A melting pot of flavour and culture, the Dubai outpost of the renowned Hutong group delivers an unparalleled Asian dining experience to the United Arab Emirates. FOUR sits down with the venue’s General Manager, Maxime Legeard, to uncover how he and his team honour the legacy of the Silk Road with fine food, sublime service and a sensational setting.
Tell us a little bit about the history of Hutong Dubai – when did it open, and what is the inspiration behind the restaurant?
Aqua Restaurant Group launched Hutong’s critically acclaimed Hong Kong flagship in 2003. The brand has since brought its contemporary Northern Chinese cuisine to London, New York, Miami and our home here in Dubai.
Hutong Dubai opened its doors to the public in January 2020. The venue is inspired by the heritage of the Silk Road, particularly around Xinjiang in the west of China and Kyrgyzstan, as this was the meeting point and melting pot for Arabic and Chinese cultures.
Our handcrafted sandstone wall is inspired by the towering Emin Minaret from Urumqi in Xinjiang. Guests can also admire towering 15-foot-high wooden screens surrounding the dining area, which have been hand-carved in China and shaped in Arabic design, with delicate Chinese carvings on the interior representing clouds.
What about the restaurant’s menu – what is the style of cuisine served, and what are some dishes guests can expect?
We take pride in sharing contemporary, occasionally fiery Northern Chinese dishes with our diners – many of which are completely unique to Hutong. Some of our best-selling dishes include the mouth-watering Mushroom and Truffle Bao, Truffle Kou Shui Chicken and the beautifully presented Red Lantern, which compromises deep-fried, spiced soft-shell crab on a bed of dried whole chillies.
Our world-renowned Flaming Pecking Duck is a must-have for guests joining us and is one of our signature dishes. Authentically prepared with a contemporary twist, our chefs take 24 hours to prepare this dish between the drying, marinating and slow cooking of the duck in our Mongolian oven. For the finale, the duck is flamed tableside with a mix of Chinese wine and spices, adding an extra layer of flavour and crispiness to the duck skin.
The team has curated special menus to fit guests’ tastebuds, such as the unlimited dim sum menu, the Imperial Brunch menu, the Golden Lantern menu and many more. At Hutong, guests can expect to find unique and tempting dishes perfect for everyone.
If you had to pick a favourite dish or drink from the menu, what would it be and why?
Without a doubt, our signature Roasted Peking Duck. Hutong is recognised worldwide for this dish, and from personal experience, I can see why. I have tried this dish at many other restaurants in Dubai, and none of them compares to ours in terms of flavour – this, of course, is due to our careful preparation of the dish as outlined before.
Much time goes into crafting this dish. However, we wanted to maintain a preparation method true to the most authentic way. The love and care that goes into this dish have allowed it to grow into the world-renowned guest favourite it is today.
Does the DUBAI menu/restaurant differ at all from the other international outposts?
The core elements of our menus are consistent across all of the Hutong outposts, which, in addition to Dubai, span London, Miami, New York and, of course, Hong Kong – the home of our flagship restaurant. Due to these iconic locations, many of our guests are international travellers who can feel at home no matter which Hutong they visit, as they can enjoy all of our signature dishes.
There is, however, a selection of dishes exclusive to us here in Dubai. The key to the brand’s success has been to have these staple signature dishes, which our guests know and love, paired with bespoke dishes that reflect the tastes and trends within the Dubai market.
Why did the group want to open a space in Dubai – what was the drawcard to the city?
Dubai is known as the land of opportunities and the hub for tourists and business, which is one of the reasons why the team decided to open a space in Dubai. DIFC is a central part of Dubai’s landscape, not only being the leading financial hub for the Middle East, it also serves as a host to various world-renowned food and beverage outlets. The cultural significance of DIFC makes it the ideal location for Hutong, especially given that many of its visitors travel throughout other international financial capitals such as New York, London and Hong Kong – all of which are home to the Hutong brand.
Where does the passion for Northern Chinese cuisine stem from?
The passion for Northern Chinese cuisine comes from our founder, David Yeo. Through his experience of travelling, he fell in love with pan-Northern Chinese cuisine.
The focus and the energy of the team are driven by the fact they have the opportunity to serve unique dishes that Dubai residents and tourists can not experience anywhere else in the region.
Are the dishes on the menu ever changed? If so, how do new dishes come about?
