Smashing plates of food…

Saadiyat Island has snuck up on Abu Dhabi’s good food scene as quietly and deliberately as Greek mythology’s Jason did on the fabled Golden Fleece. And it’s that enclave of crave — Mamsha Al Saadiyat — that has taken up primacy in diversifying the food offering, with beachfront dining experiences running the full gastronomic gambit of casual Caribbean cuisine to refined French dining.

But something that’s been absent from Abu Dhabi’s collective menu for a reasonable spell, has been a high-end, modern Greek restaurant. It’s a seat of office that’s now been filled elsewhere on this ‘dessert island’ by the reopening of Mazi, at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort.

Mazi is a venue that is beautiful in a very obvious, self-aware sort of way. It has a great blanched bone structure, dazzling bright turquoise sea views, and an assortment of highly iris-engaging decor. One entire two-storey wall is taken up by a mosaic of blue doors, there’s an artful scattering of Greecian pottery, crystal orb chandeliers and enticingly arranged linin net partitions.

You’ll probably be unsurprised to learn that the, what is a delightfully uncomplicated, menu here is staged around a sharing concept. It’s how we do things in the UAE, but it also happens to neatly align with how the Greeks do things too. The first order for this newly elected democratic dining state is a bowl of freshly prepared tzatziki (Dhs55) to pair with the complimentary welcome bread.

The bread is some of the most pleasingly exotic you’ll find around town, a lightly grilled garlic brioche that provides a firm and perfumed bed for dollops of creamy tzatziki. As part of the starting ensemble we’ve also ordered some tuna tartare (Dhs85), and a plate of grandmama’s meatballs (Dhs95).

Our tuna comes raw and robed in a simple tartare dressing, it’s a cleverly balanced dish making it a gentler ride than a ceviche. The meatballs, in comparison, are a Minoan maze of flavour and texture — big bold beefy tones grapple with aromatic herbs in a joyful mouthful that genuinely feels snatched from nanna’s kitchen spoon ahead of lunch.

We’ve ordered a pair of ‘wood and charcoal’ main dishes — octopus with olive and caper tapenade (Dhs160), and a chicken thigh souvlaki (Dhs135). The octopus comes closer to the perfect grill-time texture than we’ve seen in a long while. It’s the tapenade, served on the side, that draws our one criticism of the dish — we found it a touch too rough, cool and intense for our particular palate, ultimately landing somewhere closer to a chutney.

Mazi’s souvlaki, a skewer of chicken thighs, raises a dueling sword to the countless plates of shish tawouk found in Abu Dhabi. It’s juicy, lightly crumbed with crispy chicken skin and has a razor-sharp edge of sun-plumped lemon. It’s just another modern upgrade that helps the restaurant stand out against the more traditional tavernas.

Verdict: The return of Mazi is a celebration-worthy event, the restaurant offers fairly priced, often innovative, great tasting food. It’s also pretty easy on the eyes too. Rating: A-

Mazi Abu Dhabi is open for lunch from Wednesday to Monday, between 12 pm and 3pm, and for dinner from 7pm to 11pm. The venue is closed on Tuesdays. Tel: (02) 498 8888, @maziabudhabi