Chef Izu should require very little introduction. A hot topic on Dubai’s dining scene, Izu gained recognition as the opening head chef of the acclaimed La Petite Maison, before moving onto Emaar Hospitality’s La Serre and segueing into consultancy with the likes of D3’s The Lighthouse and CityWalk’s Izu Brasserie & Bakery.
Izu’s latest eatery is Carine (named after his beloved wife) a venue looking to bring the chefs popular French-Mediterranean cuisine to the Emirates Golf Club. Set amidst the greens, Izu’s latest venture has opened as part of the golf clubs thirtieth anniversary and takes over the space previously occupied by Le Classique which stood the test of time for 29 years!
The restaurant space has been completely revamped and presents bright interiors, an expansive bar area and a market-style centrepiece featuring displays of fresh produce. With ample seating choice and large blown-glass light fittings, Carine feels like a natural progression from Izu Brasserie while still retaining much of the charm of Izu’s other recent endeavor.
Although the weather may be creeping towards unbearable temperatures, we can’t help but mention the dual terraces that flank the restaurant. Offering views of both the fairways and the iconic skyscrapers of Dubai Marina, the area features a separate bar and comfy couches that will likely make Carine a popular sundowner destination next season,
Service during the course of our lunch feels competent though somewhat hesitant and the feeling that the venture has just opened prevails. Part of the problem rests on the fact that the menu was still being finalized when we visited.
We begin with freshly baked breads, inspired by the bakery that Izu’s wife Carine used to work at in Northern France. Our waiter pours olive oil (from Izu’s olive grove in Greece), balsamic and a squeeze of lemon into a bowl and we begin as all Mediterranean meals should. The Burrata aux poivrons marines grilles (AED 55), Izu’s take on buratta with peppers and a pesto sauce makes for a welcome change from the expected heirloom tomatoes. Served at room temperature (as it should be) this burrata has a particularly creamy filling and replicates the version served at Izu Brasserie.
A Salade de lentilles et legumes marines (AED 45) is described in the menu as lentil salad with pickled vegetables and although this was probably our least favourite dish, we did appreciate the addition of chopped hazelnuts and the prominence of celeriac. Helping to give the otherwise bland dish a sense of identity. Unencumbered by fancy plating, the food at Carine represents rustic simplicity and a showcase of flavours, best seen in the carpaccio de saumon fume fait maison (AED 50). A house-smoked salmon carpaccio that’s both delicate and sublime and simply accentuated by a dash of olive oil and lemon.
When it comes to main courses Chef Izu’s renowned for his lamb which has been a signature staple on his various menus to date. Here at Carine things are no different and the Cotelettes d’agneau marinees pain pita et aubergines epicees (AED 145) are simply wonderful. The meat is beautifully prepared, impeccably seasoned and comes plated on top of a pitta bread, moistened by the juices from the lamb to encourage extra flavour. Served with an unassuming but powerful spiced aubergine puree, the textures and flavours of the plate harmonies exceptionally well when taken as a whole.
Unfortunately, in a similar vein to our experience at Izu Brasserie we struggle with the fish. The Filet de Bar roti a la sauce tomate accompagne de riz au sumac (AED 145) makes for a mild disappointment, with the roasted sea bass fillet a touch over-cooked and lacking the pronounced flavours of the previous dishes. Granted the rich tomato sauce has been well prepared but the main element (the fish) and even the Sumac rice fall to make any sort of impact.
Of our trio of main courses it’s the Risotto aux fruits de mer et pistaches (AED 110) that we’ll be coming back for. The risotto consistency is spot on, with a slightly wet mixture and marginally al dente risotto rice emanating those beautiful flavours associated with the sea and upstaging everything else on the table in the process! The addition of chopped pistachio nuts is clever, bringing the seafood together while adding sweetness and texture to a plate we can already see featuring on our best of 2018 list.
Desserts are one of the strongest points of a menu envisioned by Chef Izu and we still stand by the belief that his TiramIzu is the best tiramisu in town, which much like the buratta transitions from Izu Brasserie onto the menu at Carine. We also have an angelic vanilla creme brulee that’s gloriously eggy and provides the pleasing ‘crack’ as the spoon passes through the vanilla burnt sugar on top. A Chocolate Brownie Skillet is perhaps a little too decadent for our tastes and topped with burnt marshmallow and a creme anglaise. It’s a strong choice displaying a textural element so often lacking in these types of desserts, though admittedly we struggle to finish.
Again simplicity rules the day with the passionfruit cheesecake. Featuring no embellishment and no adornment, just the perfect biscuit to filling ratio and a tarte passion fruit layer to cut through the sweetness. It’s easy to see why this particular dessert has become one of the talking points surrounding this new venture.
As expected Chef Izu has done it again bringing his penchant for flavours to the greens. Granted the service could do with a polish (dishes arrive to the table but are never explained), yet it’s still early days for this neighborhood hub.
Carine marks the second of Chef Izu’s Dubai restaurants that we’ve dined at the year and we once again miss the man himself (we would LOVE to meet him soon)!
We hear there’s a brunch coming to Carine soon, making for a worthwhile excuse to return…
Out & About UAE were guests of Carine. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.