We do add new dishes, and it is always the reward of brainstorming with chef Ren, our Head Chef in Dubai, but also with chef Fei, our Group Executive Chef, who overlooks all menu development for Hutong globally, and of course, David Yeo, our founder. He is the person that made Hutong the brand it is today.
When coming up with new dishes or menus, we try to align them with the current relevant trends while remaining authentic to Northern Chinese cuisine. Such as, earlier this year, in January, we came up with new vegan dishes in celebration of Veganuary.
What about the interior of the restaurant – what is the aesthetic like, and why this style?
Hutong Dubai is a unique venue specially designed with a lot of intricate detail, thought and care. The venue is inspired by the Silk Road heritage, and it has been created to remain true to its authentic roots while still adapting to the local culture.
As guests step foot in Hutong, they will feel a sense of calmness, luxury and exclusivity. This fusion between the Middle East and Asian cultures is depicted in the beautiful brick designs on the wall, inspired by the mosques in China. The wooden screens in the restaurant represent coins, a sign of good fortune; the Ankh on the back of the chair represents the main sign of our group, Aqua Restaurant Group; and the glass mirror in the Private Dining Room is encrusted with some Chinese paysages and stories. In the middle of the restaurant, we have a large, delicate and charming wishing tree, guests may hang their wishes on the tree, and the higher they hang it, the more chance there is for good fortune.
What are some of the emotions and memories that you hope diners will leave with after being at Hutong Dubai, and how does the restaurant aim to foster these?
We pride ourselves on creating memories for our guests through their journey at Hutong. Our aim is to recognise our guest’s needs and wants before they even ask or mention them to our team and to instil a homely feeling.
Furthermore, our wishing tree, where you write your wish during your experience, gives long-lasting memories of the hope of your dream coming true!
We strive to have everything from our food and drink to our service and interiors to invoke a sense of understated luxury, homeliness and satisfaction in our guests the minute they step foot into the restaurant.
In your eyes, how does Hutong stand out compared to other restaurants in the city, and what elements make it a truly special dining venue?
Hutong is exceptional as they are the first Chinese restaurant in the world that had the honour of receiving a Michelin star for the Hong Kong flagship.
We take pride in sharing authentic, occasionally fiery Northern Chinese dishes with our diners – many of which are unique to Hutong. Upon entering our restaurant, your attention will be drawn to our beautiful wishing tree – a centrepiece which is a nod to the famous Lam Tsuen wishing trees found in Hong Kong, the home of our sister restaurant and the first Hutong.
Our food is unmatched, with signature dishes both shared and unique to each of our global outposts in London, Hong Kong, New York and Miami. The Suen Cai Yu dish (seabass with pickled cabbage and crispy dumplings) and Hamour Fillet (locally sourced and served in a traditional chilli broth) are crafted explicitly for Dubai.
Are there any events or changes happening to Hutong that guests can look forward to?
The team and I at Hutong Dubai have been very busy preparing new and exciting offers for the busy season ahead; loyal fans and new diners are in for a surprise this season.
We have recently launched an evening offer termed ‘Dark Brunch’, which is something very unique and new for Hutong and is perfect for guests to get the weekend started. It is available every Thursday from 9pm to midnight; guests may select from specially curated packages and can expect a lively, fun atmosphere filled with entertainment that has never been seen at Hutong before.
Our lounge terrace has been refurbished for a fresh look, where guests can sip on cocktails in our up-beat-designed furniture while enjoying the flow of our DJ and admiring the shining Museum of The Future that we are lucky to have as a neighbour.
Cocktail Recipe: Dragon Dance
Hutong Dubai’s Bar Manager, Andreas Qepali, gives the recipe for the delicious Dragon Dance cocktail.
- Altos Tequila infused with pitaya
- Lemongrass cordial
- Silver needle soda
- Saline solution
- Peychaud bitters
Our main idea is to create a tequila-based cocktail, easy to drink and refreshing with a Chinese influence. We infused the tequila with pitaya to give a mildly sweet flavour, as well as for the citrus part of the drink, we create a cordial from lemongrass, highlighting bright floral and lemony aromas.
For the final touch, a homemade silver needle soda enhances the herbal profile of the drink and gives it more complexity. This is an ideal pre- and after-dinner cocktail full of perfectly balanced flavours that you shouldn’t miss out on!