Can a restaurant with a 50-page à la carte menu succeed at creating a curated brunch?
If there’s one thing we’ve heard almost everyone say about MayaBay Dubai, it’s that it has an epic menu. We’re talking about a hardback book of Biblical proportions, which makes a loud thump when it lands on the table. So, when we heard that the restaurant was launching its first brunch, we were hoping to bypass the indecision created from the Netflix of menus and sample its greatest hits – and we (largely) did.
MayaBay is a Monaco-born brand, which decided to strike it lucky in the Middle East. Its second branch opened in Dubai’s Jumeirah Al Naseem in summer 2022, and the third branch is set to open in Riyadh in 2023. Nestled in the Turtle Lagoon, the Dubai spot has some suitably swanky neighbours, from Il Borro Tuscan Bistro to Flamingo Room by tashas. What sets it apart is that it is a fine dining Asian restaurant, spanning Japanese sushi, Thai curries and Chinese dim sum.
When you enter MayaBay, it’s a playful space packed with personality and pizzazz. The bold red entrance feels like a nod to Japan’s Fushimi Inari Shrine’s torii gate. Inside there are kokeshi dolls, crystal chandeliers, parasols on the ceiling and sake barrels lining the wall. Plus, you can watch the chefs at work at the kitchen counters.
MayaBay Dubai excels at brunch, as it succeeds at delivering a curated list. Bang on brand, there are still plenty of options – for the starters alone, there are ten choices – but just enough so that you’re not overwhelmed. Overall, each person can pick one soup, three appetisers or salads, dim sum, two mains, two sides and a dessert. The packages include soft beverages for AED 395, house beverages for AED 550, and Champagne for AED 750.
As the brunch takes place on a Sunday, it boasts a relaxed yet refined vibe. On our visit, there were more staff than customers and the service improved as the brunch continued. At the start, we had to ask twice for a cocktail, but later our drinks (Laurent-Perrier) were being topped up freely.
Gourmands will love the menu, as it takes you on a classy culinary journey. We began with the traditional Thai tom yam kung soup, which had the perfect balance between spicy and sour. The fragrant broth contained chunky prawns and vegetables, and was a surprisingly comforting way to start.
The appetisers and salads were hit and miss – we’d recommend sticking to what the restaurant does best. While the waiter’s recommended green salad had a kick, there are far more exciting options. The beef tataki with soy sauce and salmon sashimi with lemon sauce were both freshly prepared, thinly sliced and soaked up the flavours. Plus, the duck tacos give the Cantonese classic a Mexican twist, as the roast duck is served in a crispy taco.
The dim sum menu includes 12 options, all of which arrived steaming hot. We’d suggest lifting your lid to gyoza gyuniku (beef dumplings), poh pia khai kung (imperial spring rolls), and shui jao (smoked scallop, chicken and carrot dumplings).
Just like many fine dining Japanese restaurants before it – à la Nobu and Zuma – MayaBay Dubai’s mains include a black cod with miso and honey. If you’re a black cod connoisseur, you’ll be pleased to hear that this more than passes the test. The rich dish blends a buttery texture with sweet notes.
The Thai green curry with chicken may sound like a takeaway, but it was executed so well, that the creamy sauce left us wanting more. Plus, the desserts are given an Eastern twist, from the toffee pudding infused with miso to the light and airy Japanese cheesecake.
MayaBay is known for its restaurant-meets-club atmosphere. The live entertainment switched between a DJ, guitarist, and vocalist who sang in English and Arabic. The set complemented rather than clashed with the ambience, as you can still hold a conversation. Note: if you want to move, there are several spaces, which include red-hot seats, lime green sofas, and a private dining room with shoji screens.
Spoilt for choice? Well, that’s MayaBay Dubai.
GO: Visit www.mayabayrestaurant.com for more information.