Enigma located at the Palazzo Versace Hotel is the first restaurant in the world to change its dining concept and world-class chefs four times a year. After having been blown away by The story of Vanguard demonstrated by Chef Quique Dacosta and his team(read about our review here), Enigma welcomes its second Act to Dubai performed by world renowned Chef Björn Frantzén called “The Journey of a Nordic Chef”.
About the Chef:
Chef Björn Frantzén, the acclaimed 2 Michelin starred chef, ranked at number 31 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants is one of Sweden’s most renowned chefs, and represents the younger generation of star chefs. After only two years of operation, his restaurant ” Frantzén” earned two Michelin stars and gained popularity that has spread well beyond Sweden’s borders.
As we entered Enigma, the entire vibe and atmosphere was a complete contrast to that of The story of Vanguard. The Journey of a Nordic Chef is a culinary journey of Nordic cuisine. With dim lighting, Enchanted Forest inspired decor and a playlist that was handpicked by the chef and loved by all, the vibe was a lot more laid back, friendly and relaxed.
The 12 Chapter Story:
Each chapter or course is inspired by a dish that was first created in a particular year, with each course having a star ingredient;
Our first course was the Apple and Lingonberry Macaron with Foie Gras and Chervil (First served on 23rd August,2010). Not just your ordinary macaron, that’s for sure. This macaron was created using Apple macaron shells, filled with Foie Gras parfait, Chervil (or French parsley) and an Apple disc topped with Dried Lingonberry. The highlighted ingredient in this first course is the Lingonberry – which are red, sour berried famous for their antioxidant benefits and have a prominent acidity and sweetness (which the chef wanted to highlight being a common ingredient in Sweden). The complexity of taste and textures all compacted into one tiny macaron blew our minds away.
For our second course we had the Tomato Water “Golden Tea” served with Carrot Sphere, Lemon Verbana (a type of plant) and Grain Mustard (First served on 21st June 2011). As the warm tomato water made with a variety of different tomatoes was poured into our glasses, we could smell the fragrant aroma right away. The Tomato, being the highlighted ingredient in this dish, has an intense yet mild flavor, which is what the chef wanted to bring light to.
Our third course was a beautifully presented Oyster “63.3◦c” with a Granita of Sea Buckthorn, Juniper Cream and Sprouted Walnuts (First served on 2nd October 2011). Juniper berries have a sharp and clear flavor; the Juniper cream reciprocated those flavors beautifully. The star of this course however, was the Frozen Sea Buckthorn, with the Sea Buckthorn being the highlighted ingredient. The chef believes that this slightly tart berry awakens your taste buds as well as lifts other flavors in the dish. Also known as Hippophae, the Sea Buckthorn are bright orange colored berries that are very tart and filled with nutrients. The contrast of these berries with the oyster, sprouted walnuts and juniper cream were perfectly proportionate and delicious.
You could say our fourth course was petite in size, however powerful in texture. We indulged in the White Moss “Sushi” with Deer, Frozen Bird’s Liver, Burnt Hay and Chantarelles (First served on 9th May 2013). According to the Chef. moss isn’t a common ingredient on any menu these days, especially in Dubai. However it is highly nutritious and considered a “True Survival Product” of the forest (since it has been consumed for generations when food was scarce). Have said that, the deep fried white moss didn’t contribute much to flavor as it did to texture; the crunchy texture melts in your mouth as you bite into it. The flavor of the Chantarelles (type of mushroom) Emulsion was rich and earthy and complemented the deer beautifully.
Continuing our story with the fifth course, we had the Poached King Crab served with Wild Trout Roe and Emulsion of Brown Crab Meat (First served on 24th January 2013). To our surprise, the highlighted ingredient was Dill (we presumed it would be the roe). However, after tasting the dish, we figured out why. The King Crab was tender and flavorful and the Trout Roe had a beautiful popping texture that added flair to the dish. Needless to say, the Dill somehow did manage to wrap the entire dish up beautifully. Popularly known for flavoring or seasoning in Sweden, Dill is the perfect match seafood, and this dish demonstrates this fact perfectly.
Our sixth course comprised of Scallop served in its own shell with dried fish roe, fir tree, finger lime and “dashi” (First served on 15th September 2009). The Dashi which is a class of soup used in Japanese cuisine was poured onto the scallop shell once we were done devouring our scallop. The broth was fragrant, aromatic and rejuvenating (we could drink a whole jug of it). However, let’s not steal the spotlight from the highlighted ingredient which oddly so is Fir Tree. The needle like leaves were served as a garnish on our scallop with an intent to give you the flavor of the forest. Unfortunately though, the flavor of the roe and finger lime was strong enough to overpower the flavor of the fir tree. Also, did we forget to rave about how perfectly that scallop was cooked? Brilliance.
Our seventh course was a simple served of Swedish “Knäckebröd” also known as Crispbread (First served on 15th May 2008). It was baked in Sweden since 500AD in the form of round wafers with holes in the middle (so that the bread could be stored in sticks, hanging from the ceiling). Served with homemade butter, these wafers are apparently a staple in Nordic homes, and go perfectly well with soup. Speaking of soup, a surprise element that was not included in the menu was brought to our table, and could easily be the best soup we’ve ever had. The onion and almond milk soup served with a caramelized onion paste was unbelievably flavorful, wholesome, comforting and had the perfect consistency. A pleasant surprise indeed.
