Folia at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, was developed by LA-based celebrity chef Matthew Kenney and His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, the Founder and CEO of KBW Ventures. The plant-focused menu has 12 dishes that include appetisers, entrées and desserts.
“Folia translates to leaves in Latin,” explains chef Gilles Arzur, as we sit surrounded by lush foliage at the resort. “Matthew and I would put our heads together to discuss how we could differentiate ourselves from other restaurants in Dubai, especially since the city has such a good mix of Eastern and Western influences, vegans and vegetarians,” says chef Gilles. “Finally, we took influence from the Latin American flavours of Southern California. For instance, there’s a dish on the menu called Cacio E Pepe, which is unquestionably Italian, but we have given it a Latin spin with sweet potato noodles, olives and parsley,” he adds.
The roasted cauliflower and mushrooms barbacoa tacos are so delicious that it’s hard to believe that the dish is vegan. It can be a messy affair trying to contain the vegetables and the spicy green cardamom sauce, but that is part of the joy in eating it. The Cacio E Pepe has a peppery sauce that clings to the sweet potato glass noodles and the black olive dust underneath is a nice touch. For dessert, the coconut cream pie – a layered entrement set over a sweet macadamia crust – is a sure-shot winner. One bite in, and it boggles the mind as to how something so creamy and rich could be made without either eggs or cream.
“I advocated for the launch of Folia in Dubai because it was one of the major MENA cities,” says His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud. “The future of good vegan food in Dubai is bright. Like any cuisine, when you present an exceptional product you have people who are willing to try it and refer their friends.”
Sustainability plays an important role at Folia. The team works closely with Beyond Burger, and feature many of its products on the menu. “People in general, globally speaking, are increasingly going reducetarian, so that means opting for meat once a week instead of thrice. This trend is reflected in Dubai, like most major cities.” The main takeaway is to persuade diners into trying something different. “I want the diners to leave thinking to themselves – why don’t I eat this more often?,” chef Gilles concludes.