The Exchange Grill
A Manhattan-sytle 'Steak'easy
I’ve been to many chophouses in my life and there is always one constant that signifies the best ones; they don’t change. You know that there will be starch white tablecloths, lots of dark wood, and no matter what you order from the menu it will be served on a plate the size of a manhole cover and will be more than an inch thick.
As we entered the restaurant things were just as they should have been. Hardwood floors -check. Leather high-backed chairs – check. Heavy wooden tables – check. And most importantly; white tablecloths - check. All together they put forth that certain suave and debonair impression. A good New York steakhouse often conjures up images of old-school American fine dining where you’ll have to wear a tie and cuff-links and have a certain penchant for fine wine, whiskey, and cigars.
As we were escorted to our private dining room I almost felt as if we were the signature VIPs for the night. Maybe we were. This was that kind of place. Perhaps not so ‘1920’s gangster speakeasy’ as I described, but nonetheless The Exchange Grill located at Fairmont Dubai is that archetypal version of the Manhattan classic – and that doesn’t stop at the interior.
Top Shelf Beginnings
The menu was simple and to the point. The appetizers listed in the first column were both succinct yet varied in choice. Per our waiter’s recommendation of the top 2 best selling choices; we opted for the Crab Cake and the Grilled Foie Gras.
Prior to our selections arriving we were treated by the chef with his very own creation. The butter nut squash sorbet that was served in the center of the King Oyster mushroom was something completely unexpected and should be included on the menu. Topped with sage infused camel milk foam, it was light and didn’t take up too much space from what we had coming.
Almost on cue, the Foie Gras arrived and was elementally French. It was rich as it should have been with a creamy texture. It did have that mild liver taste, but nothing that would set you off. It did however, almost melt in your mouth thanks to the modest grilling it had sustained prior to arriving at the table, which is what it should do if it’s prepared exquisitely. If you’re a little hesitant in ever giving it a try, then I definitely recommend you try it here. At least you’ll have a proper benchmark for what it should be.
The Crab Cakes were brought along as well. The accompanying mango salsa and caviar enhanced the level of this simple appetizer to what could be considered a main-course event. It was easy to see why it was one of their best sellers.
If it’s dry-aged and a ribeye, then you will be on the right track at any steakhouse. The Exchange Grill, however, takes it up a notch by offering some of the finest cuts the world has to offer. There are six different options alone for the Premium Gold Angus from the USA; they range from a 7-ounce Fillet Mignon all the way up to the very manly 26-ounce Prime T-Bone. But if you’re up for something a bit more specialty; then you can opt for the 10-ounce Australian Wagyu Striploin, or the 10-ounce Kobe Fillet or the 12-ounce Kobe Ribeye, both from Australia.
Going for the mouth-watering 10-ounce Kobe fillet might have been overindulgent, but I knew I’d never be able to finish the 26er and anything other than 10, just didn’t seem right for a steakhouse portion. Plus, I’d never had Kobe beef so it became a night of ‘firsts’ from the butchers cutting board.
While three of us went the way of the 10-ounce Fillet, one of my dining companions chose ‘surf’ instead of ‘turf’ and treated herself with the whole Canadian lobster.
To accompany our highly international selections, there were an array of sides to choose from. Traditional steakhouse sides of creamed spinach and the classic steak or sweet potato fries were available, but if Kobe is on my plate, I definitely needed something a little more refined than fries; so pomme Mousseline, or simply mashed potatoes, it was.
The Exchange Grill does keep with the ‘steak and potatoes’ feel, the varied options will fit just about every palate and couple it with a vegetable of some kind, I chose the grilled zucchini with a balsamic reduction, any and all of the appropriations will be appetizingly admired.
After all of that, it was hard to even think about what we’d like to round out the three courses, but having no dessert seemed like it would be a mistake, especially if the pastry chef had the same chops as whomever had been doing the grilling.
In an effort to keep it on theme, we opted for the London Cheesecake; hoping it would be as good as New York Style Cheesecake and a recommendation from our waiter; The Molten Chocolate Sphere.
The Cheesecake was up first. A little dense for my preference; I thought it could have been more moist. It did come with a decorative disc of solidified caramel and a dollop of Blueberry Jam which helped to balance some of the dryness.
The Molten Chocolate Sphere was a showpiece. The vanilla ice cream and all of the other goodness was placed inside a golden chocolate orb and sent to the table. Upon arrival, we took a moment to marvel at the uniqueness of the dessert, only to have it completely cave in on itself as the friendly staff drizzled hot melted chocolate over the top causing the whole thing to melt. He did do it with a smile and we were amused…so it all was for the best. To round it all off, coffees were ordered to accompany the final morsels before calling it a night.
Was I impressed with the night’s meal? Yes, I was. The staff at The Exchange Grill have done an excellent job of preserving the temple that is dry-aged meats and feelings of a phenomenal steakhouse.
You have the overpowering urge to tuck a napkin beneath your chin as you make yourself comfortable. You will smile prior to every flame-kissed bite that has been slowly marinating in a pool of its own juices on your plate.
My advice? Slow down. Relax. Pour another glass of red. You will want to go for it all without hesitation – New Yorkers will be proud of you.
Hours of Operation:
Every night from 7pm – Midnight
Business / Smart Casual
Phone: +971 4 311-8316: Email: The Exchange Grill Reservations
Advanced bookings are recommended for the weekend.
Dave Soucy at A Photographic Memory