DUBAI: Perched on a terrace overlooking the world’s largest fountain on Palm Jumeirah is one of Dubai’s newest Greek restaurants, Aiza.
With all the recent launches at the Palm Jumeirah’s The Pointe, it seems like developers want to turn it into another fine-dining spot in Dubai. The atmosphere at Aiza is comparable to some places at Dubai International Financial Center, well known for its high-end restaurants. Unfortunately, so are it’s prices.
The enchanting design of the restaurant’s outdoor area is filled with flower arches, warm lights, and wooden furniture, giving it a pleasant romantic vibe. Indoors, it is much brighter but no less magical, with a ceiling adorned with decor that imitates waves.
For added authenticity, Aiza hires Greek waiters to truly make you feel as if you are on one of Greece’s popular islands.
Right from the start of your visit, it’s clear Aiza is sparing no effort to set itself apart. While the complementary treats restaurants offer are not usually memorable, our Kalamata olives at Aiza were one of the most enjoyable dishes of the night, with a flavor midway between Spanish and Arab olives. Like their Iberian relatives, these olives from the southern Peloponnese had the sourness of pickled foods, but like their Arab cousins they boasted a real depth of flavor, with garlic-y and smokey notes.
Aiza’s menu is designed for sharing, replicating the Mediterranean experience of eating with loved ones and relatives and all partaking in each dish.
One of the standout starters was the Cretan-style salad with dakos barley rusks, marinated-tomato mix and xynomyzithra cheese. The rusks added a satisfying crunch — and surprisingly remained crisp despite being drenched in dressing. The sourness of the juicy tomatoes was balanced by the creaminess of the cheese — which has a texture midway between cottage and feta cheeses. The salad as a whole was delicious, with an herby aftertaste.
The moussaka — sometimes called Greek eggplant lasagna — was also excellent. It’s an ideal choice for those who enjoy Levantine cuisine, as there are, obviously, similarities to the Lebanese version (aka maghmour). The smoked-aubergine boats are filled with tender minced beef and potatoes, covered with rich graviera cheese. I usually hate aubergine, but I thoroughly enjoyed this decadent dish.
The restaurant offers a variety of seasonal dishes, including the grilled sea bass with skordalia —a garlic-based puree. The bass was perfectly cooked — not over-seasoned, which allowed the natural creaminess to shine through. The delicious garlic-and-potato skardalia was colored with cuttlefish ink, and was soft and juicy.
The true highlight of the night, though, was the lamb shank Ladorigani, which was slow-cooked in a josper charcoal oven with a side of roasted potatoes. The waiter slides the meat of the bone in front of you at the table, and as soon as I saw how swiftly it slid off I knew it was going to be delicious. The tender lamb is juicy on the inside with a crispy crust, and the flavorful marinade was slightly sweet, but salty. A definite must-try for lamb lovers.
For a traditional Greek dessert, you should definitely try the mini galaktobureko — crispy rolls of filo dough stuffed with the semolina cream and mastic-pistachio ice-cream and sweetened with honey with a faint hint of lemon, creating a rich, balanced taste sensation.
But Aiza also makes delicious international classics, such as molten or lava cake, which comes with a side of creamy vanilla ice-cream and strawberries — the milkiness of the ice-cream and the strawberry tang providing a perfect contrast to the bitterness of the cake’s dark cocoa.
And, of course, as in any self-respecting Greek restaurant, visitors get the chance to smash up some crockery. Your waiters will perform a traditional Greek dance for which your table will be given special plates which you will be asked to break (in a reasonably orderly manner) under the feet of the dancers.
All in all, Aiza is a great venue for a date night or an intimate dinner with friends, offering delicious Greek food in a lovely setting.