Dinner and a show? Dubai’s Billionaire’s got you covered

Dinner and a show? Dubai’s Billionaire’s got you covered
Flavio Briatore is the flamboyant Italian restaurateur and businessman behind Billionaire Dubai. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 December 2020

Dinner and a show? Dubai’s Billionaire’s got you covered

Dinner and a show? Dubai’s Billionaire’s got you covered
  • Flavio Briatore has remade his popular nightclub into a cabaret/fine-dining venue, with spectacular results

DUBAI: For Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant Italian restaurateur and businessman behind Billionaire Dubai, the global pandemic has changed our notion of nightlife indefinitely. Gone are the days of heaving dance floors and crowded venues. In, for Briatore at least, is the pairing of cabaret-style entertainment with fine dining. Hence the arrival of Billionaire Dubai. 

When the pandemic forced Billionaire Mansion, which had been a staple of the city’s nightlife for the past five years, to close its doors at the Taj Dubai earlier this year, Briatore set about reinventing the venue with the help of Montse Moré, a former employee of Cirque Du Soleil and Billionaire’s new artistic production director. Out went all the trappings of a traditional nightclub, in came a renewed focus on food and a cast of singers, dancers and acrobats.

“We had to think about what was acceptable for the future,” says Briatore. “COVID still exists and it’s not going anywhere soon. We knew it was impossible to operate like before, so I wanted to create the best entertainment. I wanted to entertain people with the best performers in the world. This is what we have brought to Dubai. Excellence in food, entertainment and  price.”




The menu combines a mouthwatering selection of both new Asian and traditional Italian cuisine. (Supplied)

Moré, who was previously artistic production director at Pacha in Ibiza, took that new ethos and ran with it. In doing so, she has assembled a stellar line-up of performers from around the world, including the singers Luciano Bassi and Geniris, dancers such as Pamela Pucheta, Iryna Hentosh and Gina Llebaria, and the acrobats Gonçalo and Kinga. The latter are perhaps best known as “Poland’s Got Talent” winners Duo Destiny.

The end result is surprisingly enjoyable. Tables are socially distanced, the music is tastefully volumed, and even the dancers wear masks. Attempt to banish, if you can, any negative connotations associated with the word ‘billionaire’ and go along for the ride. After all, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself when the performances are so good, the food is exquisite, and your waiter (ours was Santo) is as much a part of the experience as everything else. 

The first act, Geniris, takes to a small, circular podium to the left of the main stage at roughly 9.45pm and delivers a powerful rendition of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” With the podium set back amidst a packed house of seated diners, it’s an intimate performance that sets both the tone and the format for the evening — fine dining interspersed with solo acts or ensemble performances on the main stage. 




Chef Batuhan Piatti Zeyneloglu, a former judge on “MasterChef Turkey,” has crafted Billionaire Dubai’s menu. (Supplied)

Such a format not only allows diners to converse freely, but to make the most of chef Batuhan Piatti Zeyneloglu’s wonderfully curated à la carte menu. A former judge on “MasterChef Turkey,” Zeyneloglu has crafted a menu that combines a mouthwatering selection of both new Asian and traditional Italian cuisine. That means dishes such as miso marinated Alaskan black cod, spinach and ricotta ravioli with butter and sage sauce, and maki rolls with wagyu beef, asparagus, mushrooms and creamy truffle sauce. It’s a testament to Zeyneloglu’s and the kitchen’s success that Billionaire Dubai is far more than just a show with dinner tagged on.

Great emphasis has been placed on experience. The salt-crust baked wild sea bass is set alight just prior to serving; the spicy guacamole accompanying the wagyu beef tacos is freshly prepared at your table; and there’s an air of entertainment to even the most trivial of tasks. The predominantly Italian waiters sing and dance throughout the evening, encouraging you to clap and shimmy to Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” or to twirl your napkin in the air during a rendition of the Gipsy Kings’ “Volare.” It might not be for everyone, but it’s fun. 




