Picante

Picante is the second of the city’s new Portuguese restaurants to open in an unassuming, tucked-away spot in Bur Dubai. Despite a decidedly dated feel as you make your way through the lobby of the Four Points by Sheraton, Picante declares itself proudly at the entrance with an entire wall decorated with window shutters in lively white, red and blue. And once inside, the restaurant doesn’t disappoint. While there is a slightly faded tone to the decor (surprising for a new venue), the space is welcoming, simple and homely, with a rustic combination of white and blue Portuguese tiles, weathered wood, terracotta flooring and an open kitchen. It has that Dubai touch of European-themed twee about it, yet Picante is pleasant and feels like the farmhouse kitchen in a Portuguese home. In contrast, we weren’t keen on the outdoor space: the handful of tables around the pool felt both enclosed and reminiscent of a ‘Costa del Concrete’ holiday vibe. So we took a seat inside, between the stone oven and open kitchen. The staff were pleasant and friendly; they were also, to varying degrees, well versed with the menu, including peripheries such as seasonings and sauces, and able to make recommendations for us. The menu, featuring a wealth of varied and traditional dishes, was still simple, unintimidating and easy to navigate. With some direction from the waitress, we opted for two starters to share: ameijoa à bolhão pato (sautéed clams in olive oil) and camarão frito com alho e especiarias (sautéed shrimps). These arrived swiftly as huge portions that could each have easily fed two. The clams were well prepared, fat and tender, while the sauce of garlic, lemon and coriander was exceptionally flavoursome yet still very fresh in character. The shrimps were also very well prepared, tasting decidedly fresh and juicy, and while the garlic was plentiful, it was wonderfully mild. As a real indication of enjoyment, it was very difficult to stop ourselves from finishing the entirety of this giant plate of shrimp. For main courses, we opted for the bife à Portuguesa (Portuguese style-steak) and the frango ‘piri piri’ (chicken piri piri). The steak was decent, but not incredible. The chicken piri piri was packed with flavour, with a buttery, meaty taste, but the meat was far too dry. As an accompaniment, the chips were very good, and in some cases quite deliciously molten in the centre. Both dishes were offered with a side order of fries, although we requested to swap one portion for baby potatoes instead, which were rather strangely sweet in flavour. We also ordered dessert, pasteis de nata (egg custard tarts), and sinfonia de laranja and chocolate (symphony of orange and chocolate). The custard tarts were very good, with crisp, light layers of pastry and a creamy, gooey custard centre, topped with plenty of cinnamon. The symphony, however, which sounded and looked exciting, was essentially a very dry chocolate brownie, teamed with a sharp orange granita and an oddly spongy and eggy cross between a swiss roll cake and a Japanese tamagoyaki rolled omelette. I wouldn’t recommend it. Our experience at Picante wasn’t exceptional, but it went off without a notable hitch, and on the whole it is enjoyable and fairly affordable. The bill (for two) 1x clams starter Dhs45 1x shrimp starter Dhs50 1x chicken piri piri Dhs70 1x steak Dhs90 1x pasteis de nata Dhs30 1x symphony of orange and chocolate dessert Dhs40 1x mocktail Dhs28 2x large water Dhs56 Total (including service) Dhs409

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