With our meal going extremely well so far, it was time for our eight course, which was “Slow Baked Cod “38◦c” served with Swedish Vendace Roe from Kalix, Beurre Blanc flavored with preserved anchovy juice, Dill and Young Onions (First served on 7th October 2012). The highlighted ingredient in this dish is the Vendace Roe which is defined by its golden color and mild, gorgeous flavor. It is a rare ingredient that possesses a prominent fish flavor and is served in some of the finest restaurants in the world. The roe pairs perfectly with the Cod that was cooked to flaky perfection. May we add that the presentation of this dish was delectable too, with each individual young onion stuffed perfectly and beautifully.
It is hard to pick a favorite among the 12 courses when your meal is this immaculate. However, if we had to, the ninth course which is the “Hot Pot” comprising Lamb served with cabbage, roasted cauliflower bouillon and truffles (First served on 29th April 2014) definitely stood out for us. The lamb was tender, carved/cubed beautifully and literally melted in our mouths as we bit into it. The combination of Lamb and cauliflower was unfamiliar to us, however we loved it! The intense earthy flavor of the cabbage along with the wild mushrooms, truffles and bouillon, makes this a dish fit for royal. Not only did it taste exceptional, but plated artistically too.
The final three courses of the story were served as dessert. No. 10 on the menu was Sticky Beetroot served with Blackberries, Frozen Lingonberries, 100 year old vinegar and Liquorice Mousse (First served on 19th December 2015). The sticky beetroot was served over the mousse at the table itself. The beetroot had been tossed every seven minutes in order from sugar to extract from it, thus adding sweetness. It was almost impossible to digest the fact that no sugar is added to this dessert, since its pleasantly sweet. The Frozen Lingonberries and Blackberries added a beautiful sour/tart flavor to cut through the sweetness. The liquorice root was used to prepare the Liquorice mousse giving it a mild and slightly perfume-like flavor. We’ve tried beetroot in desserts because however nothing really stood of for us and made us believe that beetroot in a dessert isn’t a good idea after all. However, this dessert most certainly changed our beliefs.
Our eleventh course, and probably the most beautifully presented of them all was the Smoked Ice Cream with Roasted Nuts, Tar Syrup and Salted Fudge with cloves. The highlighted ingredient in this dish was the Tar Syrup that is derived from the Pine Tree. The flavoring is strong and sweet, and can easily add character to a dish with just a few drops. What stood out for us was the perfectly thin and glassy dome that melted gracefully as the fudge was poured over it. As for the fudge itself, it had a strong hint of cloves that produced a flavor that was new to our palettes. The smoky flavor of the ice cream too was very evident, and complemented the roasted nuts well. Definitely one of the most unique desserts we’ve had.
Our final course approached our table in the form of a macaron. No. 12 on the menu was a Cloudberry and Thyme Macaron with Wild Berries. The subtle hint of the wild thyme power dusted on the macaron was evident, and the wild berries filling tasted strong, sweet and tart. The macaron shell was flavored with Cloudberry, which the highlighted ingredient in this dish. It is a rare ingredient that is sweet, exquisite in taste and has lots of seeds. However, the seeds are filtered in this dish to provide a smooth texture to the filling.
As we were finishing our final course, the bartender walks to our table and surprises us with a live demonstrating of creating a sorbet within seconds using liquid nitrogen. We are no strangers to magic of liquid nitrogen and the theatrical effect it creates every time the ingredient is use, however it never fails to amuse us or anyone else in the restaurant for that matter, as all heads turned to our table.
A quick word with Chef Björn Frantzén:
As we got done savoring our 12 course meal, being absolutely overwhelmed with the story Chef Björn Frantzén depicted through his food made us personally approach him to thank him for the wonderful experience we had. A few words of thanking led to a full – fledged conversation about his experience cooking in Dubai and sharing his culinary expertise with the Middle East.
He did mention that he is planning on opening a new venture in Dubai Design District and we couldn’t be more thrilled. As we spoke to him, we were amazed by how humble he is, and how genuine his love for food is. His favorite restaurants in Dubai include Jean Georges Dubai, La Serre and La Petite Maison.. to name a few.
He loves visiting Dubai (at least twice a year) since he loves the cultural contrast between Stockholm and Dubai. He mentioned how thrilled he was to be working in Dubai, at one of the most prestigious hotels. He believes that the rapid growth of the food industry is Dubai served as a perfect platform for him to demonstrate the brilliance of his cooking.
While we were dining, we noticed that he spent most of his time mingling with the guests and observing their reaction to his creations. When we mentioned this to him he replied stating that he brought with him three of his highly trained sous chefs who will be staying at Enigma for the entire three months ensuring that the food produced is up to his standards.
The Bill: (Per Person)
Full Story (12 Course) Half Story (8 Course)
Weekdays – Dhs750 Weekdays – Dhs550
Weekend – Dhs850 Weekend – Dhs650