Out went all the trappings of a traditional nightclub, in came a renewed focus on food and a cast of singers, dancers and acrobats. (Supplied)

Even the decor is extravagant. Red velvet curtains line the hallway to the venue, stunning chandeliers grace the high ceilings, and subtle nautical references have been woven into the architectural detailing. If you hadn’t guessed already, everything is inspired by the brand’s birthplace of Porto Cervo in Sardinia, with gold, white, navy blue and bold red accents combining with a striking use of geometric fabrics to create a sumptuous interior.  

Whatever you do, don’t go expecting a quick bite and an early exit. This is a full evening of food and entertainment, with the final act not taking to the stage until around midnight. Luciano in particular is a standout performer, but there’s not a single moment of mediocrity. Even the music in between acts is finely curated, ranging from the Senior Citizens remix of Billy Stewart’s “Fly Me To The Moon” to Eagles & Butterflies’ “Can’t Stop” featuring Coloray.   

And for those in Saudi Arabia keen to experience Briatore’s new vision, you won’t have to wait long. Billionaire Riyadh is set to open before the end of the year. 


THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region

THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region
Updated 19 min 53 sec ago

THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region

THE ROUNDUP – Pop-culture highlights from the region

FREEK

The Dubai-based, UAE-born Somalian MC — one of the leading figures in the Arabic drill scene — released new single, “Kafi,” late last month, ahead of a new album due to drop at the end of May. “Kafi” isn’t typical of Freek’s repertoire, it’s calmer, but with a strong lyrical message. In a press release, he described it as an “emotional” track that “tackles the issue of child abuse … and how children deal with it.”

HUDA LUTFI

The veteran Egyptian artist’s latest solo show, “Our Black Thread,” is currently running in Cairo’s Gypsum Gallery. It consists of hand-sewn, embroidered works that began as improvisations on organza teabags. “She asks what form of intentionality separates craft from art,” a gallery statement read. “She (uses) repetition as a formal statement on endurance and resistance.”

DB GAD

The 28-year-old Egyptian rapper released his new track “Mooga” (Waves) this month. It’s a song inspired by the well-known novel “The Life of Pi,” he explained in a press release. “As lonely and emotional as one can get when leaving your home and the ones you love, sometimes you have to let go and just go with the waves,” Gad said.

MARWAN PABLO

The Egyptian MC and trap pioneer formerly known as Dama made an unexpected comeback from his ‘retirement’ (announced last year) in late February, releasing a hard-hitting new song called “Ghaba” (Jungle), the video for which has now racked up more than 13 million views on YouTube. It was followed up in late March by the release of “CTRL” — a five-track EP.


Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’

Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’
Updated 29 min 59 sec ago

Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’

Editor, co-writer Hind Shoufani discusses Oscar-nominated short ‘The Present’
  • ‘We created something that speaks to what an occupation takes away from people,’ Shoufani says

BEIRUT: “It’s immensely surprising, and a step in the right direction for the Academy,” says

Palestinian-American filmmaker, writer and poet, Hind Shoufani, of this year’s list of Oscar-nominated short films. “They’re looking at diversity, women’s voices, underrepresented minorities; they’re paying attention to intense, conflict-driven and truthful stories.”

One such story was crafted by Shoufani and compatriot Farah Nabulsi. “The Present” — directed by Nabulsi — has already won a BAFTA in the British Short Film category and is nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at this month’s Academy Awards.

Shoufani believes that “The Present” owes much of its capacity to resonate with so many people to its authenticity (it was shot in the West Bank) and the simplicity of the story. (Supplied)

Available on Netflix, “The Present” chronicles a day in the life of Yousef, compellingly depicted by renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, who sets out across the West Bank to buy a birthday gift for his wife. His 10-year-old daughter, played by the talented Mariam Kanj, joins him on a journey peppered with the injustice and humiliation emblematic of the daily plight of people living in the Occupied Territories.

