Monday, 13 April 2009

Restaurant Review - Sultanah

Every so often we feel we have to indulge. So we do. And although we have been in Muscat for over a year, we hadn't yet been to one of the restaurants in the ultraluxe Al Husn Hotel. We chose the Sultanah restaurant for our indulgence dinner.

It's hard not to be impressed the minute you walk into the hotel. It breathes the very essence of style and luxery. While overly impressive, it manages to be understated too, in a way. We reserved a table on the terrace of the Sultanah restaurant. From here, the view is spectacular, and that alone is almost worth paying a visit to this restaurant. But luckily, the food is quite good as well, so you don't have the view alone to chew on.

The restaurant carries a rather cheesy cruise line theme. As a part of this, it has a daily menu, called Port of the Day. Our day was Hong Kong. We decided to leave the stir-fried beef dishes for what they were, and focused on the à la carte menu. From the variety of classic, but appealing looking suggestions, we chose starters of seared foie gras with figs, and lobster and dover sole with a riesling foam, sauce of lobster reduction and porcini. Both very good. The lobster impressed a tad more, having a variety of lovely, complentary flavours, both earthy and fresh, whereas the foie gras dish mainly showed a soft, velvety structure, and, while very enjoyable, missed a bite of some sort.

As a main course, we both picked tenderloin of veal, with a white wine cream, porcini sauce and potato / olive oil purée. The structure of the meat had more in common with beef than veal, but was very well prepared: tender and full of flavour. But the deep earthy flavour of porcini was much too strong for the white wine cream. It was there, but was no contender. All in all a very tasty, yet slightly predictable dish.

Beforehand we had some worries that our wine choice, a Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Merlot 2001, would be much too heavy for the delicate veal flavour, and the light white wine sauce. But as the dish proved much darker than expected, the wine matched well. A very nice wine, showing lush red berries, cedar and toasted oak on the nose. Californian merlots can suffer from being overly ripe, with jammy fruit and excessive use of oak, but this was nicely balanced, with some lovely dark fruit balancing the toasty tones of the oak. A very nice wine (it was just over 60.000 OMR on the wine list).

Dessert was forgettable. Mr. R ordered a Chocolate mousse, that while not bad, didn't have anything that stood out.

And the bill? Well, as you'd expect from a restaurant with one of the best views in town, and in one of the most prestigious hotels of Muscat, it wasn't cheap. Expect to pay about 50.000 OMR per person (including a glass of house wine). A glass of champagne (uninspiring but not bad Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial) will set you back a further 15.000 OMR. And if you choose a bottle of wine from the list, you're even further from home. Prices are steep, and the selection isn't very appealing unless you are willing to spend a couple of hundreds on a first growth Bordeaux.

In a sense, Sultanah is very much the standard hotel restaurant. It offers the sense of luxery that guests at this level expect. Dishes are well made, with top-notch ingredients, but don't expect any surprises. It's all a bit... easy. Somehow it feels like the chef could do with a bit of a challenge. But it must be said that the standard of the food belongs to the best of Muscat. And it certainly offers that feeling of indulgence. Just what we were looking for.

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