Created by the Chef de Cuisine of Ling Ling Steven Nguyen put his years of experience to the test by curating a bespoke menu influenced by various Asian culinary nuances.

With a passion for cooking since the beginning, Chef Nguyen said, “From an early age, I was captivated by watching something being made right in front of me and was fuelled by a desire to recreate it.”

Eventually by cooking at various family functions later, this culinary master continued to grow a passion for food and present modern cuisine to the table with a new twist.

By drawing inspiration from the Izakaya concept made popular in the East where food accompanies the drinks and not the other way around. The goal for Ling Ling’s menu is to infuse part of Hakkasan’s Cantonese core into each dish, whether that be ingredients, sauces, or technique.

Located in the crown of Atlantis The Royal, Ling Ling overlooks the resort’s expansive resort pools, with soaring views of the glittering Dubai skyline and Arabian Gulf. The restaurant has already garnered a niche for itself in the F&B industry, having already achieved its spot on the Michelin guide this year.

To understand more about the Chef’s journey, Emirates Man sat down to see how it all began.

Talk us through your career

Initially pursuing a career in marketing, I soon realised that experimenting with different recipes and exploring different food blogs was more exciting to me than a nine-to-five job. So, I enrolled in George Brown College for culinary management. Fuelled by a newfound purpose, I gained experience in a variety of kitchens from Italian and French to high-end catering, before co-founding Otto’s Berlin Döner and Otto’s Bierhalle in Toronto. With all this experience and knowledge, I was then headhunted by Black Sheep Restaurants’ leading Vietnamese restaurant, Chôm Chôm in Hong Kong. Quickly promoted to Operations Chef, I expanded my responsibilities and leadership capacities to manage the culinary operation of various restaurants under the Black Sheep group.

What brought you to Dubai?

I moved to Dubai in 2019 to launch the New York restaurant, Indochine, where I updated the menu to reflect a modern contemporary expression of French-Vietnamese cuisine in what is now iconic in Dubai. Fast forward several years and now I’m here at Dubai’s newest dining and entertainment hotspot, Ling Ling, located in the crown of Atlantis The Royal, the world’s most ultra-luxury experiential resort. Joining in June 2022, before the star-studded opening, I was fortunate enough to spend a month in New York with the brainchild of the concept, Tao Group Hospitality, which was truly an amazing experience.

Ling Interiors

Where does your love for cooking come from?

I think it came from a very young age watching cooking shows at home. I remember one quite vividly called Wok with Yan which must have aired around the early ‘80s. From an early age, I was captivated by watching something being made right in front of me and was fuelled by a desire to recreate it. I also grew up in a very large extended family. On my mother’s side alone, she grew up with eight siblings. I remember every Saturday; we’d always have a large family gatherings and share a meal. As a grew older I began to cook at these gatherings, and eventually, I’d cook every Christmas and Thanksgiving for everyone.

What’s the inspiration behind the menu at Ling Ling?

Ling Ling encourages guests to discover and explore cuisine differently. Inspired by izakaya, where food accompanies drinks (rather than the other way around), cocktails are at the heart of the experience with an intriguing and evolving menu. Ling Ling’s culinary highlights fuse Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean influences without leaving aside the Cantonese origins of Hakkasan that are present in every course. It includes signature dishes such as Australian Lobster Pad Thai, Tea Smoked Duck Kueh Pie Tee, 24k Gold A5 Wagyu & Lobster Maki Sushi Rolls along with signature desserts; Coconut in Paradise and Warm Chocolate Hazelnut Moelleux.

The restaurant is known for its intriguing drinks menu – tell me more.

I will defer this answer to our talented Bar Manager – Miguel Fernandez. “The idea was to create a unique journey throughout Asia, similar to the culinary side. Something that showcases the variety of flavours from several countries. So, we created the persona of “Madame Ling Ling”, an adventurous and curious woman, who we would follow on her journey. Every drink is inspired by one of her stops, e.g., “Chaweng” is our drink inspired by Thailand featuring lime and siracha, “Kozhikode” is the drink marking Madame Ling Ling’s arrival in India featuring chai spices and pomegranate and so on. We have created a food and beverage programme that puts Ling Ling centre stage as a leading world-class dining and entertainment concept.”

Ling Ling food

The restaurant fuses Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean influences. How have they been seamlessly blended into the menu and what are your hero dishes?

It really comes down to the team and the talent we have found to execute the menu. It was important for us to find the right people that are representative of those cuisines, and our team comprises of diverse backgrounds from Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Our Cha ca Sea bass is a top seller, as well as our Royal Shui mai.

The restaurant allows encourages guests to discover and explore the cuisine differently though the izakaya style of dining – talk us through this concept.

Ling Ling draws inspiration from the izakaya concept. The menu reinterprets Japan’s bustling izakaya scene that pairs craft spirits with small plates and balances it with Cantonese and other cultures’ cuisine that uses only the very best locally harvested seasonal ingredients. While drinking is a big part of it, there’s also a constant stream of (shared) dishes.

Various celebrities have visited this acclaimed dining spot – name a few.

During our grand opening weekend, we were flooded with so many big names including the likes of Kendall Jenner, Ellen Pompeo, Ashley Park, Bar Refaeli, Amir Khan, Jonathan Cheban, Fat Joe, and Caroline Stanbury. While newer guests have included Jay Shetty, who is a huge fan of our vegan dishes, Kane Lim and some of the cast of Dubai Bling to name a few.

Ling Ling has been designed to evolve from drinking to dining and dancing – was this the plan from the outset?

We like to say to our guests, come early and stay late. It is such a large venue with so many areas to discover. In one night, you may start off with a drink in our bar lounge where we have resident DJs playing, while other lounges include a main dining area where you can dine under our stunning Tree of Life sculpture by artist Dorian van Braam. Then step out onto one of our terraces that overlooks the whole of The Palm, creating one of the best views of the city. Or perhaps you’d like a more intimate setting and to dine with a close-knit group of friends in our private dining room. Wherever you may start, it always inevitably ends with dancing in our exclusive ultra-lounge.

Ling Ling

What’s next for Ling Ling?

From a culinary standpoint, we’re always looking to evolve the menu, which is something I’m working on as we speak. We’re also looking to take hold of the nightlife scene here on The Palm so we can continue to be the leading destination for entertainment. We’re gearing up to officially launch our ultra-lounge in the coming months so watch this space.

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