Prego's - Media Rotana, Dubai

When one drives from Abu Dhabi to Dubai to have dinner (a 90 minute drive at a  relaxed speed), one hopes that the evening will not be a disappointment because the drive back can easily kill off the excitement, anticipation and hopes that one had earlier.  So, as I drove to Dubai, these thoughts drifted in and out of my mind.

As I walk into Prego's at Media Rotana, I am greeted with a big smile by the hostess and shown to my table. The first feeling that washes over me is how warm Prego's is. This warmth runs deeper than the friendly hostess. It is the decor. Light wood floors and wood paneled walls ensconce the restaurant in warmth. Light shades create soft yellow light. A red motif runs throughout the restaurant in light shades, sofas and seats. Finally, the dimmed lights, if there is any doubt in anyone's mind, drive home an overwhelmingly cosy feeling, notwithstanding that the restaurant seats around 120 diners.

Dumith in the open kitchen. 
An excellent Cava to get the evening going. 
The evening starts off with a Cava Cordon Negro Freixenet, Penedes. I am excited about this because it beats the usual sparkling options of Prosecco or Champagne. It is fresh with tiny bubbles, a creamy feel and a lingering taste. The trademark Prego's bread is brought to my table. Warm and crispy. Nice. By the way, the open kitchen allows you to see them bake the bread. It is quite lively with some wonderfully enthusiastic chefs behind the counter. 
Selection of cold cuts. 
My burrata and cold cut starter. 
For my starter I visit the cold cut section where I see a choice of 14. I settle on the Spianata CalabreseSpeck and Prosciutto crudo di Parma and  ask for some burrata too. While the presentation is disappointing and unimaginative, the taste is not. The spicy spianata in particular is contrasted beautifully with the buttery, milkiness of the burrata. Delizioso!

My waitress for the night does a sparkling job. Her ability to read my body language is worth noting and from a  distance she is able to engage me. Perfect - proof that engagement does not mean stopping by a guest's table with those inane, "How is everything?" questions. But it is not just her. I notice some of the other  staff on duty pretty much showing that they posses that balance between engaging and withdrawing. 

The wine that accompanied my tenderloin. 

A tenderloin with complexities of flavour on the plate. 
Before visiting Prego's I checked their website and looked through the menu. There was no doubt in my mind that I would have the tenderloin with seared foie gras in a ‘Nebbiolo’ red wine reduction. However, I see that the menu has changed and I reluctantly order  a variation on this: grilled beef tenderloin and porcini mushrooms with red wine and juniper berries reduction, potatoes and crispy pancetta. To accompany it, I order the Chilean  Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon,  a rich full bodied wine that exudes smoothness. When my dish arrives, the crispy smell of the pancetta is arresting as it sits atop my tenderloin. I bite into it - sensuous. Crispy and tasty. Next I cut into my beef. The knife glides through it - I had requested it to be cooked at 55 degrees C. Cooked to my liking. The reduction of the berries brings a bit of sweetness, but nothing overpowering. Finally, the porcini mushrooms have retained their natural taste with no heavy seasoning, and I enjoy them too. 

Lava cake.
After my main, I have a look at the dessert menu. As I peruse it, I notice the manager moving around from table to table, chatting with a guest at one table, opening up a bottle of wine at another and wiping up something that has spilled on the floor at another table. Always good to see a manager who leads by example. 

Beautiful tears visible in this Cognac. 

For dessert I request the hazelnut foam with milk flavoured ice cream, caramelized figs and soft biscuits. While their tiramisu is a classic, tonight is all about me broadening my experience. The bar man pairs it with a Hennessy VSOP. When the dessert is served, I do a double take because it looks just like mousse. I expected it to be much lighter, foamy. Somewhat unsatisfied, I order the lava cake. It is served with lemon sorbet on the side and berry coulis. I forego the sorbet and enjoy the lava cake. The inner part is rich and creamy, not too sweet but I have it with the coulis. Sour. Nice.

Prego's is a restaurant with a very comfortable and relaxed feel, serving a variety of classic Italian dishes. A superb selection of coldcuts, a wine list that features 22-by-the-glass options, very good service and a passionate manager make for a wonderful dining experience.

The low down

Media Rotana, Dubai
+971 4 435 0000

Starters 55-103 Dhs
Pizza 75-99 Dhs
Pasta 90-115 Dhs
Other mains 120-230
Dessert 12-60 Dhs

Brandon Stoltenkamp