Inside, the décor is an interesting mix of several styles: a 1920s fancy speakeasy (think Great Gatsby), a high-end cabaret and an 18th century theatre (one Marie-Antoinette would have liked). Dining and bottle-service tables are scattered around the main area, while a mezzanine harboring private booths overlooks the stage. Unlike many clubs in Dubai, the ventilation within the venue is very effective: smoke is quasi invisible and cigarette odors are inexistent.
Seated at our table right under the stage, we notice little details that make a big difference; Tavola cutlery and Villeroy & Boch porcelain plates decorated with flowers and berry twigs are carefully placed on the table in front of each seat.
Our cocktail recommendations -Fever Fox (AED83) and The Other Side (AED70)- came straight from the manager Jean Marc, who would tell us all about the menu and share food stories with us throughout the evening. The Act serves Peruvian food, with some Japanese and African fusions. “We try to make our food memorable; “We make our food memorable; good base products with a memorable sauce. It’s what I call a memory jog,” explains Jean Marc.
The entertainment started with a blonde singer backed up by 4 dancers. During dinner, acts came up every once in a while: an Argentinian contortionist and a New York break-dancer carry out a routine together; a woman “crying” over her lover to the song “Against All Odds”; and a funny performance of YMCA . We surely weren’t expecting the raunchy, controversial performances of The Act in Las Vegas, however, overall, the acts were rather safe and forgettable, perhaps intended to be light as the club was still in its dinner/drinks phase.
Chef Roberto, whom we had the pleasure of meeting after dinner, selected various dishes for us to sample, including new creations that are not on the existing menu yet.
We started our meal with shrimp chicharrones with acevichada sauce (crispy shrimps accompanied by garlic infused dip): the wispy golden batter makes these snacks unexpectedly light despite them being fried.
The eggplant carpaccio (AED65), slices of marinated aubergines, garnished with olive oil, parsley, mayo, reduced white balsamic, crispy quinoa and edible violet flower leaves was quite the enjoyable surprise. A perfect balance of sweet and sour flavors.
A sneak peek from the new menu and traditional Peruvian dish, the wasabi ceviche, cooked specially for us, was a delightful revelation! A base of white fish (red snapper), cashew nuts and onions, marinated in leche de tigre (lime juice, red chili, coriander, garlic and ginger) with wasabi powder, topped with a nest of crispy shredded sweet potato. The ceviche is undeniably a must-have dish. Our Peruvian waitress advised us to dip our chicharrones in the ceviche sauce, the way they have it in Peru: a delicious combination.
After our starters, we tried another new menu item, the crispy de tuna tataki laqueado: seared slices of fresh tuna, with a tumbo reduction (tumbo is a peruvian fruit that closely resembles passion fruit), decorated with violets and slivers of cucumber: if tuna is your fish of choice, you will like the fish itself; however, the sauce could stand to be more pronounced.
Rooting for seafood, we carried on our meal with enrollado de salmon glaseado (AED80): these salmon-wrapped, shrimp tempura, cream cheese and asparagus rolls (Japanese maki style) sitting on an orange and togarashi spice reduction are a creative twist to maki rolls; the first contact with the enrollado delivers a sweet orange taste to the palate, ending with a distinctive bittersweet orange aftertaste once the piece is consumed. The transition from sweet to bittersweet is very clear and enjoyable. You are probably wondering, like we did, why salmon rolls would be on a Peruvian cuisine menu… It is due to the large number of Japanese immigrants who settled in Peru, slowly pervading Peruvian cuisine with new flavors and spices.
Moving on to more consistent dishes, we discover other divine fusion flavors.
The pulpo anticuchero grillado (AED205) was definitely one of our favorites: tender pieces of grilled marinated Spanish octopus, with truffle oil, a tumbo and sweet panca (and other secret ingredients) sauce, and accompanied by white bean puree.
Not wanting to miss out on meat, we ordered wagyu beef, as we tend to do at most fine-dining restaurants: wagyu ojo de bife (AED300) –pieces of wagyu beef rib eye served rare as per our preference (let’s be frank, that’s the only way meat should be eaten!)- rests on mango truffle chimichurri, and is served with a succulent red wine reduction on the side. The moment the meat enters your mouth, you can taste a recognizable truffle flavor that soon fades away, allowing you to savor the tender wagyu beef. We enjoyed a quinoa risotto with peppers as a side dish.
The conchas a la parmesana constituted another dish we sampled from the new menu: gratinated scallops in a white wine reduction and garlic butter, placed in beautiful sea shells and gratinated with parmesan cheese like golden foam on the sea surface. We loved the scallops and the parmesan separately, but did not feel the fusion of both; each had a taste of its own.
Our last dish was a short rib (AED190), braised meat –which we would have preferred to be a bit leaner- stuffed with garlic, onion, carrots and celery, cooked for 24 hours, and immersed in a delicious red wine reduction mixed with the cooking juices of the meat.
And despite being too full to breathe, we couldn’t resist one of the chef’s specialties, the tres leches casero (AED60), a sponge cake soaked in three types of milk, with toffee sauce, strawberry slices and berries, surrounded by passion fruit seeds: heaven!
The Act deserves its unique reputation. The food is outstanding, the music -ranging from jazzy remixes (ref. Synapson’s remix of Victor Deme’s Djon Maya), to deep house (ref. Dennis Ferrer’s Mind Ur Step)- gradually builds the mood from a dinner mood to a clubbing one, the friendly and helpful service puts customers at ease, and the overall Moulin Rouge meets Cirque du Soir ambiance is quite inimitable.
If you have been to The Act Dubai, please leave a comment on the page, letting us know how your experience was and how you think the venue can improve.
Note: Since photography is not allowed, photos were provided by The Act and some taken on iPhone.