Shoufani — a Fulbright scholar born to Palestinian parents in 1978 in Lebanon who has lived between Damascus, Amman, Beirut, New York and Dubai — explains that the partnership between Nabulsi and herself was “collaborative and fruitful.” The director supplied the film’s overarching themes and inspiring narrative threads and Shoufani fleshed them out in script and dialogue, introducing crucial plot elements, such as the daughter as a character.

“We had long sessions where we would go through different drafts of the script, talk through scenes and negotiate ideas,” says Shoufani, who also edited the film. “We ended up creating something that speaks to the heart of what an occupation takes away from people, in terms of agency and the ordinary ability to have freedom of movement and dignity.”

“The Present” is available on Netflix. (Supplied)

Shoufani believes that “The Present” owes much of its capacity to resonate with so many people to its authenticity (it was shot in the West Bank) and the simplicity of the story.

“Most people nowadays don’t want to sit for two hours and watch a highly nuanced, socioeconomic/class-driven, ethnographically correct, anthropologically dense film,” she says. “We don’t try to explain the past 70 years of Zionism, we don’t moralize or make grandstanding political statements... Instead, you have this ordinary man with a beautiful daughter whom anyone would only want to protect and love. Your natural human instinct is to want to keep this little girl safe and make sure she’s okay.”

And while Bakri’s Yousef is seemingly the protagonist, it is ultimately Kanj’s portrayal of Yasmine that steals the show and infuses the film with a powerful message. “She has a strong hand in how the story resolves. It’s about the power of youth and women. It’s inspiring but also heartbreaking. And it gives us an opportunity to appreciate the strength and determination of this 10-year-old kid.”

“The Present” chronicles a day in the life of Yousef, compellingly depicted by renowned Palestinian actor Saleh Bakri, who sets out across the West Bank to buy a birthday gift for his wife. (Supplied)

Shoufani passionately praises everyone involved, especially Palestinian producer Ossama Bawardi. “I introduced Ossama to Farah, and I couldn’t be happier for him — he put this crew together in the West Bank and did all he could to get this film out into the world. He really believed in it, and I want to give him a shout-out because he’s just awesome.”

Though “bewildered” and “astounded” by the industry’s acclaim for “The Present,” Shoufani is equally thrilled by many of her other endeavors, including two personal projects that are close to her heart.

One is “They Planted Strange Trees,” her upcoming film that documents “the various identities of the Christian minorities in the Galilee,” where Shoufani’s family is from. While being intrigued “to explore indigenous communities that people don’t really talk about much around the world,” the journey is also very personal. “It’s also about reconnecting with my family, and what it means to not belong, and yet very much belong there.”

“They Planted Strange Trees” is her upcoming film that documents “the various identities of the Christian minorities in the Galilee.” (Supplied) 

The other is a four-part series that captures the stories of four female Arab poets and draws its working title — “Poeticians” — from a group that Shoufani founded. “We’ve filmed in five or six Arab countries for eight years, and I’m trying to create a purely video-art-driven essay on taking poetry into a visual language. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful than making films that are based on poems.”

In the short term, however, she is very much looking forward to seeing how “The Present” does at the Oscars.

“I think it is vital that global audiences see this film, and I’m proud to be part of that experience,” she says. “As Palestinians, we have an unending array of stories to bring to life, because of our diaspora, our fight, our complex history and our strength. And, yes, our profound beauty as people.”


US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)
Updated 14 April 2021

US-Palestinian actor Mo Amer to star in DC Comics’ ‘Black Adam’

It is still unknown what role Mo Amer will play. (Instagram)

DUBAI: US-Palestinian stand-up comedian Mohammed Amer, who goes by the name Mo Amer, is set to star alongside US actor Dwayne Johnson in the new superhero movie “Black Adam.”

The action-adventure thriller is DC Comics’ long-awaited follow-up to 2019’s commercial hit “Shazam!” with the two characters, Shazam and Black Adam, being rivals in the DC Universe.

It is still unknown what role Amer will play.

 

 

The talent is famous for his role in the award-winning Hulu sitcom “Ramy,” in which he stars as US-Egyptian actor Ramy Youssef’s Muslim cousin who owns a diner. Amer also has a Netflix comedy special called “Mo Amer: The Vagabond.” 

