Those looking for an evening of world-class theatrically usually book into Dubai Opera – the emirate’s centre for musicals, recitals, show business soirees and most fabulous events. But every night, another source of escapism and entertainment lies just a few floors up, in the form of a fantastical Italian restaurant, live music den and bar: Belcanto Restaurant Dubai. After the curtain closed on The Loft, Belcanto stepped into the lead role in June 2022, and has since received rave reviews and much applause across the city. The dining room takes its inspiration from the nearby auditorium – all sumptuous red velvet panelling and carpets, a centre stage and attention-grabbing gilded chandeliers which appear to have almost fallen from the sky in a cinematic, Phantom of the Opera-esque way. Because of this, the arrival is quite impactful, as diners take in the scene unfolding before them: booths and circle tables dot the room, providing discreet and comfortable dining, and a stage hosts live musicians and DJs. Adding yet another dose of theatricality, the walls come alive at intervals, making the restaurant come alive with swirling shapes and emotive music, telling stories with mirages and projections. Belcanto is a restaurant comprising a stellar ensemble cast of striking interiors, impeccable service and creative and wholesome cuisine.
Belcanto’s menu focuses on classics from Italy – a country certainly known for its passion-fuelled and theatrical serves – with an often decadent and unique twist. Italiphiles will delight in classics like burrata, pasta and pizza, but, typical of the restaurant, with an indulgent twist. Start with the Belcanto Burrata (AED145), creamy, generously sized and served with juicy tomatoes, but, unusually (and delightfully) on a flaky pastry bed. It’s a tad rich to be enjoyed alone, so it’s best to order a selection to share. Balance the creaminess with a sharp, lean steak tartar – mixed to perfection tableside. Our server has no hesitation in adding our lashings of mustard, tabasco and chopped oysters (a decadent, umami touch) to create a flawless version of this French classic. A dabble in the crudo section also can’t go a miss, where platters of perfectly formed oysters are offered alongside caviar, tuna tartare and wild seabass ceviche.
The menu is extensive, and diners will want to order in vast quantities. With so much on offer, sharing is encouraged, and long and leisurely dining- akin to a theatrical performance – is the best way to enjoy this sumptuous setting. Move on to fresh pasta (AED85), made in-house (surprisingly rare in Dubai) from authentically Italian ingredients. Unique, creative dishes include agnolotti formaggio e pere (AED140) (juicy agnolotti parcels with a balanced sweet pear and rich cheese sauce), and truffle tagliatelle with decadent duck ragout (AED140). Pizza, however, is the star of the show, and fluffy, pillowy wheels bubbling with fresh toppings emerge on an elegant pizza stand – the perfect table sharer. Everything from humble Margherita (AED100) to splendid summer truffle (AED195) is available – the latter on a flavourful white base generously covered in tasty shavings.
Mains are typically Italian, heavy on meat and seafood (the Florentine-style T-bone at AED955 for two is the star of the show). While there are few options for vegetarians, the ample selection of side dishes can be paired with starter and smaller plates for a satisfying meal. There’s nothing more satisfying for dessert than the warming brioche, served with a side of fragrant, zesty lemon cream.
Visiting on a night with no show at the Opera, we were delighted to find a nearly full restaurant, as well-dressed guests trickle in late into the night. Crowds of elegant locals gently chatter, lively groups share bottles of fizz and couples hide away in the tactile booths. A live jazz band lights up the dining room’s stage, performing energetic sets which elevate the ambience and tone. Live music is a key feature of Belcanto’s offering, whose recently launched La Festa brunch offers four courses and live music and is quickly becoming a favourite Saturday afternoon pastime in Dubai. With a late closing time, expect the vibe to keep progressing late into the night – with the sultry restaurants also the perfect spot for an elevated nightcap or late-night drinks with a theatrical edge.
Belcanto Restaurant Dubai is one of the city’s most beautiful and unique restaurants. Its position above Dubai Opera sets the tone, but its interiors, service and all-encompassing, and impeccably delivered menu, steal the show. Whether it’s an upscale take on the classic Dubai brunch, an elegant dinner, evening drinks, or even a pre- or post-show stopover, Belcanto will impress you and your dining party. That being said, don’t savour it for special occasions, as with some of the best pizza in Dubai and fresh, delicious pasta, it’s also the spot for a casual weekday meal or group get-together.
Belcanto Restaurant, Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, open 6pm to 12.30am Mon to Thurs, 6pm to 1.30am Fri to Sun; belcantorest.com