West 14th and Palm

Our birthdays are just 2 weeks apart and so just before Halloween every year we find ourselves enjoying a month of celebration.  Near the end of this period we were treated to a belated birthday dinner over the weekend by “the” brother and his fiancée.  Feeling carnivorous we decided to try another steakhouse.  West 14th is relatively new to the Dubai scene having opened a few months ago on the Dubai Palm.  Billing itself as an “American-style” steakhouse and operated by Movenpick, it’s located in the Oceana Development that has recently been completed at the far end of the trunk.  The description on the website sounded fantastic, so we were really looking forward to the experience.

First problem: getting there.

Roula: We were doing ok and even managed to find the driveway that gets you into the development with the help of some friendly signs on the street.  But then the confusion started.  Our driver was directed by the security at the gate to go into the underground parking garage and drop us off at the door with the “West 14th” sign.  We pass through the doors to find ourselves at the elevator bay that takes you up to the residential units of the building.  This is where the signs stop.  Not sure where we’re going at this point we try a few buttons until we end up in the lobby.  We then have to ask another security guard for directions to the restaurant.  After some vague right-left-right pointing we decided to forge ahead and hoped for the best.  We headed outside and found ourselves wandering in the dark cobbled pavement amongst the apartment buildings.  The sprinklers were happily watering the grass and the pavement which added to the overall ambience of our journey.  Ladies wearing heels be warned – you must walk slowly and with care.   We finally made it to our destination which was located next to the outdoor pool of the complex.

After a minute of confusion where we unsuccessfully tried to locate the hostess station a friendly staff member was flagged down to direct us to our final destination.  Seated within minutes, we were promptly offered cocktails as we awaited the rest of our party to arrive.  The location itself lives up to the billing, with a large out-door seating area overlooking the pool and beachfront of the complex.  The atmosphere is also laid back with none of the stuffiness you find in some restaurants in Dubai.

Samer: Having lived in Dubai for years I am used to the Bizarro directions you must follow to get somewhere – drive in the left lane to exit to the right on the highway, go forward to find your way back to that side street you just passed, etc.  But getting to West 14th is like advancing to the next level of the navigate Dubai game where there are new obstacles and challenges in order to get to the finish line.  First you have to find your way through a maze of underground parking garages.  Next, guess which door is the right one to enter the building through.  Once in, enter the elevator and select the appropriate floor (out of 20) to get to the podium.  On the podium use all of your senses to either smell the meat or hear the crowds before picking left, right or straight at the first intersection.  Assuming you have made all the right choices and find the restaurant then follow typical Dubai rules – pass the restaurant and continue walking for 200 m before finding a path that turns back toward the restaurant, around the pool, through the sun beds and to the side entrance of the restaurant.

Second problem:  The cocktails.

Samer:  We decided to have our favourite cocktail before dinner – vodka martinis.  A vodka martini is such a simple drink that, when made well, illustrates the skill of the bartender and the wisdom of the management in their selection of vermouth, olives, and martini glasses (all make a huge difference to the taste of the drink).  West 14th boasts a choice of olives including anchovy-stuffed kalamata olives to accompany the martini and Roula loves anchovy-stuffed olives.  I had high hopes for West 14th.  I mean it is a “New York style” steakhouse and therefore should have amazing martinis.  So I called the very friendly waiter over and ordered us up 2 Grey Goose martinis, extra dry, extra cold; one with regular olives and one with anchovy-stuffed.  Our friendly guy was back with a smile in 2 minutes to explain that the anchovy-stuffed were only for a certain type of martini; not the vodka type.  Roula acquiesced and we went for 2 conventional ones.  They arrived a few minutes later looking just right with a little dew on beautiful glasses and 3 olives per.  Unfortunately I took the first sip and was confused.  My vodka martini was sweet.  Sweet!

I couldn’t understand and in fact thought I had misunderstood the taste so I went in for a second sip – sweet!  I was pretty sure I knew what the problem was – sweet vermouth instead of dry.  I called over the friendly guy and tried to explain to him that dry vermouth was required for this martini, not sweet.  His look of confusion told me that I was getting nowhere fast so I asked him if I could discuss it directly with the bartender.  I made my way over to the bar and asked a very competent looking bartender if he could explain the drink.  He showed me the bottle of vermouth he used “extra dry” and said that it was an extra dry martini.  The truth is that the label does not define the drink and this brand has a sweet aftertaste that does not belong in a vodka martini, but I could tell that there was no explaining this.  Instead I made the decision to continue with the drink as long as I could to avoid any further debate – not so sweet.

The Food – The menu has your standard steakhouse staples though many of the appetizers had a distinctly asian bent.  Also, for those who are particular about where their meat was raised, the restaurant offers both USDA and Australian cuts.  The full menu with pricing is available on the restaurant website but here’s the roundup of what we ordered:

Sticky Calamari – Calamari could have been crispier and the dressing was a  little too sweet to enjoy more than a couple of bites
Pacific Oysters – decent quality and great price at AED 12 per oyster
Spinach Salad – dressing was too astringent for the spinach
Pacific Crab Cake – best item that we ordered
Lady’s Cut Tenderloin – well prepared with a nice smokey flavour
Ribeye – fatty, fatty, fatty – this cut is supposed to be fatty, but should actually have some meat on the steak
Wagyu Striploin – reasonable

West 14th also offers your typical sides but none worth mentioning except to say that the french fries were seriously disappointing, lacking in flavour and oddly reminiscent of the frozen kind you get at the supermarket.  Sorry, no pictures available as we forgot to charge the battery in the camera before going out :<

The pricing was reasonable and the service was good, but overall not an experience worth re-living.  One highlight of the night was the live guitar music and singer, although the volume was set a little high for conversation.  For the local community that lives in the surrounding buildings it has all of the elements to make a great neighbourhood hangout but it’s not worth the trip onto the Palm for the rest of us.

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