Matto translates to ‘crazy’ in Italian, and this much-hyped new restaurant in The Oberoi Dubai, has worked hard on living up to this theme. The ambiance here is more in tune with a gastro-pub; the lighting is dim, a DJ revs up tunes from an amputated scooter, and a dominating wall displays this stunning graphic of a man swallowing a fish.
We walked in with our little 6 year-old, and felt a little out of place. This is not a family-friendly space, and given we got there on a Thursday night, the tables were filled with boisterous co-workers and doe-eyed lovers ringing in the weekend.
Most of the staff here are Italian; and they proudly show off this fact by having each steward wear a shirt that has the name of their city printed on. The menu isn’t very large, but is crammed with hard to pronounce dishes; all sounding all the more enticing when read out in that gorgeous Italian accent. ‘I’ll have some Octopus please’… I know, I am so lame, it sounds so much better as ‘Polipo’, the popular Italian salad featuring baby octopus, potato, celery, olives and a generous toss up of olive oil and lemon. My little girl was appalled we were eating a baby octopus, but she too had to agree it was super delicious, and before long we were having fork wars over the last few nibbles.
If you are after a warm, cheesy appetizer, Matto’s Parmigiana will surely hit the right spot. Pretty much a lasagna sans the pasta sheets and minced meat, this is a rich, indulgent serving of eggplant layered in cheese and white sauce.
We also had the Gambari & Carciofi salad. This is a mix of shrimps, artichoke, beetroot, baby spinach and barley. The shrimps were miniscule and sparse, I really would have liked more on the plate. And this salad was dominated by the barley; a wee too fibrous for some.
My favorite appetizer from the night was Matto’s Salmone, a salmon carpaccio served with an asparagus salad. You really can’t go very wrong with fresh salmon!
And what about the drinks, you ask? The Hubster went for his favorite Italian beer, a chilled bottle of Peroni.
As the designated driver for the night, I went for a mocktail. I had the very refreshing sweet and sour Bellucci, a beautiful mix of fresh blueberries and blackberries, lime juice, basil and floral notes of violet. The only complaint I have is that it was all gone in under five sips (yes, I was counting!). The glass is dominated with ice. I reordered, asking for the drink sans ice. The waitress informed me they cannot serve it without ice as then the glass will only be half-full. I explained why I didn’t want any, and after a quick whisper with her supervisor, I was sent a glass with more sips, less ice.
Often, at most restaurants, we would be rather full at this stage, but at Matto we were actually looking forward to the main-course. The portion sizes here are not very large.
The Hubster and I often play a game when dining out. We check out other couples and take a wild guess on whether they are married or not. It’s pretty easy really; the dating duo look excited even before the food hits the table, whereas the married ones reserve the excitement for when the food is served. Another hint is in what they order. The daters will order something dainty, something sure to impress. The married couple will go for menu items that seem to be good value for money and shareable. We should have taken heed from the married couple on our right. They ordered a pizza, and grazed over it with drinks. They even had enough to pack up for home.
For our mains, I was suggested Matto’s most ordered pasta, the Cannelloni Gratinati. This is a vegetarian pasta dish featuring giant cannelloni pasta tubes bathed in a spinach, tomato sauce and Parmesan base and topped with warm, melting fresh ricotta. Love cheese? This dish is pure decadence!
Hubby, being the carnivore he is, went for the very meaty Stinco Di Agnelo, a 36-hour slow cooked lamb shank served with Parmesan risotto. The meat was succulently soft and cooked a perfect medium-rare.
The highlight of the night was dessert. We went for the Matto Rock, a large orb that resembles a Ferrero Rocher on the outside, and filled with a decadent chocolate mousse on the inside. They give you a hammer to smash it open, now that is pure madness! This dessert is sinfully chocaholic, and we loved the whole concept of smashing into it. This was the ‘matto’ (craziness) I was hoping to see more of from the rest of the menu.
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In summary, Matto is a great place to chill over drinks and casual nibbles. The ambiance is quirky cool, chilled out and fun. The DJ plays upbeat tunes, and the staff are well-versed and cordial. If you are looking for a hangout joint with a difference, this Italian touch might be what you’re looking for. The next time I visit, I’m definitely going to try out their pizza and finish off with a smash of that Matto Rock.