February 2019 Update:
Vapiano no longer does the vegan specials menu, however they have now clearly marked vegan options on the menu which range from starters (Bruschetta) to Pasta and Salad. The dishes are not very exciting (Avocado Salad, Pasta Pomodoro) but it’s always good to know your options in case nothing else is available.
When my vegan dinner plans start with an one hour trip from Al Barsha to Media City (google maps told me 11 minutes) because I don’t know how to drive in Dubai then I should have known prior to walking into Vapiano that something else will go wrong. Well, I had planned to visit Vapiano, a German fast casual restaurant offering Italian food, for days after finding out that they had finally introduced their vegan specials in the Middle East as well. Vapiano was one of my favorite restaurants during high school and university back home and I’m more than familiar with the concept; you receive a card upon arrival, go to one of their live cooking stations (either pizza, pasta or salad and antipasti), order your dish and it will be prepared right in front of you. During busy times this means waiting in line for quite long but you always have the benefit of seeing what you get and being able to customize it right on the spot while it’s being cooked.
After struggling to find parking as well I was really hungry and grumpy and all I wanted was some good vegan food. I was super excited to try at least two of the vegan specials of the months September and October (there’s a new vegan specials menu every two months) and struggled deciding between the Insalata Bulgar Orientale and the Pizza con Cipolle Balsamico, which were displayed on marketing on every single station in the restaurant. As soon as I ordered I had to face the huge disappointment: not a single one of their vegan specials was available (furthermore the fall menu offers the Risotto Zucca Caramelata and the Pasta Funghi Bolognese). I was seriously shocked. Especially because of the marketing being displayed everywhere.
I ended up with a regular tomato soup, which was good (I’ve always like the natural but rich flavor of the soups they offer), and a salad. My salad was a mixture of everything I felt like eating from their salad bar: green leaves, tomato, mushrooms, olives and carrot with the balsamic dressing (according to the women making my salad the only vegan dressing that is available). You can find fresh balsamic, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar on every table though to make your own dressing and spice your dishes. I don’t want to say that my food was bad – I think Vapiano always has got some options for vegans, but I was just so disappointed since I came with completely different expectations.
Even though I was so angry at the staff not understanding my disappointment at all I had to try the one thing from the vegan menu that was actually available: dessert. A vegan Banana Cream with Caramel. It’s a layered dessert out of banana cream and caramel sauce and topped with caramelized walnuts and it was one of the heaviest desserts I’ve ever eaten, but super delicious and sweet as well. Unless you are one of these persons who easily finish 16 oreos within twenty minutes (like me right here) plan on sharing it! The vanilla flavored cream with the caramel sauce was a tasty combination and fits super well into the overall fall theme of the vegan menu.
If you have read so far I hope you have learned the lesson: call ahead to ensure the vegan specials are available – from what I’ve seen on social media the mains are super delicious as well and people are asking for them to be on the standard menu. Tip: If you don’t like the idea of potentially waiting in line to order your food simply call them for delivery! Maybe I’ll give Vapiano another chance in November when the new vegan specials menu should be available – until then let me know if you were more lucky than me and what was your favorite dish! PS: follow them on social media to get updates on the vegan specials – they aren’t mentioned on their official website or on zomato.
Update 26/10/2016: Vapiano UAE confirmed that the vegan specials are only available at their branch in Media City for now.
Update 17/1/2017: Vapiano launched a new specials menu with new vegan dishes (available until end of February at their branch in Media City). I tried the Risotto Campo, a super creamy dish made out of sweet potato, fresh onion & baby spinach.
I can only recommend it if you used to like cream-based savory dishes before turning vegan and are now craving something like this. I actually couldn’t believe that it was dairy-free and asked the staff three times about it 😉
For dessert they offer the Riso Latte Di Mandorla, which is basically an almond milk rice pudding topped with goji berries and pineapple, which I liked a lot and enjoyed with a soy latte, which is now being served as well!
Also I wanted to highlight the Bruschetta from the regular menu, which is absolutely Italian and a must-try starter.
Vapiano at Media City
Al Thuraya Tower 2
Opening hours: Sun – Thu 8AM to 11PM, Fri – Sat 11AM to 11PM
Vapiano at Dubai Mall
Lower Ground Level
Opening hours: Sun – Wed 11AM to 12 midnight, Thu – Sat 11AM to 12:30AM
Sahara Center, Al Nahda
Opening hours: Sun – Wed 12PM to 11PM, Thu & Sat 12PM to 12 midnight, Fri 1PM to 12 midnight