During my last trip to Dubai, I had the opportunity to visit Shimmers on the Beach, a recently refurbished, fascinating Greek-style restaurant in the Jumeirah area. Before its reopening in September 2020, the restaurant underwent thorough changes: the management decided to strive and elevate the whole experience… starting from food (better product/ quality, and state-of-the-art cooking style) to service (stronger customer-oriented experience, turning moments into memories). The motivation of the whole personnel (including the management team) to earn the well-deserved title of “Best Al Fresco Dining Restaurant in Dubai” was certainly enhanced by the experience they’ve earned in luxury palace hotels – a perpetual reminder of the pressure for excellence.
It was here that I met Chef Roberto Rispoli. Born in Pompeii near coastal Naples, Italian chef Roberto Rispoli honed his craft under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse’s La Trattoria Toscana in Milan, before taking the helm of the newly revamped Il Carpaccio within Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris in 2010. Three years later, the restaurant won its first Michelin star, making it the first Italian restaurant in Paris to be awarded by the Michelin Guide.
Let’s ask him a few questions.
How did you become a chef?
When I was a child, I didn’t want to become a chef or work in the kitchen, but, as time passed, it became a passion, because I always wanted to leave my country, travel around the world, and see with my own eyes what happens in other places. And the only job that could offer me this was the work in the gastronomy branch.
I started early on, when I was merely 15, and I would travel every summer, working in the kitchen. Eventually, my work turned into a passion, and now, 30 years have already passed.
What is your signature dish?
There is more than one signature dish, but today I will cook one of my favorites: spaghetti with sea urchin. I really love sea urchin, it is a great product which I use a lot. Two further ingredients which I especially like to use in my dishes are lemon and vinegar.
How did French cuisine influence your Italian cooking style?
I had the chance to work in Paris with a chef who provided me with the technical know-how in the kitchen. No place could have been better than France in this respect, since the French kitchen is very technical. So, by mixing the technical French cuisine with the Italian one, I now get to create a great Moelleux or any other dish. Moreover, this multicultural gastronomic blend can prove very useful when you want to open a new restaurant.
What are your top three ingredients that you like to use in your kitchen?
I use a lot of ingredients in my kitchen, but the most important one is the oil, as it is the base in our cuisine. I also use it instead of butter whenever possible. Besides the oil, as I mentioned before, I like using lemon, vinegar and sea urchin.
If you would have to cook for someone famous, who or what would it be?
I would cook him a meal that my mother used to cook every Sunday: Polpette. It is a mix of eggplant with bread, which you fry. It is a very easy meal to cook, yet so addictive at the same time, that you could easily eat 1kg of it. The pieces are small, and even if you fry it in oil, they won’t be having too much fat, as the eggplant does not absorb fat. So yes, this would be my souvenir when cooking for a famous person – a souvenir from both me and, indirectly, from my mother.
Thank you, Roberto.
And now, let’s get to the tasty part of my visit here: the food.
The starter that people like to have at Shimmers is the Roasted Saganaki Prawn - Topped with a delicious tomato, red capsicum, feta and ouzo sauce. It is one of the signature starters they serve.
Then comes the top main course for two people: the famous whole Grilled Seabass Butterfly. The entire fish is served and cut on a trolley in front of our guests. On the side, two sauces: Vierge and Chimichurri sauce + a green salad.
Another signature dish from Shimmers is the Lobster Orzo, which I chose for lunch. Orzo is a type of shortly cut pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice. Although it comes from Italy, it is very popular in Greece. Chef Roberto Rispoli is cooking in the same manner as a risotto, with a delicious lobster bisque, some tarragon, lime and green chili on top. Half a lobster comes in the dish. Of course, the guests love it.
As for dessert, since it is a Greek-style restaurant, the most wanted signature dessert is unsurprisingly the Greek Yogurt Ice Cream. The Greek yogurt is imported directly from Greece and has a sensual flavor, which rests at the tip of one’s tongue for a long time. With some caramelized walnut and honey added on top, it is a creamy delight.
If you just stop for a drink on the beach, you can serve the most wanted cocktail at Shimmers, called Mykonos Breeze. It is a very nice refreshing drink with herbal notes. It is made with Bacardi Superior Rum, Roots mastic (traditional liquor extracted from the resin of mastic trees on the Greek island of Chios), lemon, sugar syrup and basil leaves.
In conclusion, I highly recommend spending some time at Shimmers on The Beach during your trips to Dubai. They have about 120 indoor seatings as well as 60 outside, on the beach. Nevertheless, you should book your table in advance on the main Jumeirah portal: https://www.jumeirah.com/en/dine/dubai/mina-a-salam-shimmers.