It's time to Play at new Dubai restaurant

We review the major new dining experience at H Hotel from arguably Dubai’s best chef.

Robert Chilton April 28, 2016

Say the name Reif Othman in the kitchen of a Dubai restaurant and chances are the chefs will drop their knives and bow their heads in respect and admiration.

Othman spent five years setting up Zuma in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and wowed diners with his Asian cooking, picking up a fridge full of awards in the process.

He left Zuma in autumn 2015 and is now turning out Mediterrasian dishes (you guessed it: Mediterranean and Asian fusion) at Play, an impressive, clubby sort of place on the 36th floor of The H Hotel. 

Othman wants his new spot to be playful and has written a message inside the menu talking about how food is ‘love, passion, humility and joy’. Customers eating on the night EDGAR visited certainly seemed to be playing along with Othman’s manifesto. 

The restaurant is like one of those M. C. Escher drawings of topsy-turvy rooms where staircases go up and down but lead nowhere. Twisted trumpets dangle from the ceiling – why, we’re not sure – and a dance remix of Red Hot Chili Peppers coming from the speakers sounded great. The tables are low and marble so tall guys should watch their knees as they sit down.

There are sections galore on the menu and our waitress was pleasingly direct in her suggestions of what to order. Duck gyoza (AED 55) leapt off the menu: little dumplings filled with sticky shreds of duck leg. Joining them were grilled edamame with spicy harissa paste (AED 25), a salad of salmon and fennel (AED 55) and a tortilla of avocado, green chilli and mayonnaise (AED 45) that we would quite happily eat for breakfast every day for the rest of our lives. 

The food at Play is light and easy to munch so don’t worry about ordering too much – although your wallet may not thank you for it. Wagyu beef ribs cooked for 76 hours (AED 215) were sensational, and a whole baby chicken with yoghurt and jalapeno (AED 125) was comforting and hearty. 

The best example of the Mediterrasian concept came in the form of the rock shrimp risotto (AED 135), as the crunch of the shrimp blended nicely with the squidgy rice. Dishes came swiftly but not necessarily together, which was a tad frustrating. The truffle fries, for example, (AED 35) sat alone and got cold while we waited for the main courses to arrive, as did the Japanese sweetcorn with ras el hanout butter (AED 38).

It’s a small quibble in a standout restaurant that is undoubtedly going to be in Dubai’s top five places to eat for years to come. Well played, Reif Othman.

Rating 8.7 

h-hotel.com/play