Chef Izu’s new DIFC restaurant is a stylish sensation.
My guest and I are speechless. We’ve been quiet for more than twenty minutes. Silence in a restaurant may sound like a nightmare for staff, but not when it’s because the customers are excitedly eating through the menu – and that’s certainly the case at the new Chef Izu and Evgeny Kuzin restaurant, Alaya.
Some of the most popular creations have been achieved through collaborations, from Lennon and McCartney to Ben and Jerry. This Dubai duo definitely know the power of a good collabo, as their greatest restaurant hits include GAIA, La Maison Ani, Kitch-In and Izu Burger. For their next duet, they have opened Alaya in Dubai’s DIFC, which is the city’s restaurant hall of fame – the area includes Clap, LPM Restaurant and Bar, Shanghai Me and Zuma, after all.
Alaya Dubai is all about understated elegance. Sure, there are the classic white table clothes, but also stylish shades of green across the restaurant – think jade seats, emerald banquettes and even olive waistcoats on the staff. Plus, modern Arabic art, which looks like it has come straight from one of the neighbouring galleries, decorates the walls.
Chef Izu knows his onions and, well, herbs and spices, as he has combined them to create a rich menu. Alaya Dubai celebrates Mediterranean cuisine and has Middle Eastern influences. The menu is divided into spreads, salads, cold mezzes, hot mezzes, rotisserie, mains and sides. While diving straight into the mains may be tempting, you will miss out on some standout starters.
Vegetarians are well catered for across the starters and sides, so you won’t be sniffed at for only ordering small plates and turning this into a sharing concept.
The baked potato turns into a thing of beauty, as it is sliced into thin crispy pieces and then put back together, so it is served in its original potato shape and covered with truffle butter. The cheese borek has fluffy thin pastry encasing thick moreish cheese and is topped with truffle shavings. While the truffle freekeh is a smoky sensation, which has a risotto-like texture combining melted onion, parsley and, of course, truffle oil.
A carrot salad has become a bit of an Izu staple. Unfortunately, Alaya’s wholesome carrot salad is crispy and spicy, but it’s no match for Eunoia by Carine’s carrot salad with pistachio and tarragon.
The marvellous meat dishes include Wagyu striploin, Wagyu rump cap and Wagyu tenderloin, which you can order per kg. Plus, don’t dismiss the shish kofte – it may be a hot mezze, but it comes with four kebabs that are oh-so-soft and saucy.
We’d suggest that you leave room for drinks rather the desserts. The mochikan chocolate cake is far too rich, which the waiter tells us is a lighter version, but a bite or two of this generously-sized dessert is enough for us.
The drinks list is worth raising a glass to, as not only are there plenty of wines by the glass but a creative cocktail list. The Alexandria Fizz with rum, cinnamon and sour apple is our favourite, as it is the right amount of spicy and sweet.
Chef Izu, we’re lost for words.
GO: Follow @alayadubai on Instagram for more information.