Nice Náis Italian Kitchen

Nais Italian KitchenFinding authentic Italian food in Dubai is as hard to come by as a white truffle in Alba this season. Sadly this is one cuisine that’s become a victim of globalisation with restaurants here trying to please too many palates. Italian cuisine is so diverse that each region’s food offering warrants a different eatery. Furthermore, as the comments on my review of Giannino showed, Italians have, quite rightly, strong, but in many cases conflicting opinions on the origin of certain dishes and even ingredients.

Al fresco NaisLuckily FooDiva’s come across a new hidden gem, Náis (pronounced na-is) Italian Kitchen at JLT overlooking the lake with al fresco terrace seating and serving dishes from the North-Western region of Piedmont. The home of owner-cum-business duo Marianna and Gianluca, the eatery’s minimalist, urban i-trattoria feel has an open-view kitchen allowing you to watch Chef Maurizio concoct family recipes inspired by Marianna’s late mother Náis’ home cooking – all from a comprehensive menu with not a pizza in sight! But don’t despair you will find farinata, a chickpea flour-based flat bread with a selection of toppings – a common street food buy in Liguria.

Our bubbly Roman waitress suggested we combine our farinata order with two toppings as we couldn’t decide – gorgonzola and stracchino cheese. Dare I say imagine a chickpea flour version of an American pancake, with a golden crisp coating and moist on the inside. The gorgonzola spread with its robust flavours was a better marriage than the rather bland stracchino cow’s milk cheese typical of the North West region. I couldn’t help think parmesan would work wonders, but then I’d probably run into trouble for steering away from authenticity. As much as FooDiva found the farinata moreish (perfect hangover cure by the way), my friend was slightly put off by the eggy taste – purely personal though.

Foccacia and dipsFarinataVitello tonato and bagna cauda

A Piedmont dish, the vitello tonnato starter is one we both had high expectations of given it’s the other Chef for hire Maurizio’s speciality – slices of cold veal (far rosier than my photo) doused in a generous, rich sauce of tuna, anchovies and capers. Scoring highly on presentation, this dish was interspersed with sliced boiled eggs which FooDiva loved for the differing textures, but my friend wasn’t enamoured. I would have preferred finer slices, more slithers. Next up was another regional speciality, the bagna cauda which rather surprisingly consisted of French-style crudités, raw, crunchy veggies circling a rather addictive, smooth, warm dip of garlic, anchovies, olive oil and wait for this…butter. Nice enough, but no wow factor here – something you can easily knock up at home. Would make a healthy alternative to the complimentary focaccia with tuna and stracchino dips.

Home-made beef ravioliTrofie alla GenoveseTiramisu

And now for our main pasta choices – hand-made ravioli just the right side of al dente – some may find this undercooked but it’s refreshing to see a restaurant perfect their pasta. Slicing open the parcels, the beef is finely minced and delicately flavoured, whilst a simple scattering of freshly chopped tomatoes and basil sprigs is all this dish requires. A rich sage, leek and butter sauce, another menu option is the one I would try next time. Meanwhile, the trofie – thin, uneven strands of pasta, cooked alla Genovese with pesto, diced potatoes, green beans, pine nuts and a handful of basil leaves – is exceptional, one notch up from Carluccio’s antipasti selection, a FooDiva fave. Love the attention to detail with the garnish on this dish – a single basil sprig with pine nuts and garlic clove.

That was a helluva Italian lunch fiesta – so much so, the tiramisu, and a good one at that, was left to my friend. Apart from a confusion with one of our juices (a carrot and ginger mix arriving instead of orange and ginger) that the waitress was happy to exchange – the service was extremely knowledgeable, albeit a little over-enthusiastic bordering on humorous, but I expect it’s because they had surmised I was reviewing. Given the excellent quality and that most of our selection was in the higher price range, AED 178 per head for three courses including soft beverages, tea and coffee is pretty good value.

