sight.

Fi’lia (figlia), is Italian for daughter, Mamma for mother and Nonna for grandmother. The menu is therefore divided along these sections with Nonna representing a classic and traditional approach to Italian cooking, Mamma being a contemporary take on a classic, and Figlia being the most experimental twist to a preparation.

We started with – no surprises here – a burrata from the Mamma antipasti section. The fluffy, light burrata was plated well over asparagus, and served alongside a tomato emulsion with asparagus puree, a twist indeed. The Cozze E Vongole, or mussels and clams in a tomato salsa, was served with sourdough bread (although you can ask for some focaccia bread too). The calamari from the Nonna’s section was made by the rule book, and was served in a very healthy portion that is good for sharing.

A must-try though is the beef tartare from the Figlia section, wherein a mildly-rebellious figlia who decided she could do things starkly different to her mother and grandmother. The beef tartare here is served with the likes of an egg yolk jam, pecan for crunch, a balsamic reduction, ricotta cheese and a robiola sauce. Full marks for radical thinking.

From the pasta and risotto selection, we returned to familiar territory with a Ravioli Quattro Formaggi from the Nonna section that adequately provided all the instant comfort we expected from it the moment we reached for the warm ravioli filled with provolone, ricotta, Parmigiano and mozzarella.

For the mains, we went with more cheese by way of a classic Margherita pizza followed by the grilled king prawns from the Nonna’s selection. The sea-fresh prawns, the size of lobsters, are a highly recommended main, with the chilli, lemon and garlic butter at no point overpowering the natural salty flavour of the seafood. Nonna knows best.

We rounded off our meal with a Fi’lia Tiramisu, served with a small piece of edible gold leaf over it – that’s the generation jump of the figlia, doing something her momma and nonna never quite imagined.

Suddenly, that Latin phrase in the lobby 70 floors below us made sense, as did Fi’lia itself which is definitely not just another licensed Italian restaurant lost within Dubai’s exciting and expansive culinary space.

Fi’lia Dubai, Level 70, SLS Dubai Hotel & Residences, Marasi Drive, Business Bay. Daily 7am-3.30pm; 6.30pm-11pm. Tel: (04) 607 0757

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