Can chef Izu Ani’s magic touch extend to healthy cuisine?
Recently unveiled as part of an impressive new fitness facility at Jumeirah Beach Hotel is Fika, the latest opening by chef Izu Ani. Described as a menu of clean indulgence, the acclaimed local chef wants to serve dishes that “nourish the mind, body and soul”.
But what exactly does that mean? And more importantly, do mind-nourishing dishes taste any good?
As we step into Fika, we’re quite underwhelmed by the decor. It’s a neutral palette of cream chairs, white marble tables and wooden accents, interrupted only by a bright lemon-yellow painting. However, the fresh fish display on ice is surrounded by baskets of fresh fruit and vegetables, and gives the restaurant a welcome touch of character.
The outdoor terrace, on the other hand, is lovely. It snakes around the side of the restaurant and overlooks the lap pool and garden, with the Burj Al Arab serving as a picturesque backdrop behind.
The Mediterranean menu offers twists on Greek, Spanish, Italian and French dishes, coupled with a handful of Dubai dishes that seem to make it on every new restaurant’s menu (burrata, we’re looking at you).
A special mention must be given to bread at this point. While we love chef Izu’s restaurants for many reasons, the bread is among the highlights. And Fika is no exception. A freshly baked selection of four options is presented to us, and it takes all our might not to grab the entire basket from the waiter.
The focaccia and pumpkin seed are both incredible , and we use every mouthful to mop up the plate of olive oil, balsamic, lemon and seasoning that the waiter kindly prepares for us. We don’t know what Izu’s bread baking secret is, but we need the recipe pronto.
The cold mezze selection is largely salads, and from it we select the blueberry and feta cheese salad (Dhs85) upon the advice that it’s one of Izu’s favourites. While it’s not a combination we’d initially have put together, it’s a delicious balance of sweet and salty.
From the hot mezze, the crispy calamari (Dhs65) is the only disappointment. While the squid is fresh, it’s over seasoned, and too salty even when dunked in the paprika aioli. The baked burgondy escargot (Dhs110) is a dining highlight. Simply served with toast and cooked in parsley garlic butter, we delight in every bite.
Though we feel like we’ve seen an interpretation of the tuna tartare (Dhs115) on one of Izu’s menus before, it’s as impressive as always, with the diced fresh fish complimented by a creamy avocado mash and a punchy yuzu ponzu.
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For mains, the linguine aragosta (Dhs185) is a generous bowlful of linguine that’s uncomplicated and delicious. The ingredients are minimal – a shallot confit, Kalamata olives, cherry tomato sauce, and two lobster claws complete the dish, but it’s a taste sensation.
The same can be said for the grilled king prawns. Cooked in black garlic and harissa marinade and then served back in their shell, the fresh simple flavours sing.
Dessert is where we see the “clean but indulgent” mantra come into play. The warm flourless chocolate mousse (Dhs55) is a must-try, while the vanilla panna cotta (Dhs45) is a lighter option, topped with banana and mango compote and a crunchy hazlenut and almond crumble.
We love the simplicity of Fika’s menu, and the dishes sit comfortably alongside some of Izu’s finest.
Jumeriah Beach Hotel, Beach Road, daily 10am to 11pm. Tel: (04) 406 8700. @fixadxb