Finally Dubai has a restaurant that wholeheartedly embraces authentic North-Western Italian cuisine. I urge Italians and non-Italians to try out Náis – don’t be put off by the maze of JLT. And if you already have, what do you think? Please keep up the good work Náis, your mum would be so incredibly proud.

Náis Italian Kitchen is located at HDS Tower, Cluster F, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai. T; +971 4 4529991.  E; Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take-away also available and delivery will commence shortly. AED 178 per person. Sadly I forgot to book with RoundMenu, but you should remember, given a 15% discount off the total bill for lunch and 25% for dinner.

It’s always good to end the year on a positive note, even though I expect I’ll be writing up another post before year end. If you’re celebrating Christmas, have a fabulous food-filled celebration. And here’s to a spectacular 2013, FooDiva Friends!

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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18 Responses to “Nice Náis Italian Kitchen”

  1. dave reeder December 23, 2012 at 11:15 am

    finally, regional italian food! i’ve been banging on about this for ages and now can’t wait to get back to dubai to try it. shame it’s lost in the maze of jlt though…

    • FooDiva December 24, 2012 at 8:41 am

      They must have heard you then Dave! JLT wouldn’t be my first choice of location, but as GA said, it’s actually quite easy to access if you know the building it’s in. Google map it.

  2. Kelly W December 23, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    I enjoy authentic italian cuisine but if I do come to Dubai, I would like to try arabic food! Anyway, a good review, as usual and Merry Xmas Foodiva!!!

    • FooDiva December 24, 2012 at 8:44 am

      Agreed Kelly. For us living here even though we are spoilt for choice with cuisines, it’s often tough to uncover authenticity in any cuisine. Thank you and happy holidays to you too 🙂 x

  3. Geordie Armani December 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    great review and Dave their location is one of the easier ones to find, I have walked past it a few times but plan a real visit in the New Year 🙂

    • FooDiva December 24, 2012 at 8:44 am

      Thanks GA and I need to get to Richy’s! x

  4. Marta´s Kitchen December 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    Nice! Just around the corner for me 😉

    Merry Christmas to you too!

    • FooDiva December 24, 2012 at 8:46 am

      Thanks Marta. You too all the best for the festive season 🙂 x

  5. Camille December 24, 2012 at 10:09 am

    For once I have to disagree with you Food Diva. We went there for lunch a while ago and i was disappointed with the place…sorry. The menu doesn’t have a big variety of dishes. Service was confused and disorganized, despite the lovely smiles. Food wasn’t anything special. Maybe we came on a bad day!
    If I were them I’ll offer a daily special for lunch at a reasonable price to encourage people working near by to come over, and for dinner I’m afraid JLT isn’t my cup of tea as I always like to have a glass of vino with my meal 🙂
    But as you rightly say it’s lovely to find restaurants serving authentic food. Just needs a bit of fine tuning for me though.

    Merry Christmas!!


    • FooDiva December 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Oh no so sorry to hear that Camille. I do think the menu has plenty of choice…am pretty sure more dishes have been added since the opening a few months ago. When did you go? Agree that a lunch and dinner special would help given the location, as would vino! Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year too 🙂

  6. Grace @ Sandier Pastures October 23, 2014 at 9:48 am

    I went to Nais a couple of days ago and I know I had to Google search your review 🙂
    I wasn’t impressed with what I had. I am not a huge fan of Italian food (only because I limit my carb intake due to health issues) but I am easy to please with a savory, al dente pasta or any main course that has Italian flavor to it.

    With the price, I wished the food was nicer. The tuna potato salad as something I think I could whip at home and the main course that was chicken breast with mini tomatoes…it just fell flat. I want to like Nais – as I really love small, cozy and homely joints (rather than big chains) but I wasn’t impressed the first time and was thinking of Eataly the entire time! I want to give it another try though and probably can say something different.

    • FooDiva October 23, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Sorry to hear you had a disappointing experience. I haven’t been in a long, long time Grace and I understand the menu has changed. JLT is buzzing with new spots – some good and some mediocre though. Thanks for dropping in with your feedback.

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