Nice Náis Italian Kitchen
Finding 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.
Luckily 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.
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.
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; email@example.com 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!