Amer is not the only Arab actor in the cast. Tunisian-Dutch “Aladdin” star Marwan Kenzari confirmed in February that he is also starring in the movie, alongside actors Noah Centineo, Aldis Hodge and Quintessa Swindell.

 

 

Johnson, otherwise known as “The Rock” from his professional wrestling days, announced he was taking part in “Black Adam” two years ago on Instagram: “This role is unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career and I’m grateful to the bone we’ll all go on this journey together,” he wrote at the time. 

The movie was supposed to be released in December 2021, but was pushed back due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Production is expected to begin in April in Atlanta.

According to Deadline, “Black Adam” is set for release in July 2022.


Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP
Updated 14 April 2021

Former Disney, Nickelodeon stars send Ramadan greetings to Muslim fans

Disney star Jennifer Stone wished her Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan. File/AFP

DUBAI: Fulfilling every millennial and Gen-Z’s childhood dreams, stars from shows like “Hannah Montana,” “Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and “Drake and Josh” came together to wish their Muslim fans a blessed Ramadan this week. 

Non-profit, US-based initiative Paani Project brought the stars together in a one-minute long video, which it shared on its official Twitter platform on the first day of the Holy Month.

“Ramadan Kareem,” wrote the non-profit on Twitter. “Paani brought out a few childhood favorites to share a message with you all.”

The video featured the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Jesse McCartney, Jennifer Stone, Phil Lewis, Maria Canals-Barrera, Drake Bell and skateboarder Tony Hawk.

“Hannah Montana” star Jason Earles sent greetings to “all my wonderful, beautiful and inspirational Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Meanwhile, Kyle Massey, who played Corey Baxter in “That’s So Raven” and “Corey in the House” said “I want to wish you guys a happy Ramadan. It is the most amazing time of the year and I want you guys to stay blessed and continue to make each other happy and be nice to one another.”

Paani Project was founded by four Pakistani-American students on a quest to provide sustainable solutions for the water crises in Pakistan.

“Wishing you a happy Ramadan, and thank you for all your work you’re doing in South Asia, building wells,” said Hawk in the clip. 

Naturally, millennials and Gen Z’ers on the social media platform were thrilled, sharing their excitement in response to the clip.

“I never knew I needed Mr. Mosbey and Mrs. Russo to wish me Ramadan Kareem.  Thank u 3ammo w 3amto (sic),” wrote one user, in reference to two characters from Disney sitcoms.

“I love this so much, so many of my childhood favorite actors are here! Warmed my heart to see it and great respect to the project for building wells and helping out!” wrote another.


Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad creates custom gown for iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan’s Ramadan comeback

Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube
Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube
Updated 14 April 2021

Lebanon’s Zuhair Murad creates custom gown for iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan’s Ramadan comeback

Sherihan wore custom Zuhair Murad for her on-screen return. YouTube

DUBAI: Iconic Egyptian actress Sherihan is back. After a 20-year-hiatus, the famed television star, who is beloved the world over for her “Fawazeer” series that traditionally aired during Ramadan, returned to our screens in an advertisement for Vodafone Egypt that marked the first day of the Holy Month.

In the ad, the trained singer and dancer wore a design by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad who created a bespoke look for the actress. 

Directed by Ahmed Shaker Khudai, the nostalgic, four-minute ad tells the story of Sherihan’s career, starting with her very first Ramadan fawazeer in 1985 –  a riddle show that started on Egyptian radio in the 1960s, which soon moved into television–  until her car accident in 1989, followed a years-long battle with cancer.

Murad took to Instagram to share his excitement over Sherihan’s on-screen return, writing: “After more than 20 years @sherihanofficial makes an impressive comeback with an ad for @vodafoneegypt that leaves a strong impression and takes the social media by storm,” adding “The star is wearing custom made @zuhairmuradofficial. The ad portrays her resilience in a journey that was filled with ups and downs.”