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Otti-more Surprises

In a city that loves its food, Devangi Thakkar explores the menu at Ottimo that promises a few surprises for the vegetarian palate.

In a city where eating out is a norm and diners are spoilt for choice with a vast variety of cuisines no further than a few blocks away, an all-vegetarian restaurant that is not an Udupi joint or an extravagant thali-place, is sure to pique interests. Ottimo, less than a year old, has quickly become the talk of town for those looking for Italian and Mexican fare, with a menu that runs into pages. Several of them. A few friends who wince at the suggestion of a vegetarian restaurant also speak highly of the spread.

Nom nom neighbourhood

Located in Oud Metha, Ottimo completes an ideal neighbourhood dotted with several eating joints. It shares its street with some famous restaurants and going by the crowds waiting outside, it seems to be doing remarkably well for itself. However, as I step back to look up at the bright green lights of signage, I wondered if I was in for an Italian and Mexican treat.The outer facade gave me the impression of a fast-food joint.

Been here, somewhere else

Ottimo doesn’t even attempt to charm its patrons with an ambience that would remind one of the rustic kitchens in Italy, nor the loud, bold attitude of Mexicans. It simply offers an environment that is comfortable and aesthetic enough to enjoy a meal. I couldn’t help but go back to my thoughts on the pavement. Was I just about to experience food straight out of a kitchen that prepared everything from Idlis to Pizzas to Chaats and Schezwan Fried Rice. I tried hard not to think of all those all-in-one restaurants I had been to elsewhere. Everywhere.

Flaky Spanakopita
Flaky Spanakopita

The overflowing menu

While we mulled over the menu, a courteous server appeared by our side and asked us if we would like any recommendations. We were clearly having difficulty with getting started with our soups and appetisers. The Flame Roast Bell Pepper and Tomato soup (AED 19) had a fiery hint to it, while the Mexican Tortilla Bean soup (AED 19) was a delightful surprise: strong flavours peppered the beans and vegetables with tortilla toppings. The Spanakopita (AED 29), a Greek pie, if I may add, had the mild taste characteristic of the dish but was a bit too brown for my liking. Bruschetta Arabiatta (AED 26) was a classic with the traditional flavours beautifully put together. The hugely popular Ottimo’s Four Cheese Fondue (AED 39) was decadent and rich to the tastebuds: Gorgonzola, English cheddar, Emil grana and mozzarella blended with white wine and herbs. Served with potato wedges, herbed croutons and lavash flat breads, this was hardly an appetiser.

Their famous sizzling brownie
Their famous sizzling brownie

The abundance continues

Feeling rather heavy with all that cheese, we decided to skip the Pizzas and settled instead for Chimichangas (AED 32). They were rather dense and save for the Pico de Gallo condiment, there was little to savour of the filling itself. The Ravioli (AED 38), Aglio Olio e Pepperoncino styled had a balanced twang of garlic and fresh basil. We rounded off with the delightful Noce Brownie Al Conccolanto (AED 19) that came plated with a gorgeous cage of chocolate. While I would have liked the chocolate sauce to be a tad hotter, the taste was exemplary.

Craving for more

Ottimo merits another visit. Or a few more to fully devour the Chef’s creations, if not with a couple of stomachs. The pricing, portions and plating, are satiating and easily pulling the crowds. One of the very few places to offer eggless desserts, without pre-ordering. What it lacks in its ambience it more than makes up for with its offerings.