Chef Izu Ani should require little introduction to Dubai diners. As the opening head chef of the acclaimed La Petite Maison, Chef Izu has garnered quite the reputation on the UAE dining scene but has now ventured into a different direction with his new opening in the popular dining enclave of City Walk.
Izu Brasserie and Bakery may not be what one would necessarily expect from Chef Izu. For this minuscule restaurant space situated in the Le BHV Marais department store eschews the fine dining formality we’ve come to expect from the man behind LPM and Emaar Hospitality’s La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie, in favour of something far more casual.
First things first, Izu Brasserie is a little tricky to find with absolutely no signage to be found in either CityWalk or the department store. The easiest way to find access is from the boulevard (Al Mustaqbal Street) where outside seating aplenty marks the entrance. Once inside, the Brasserie and Bakery are divided by an awkward display of children’s clothing (thank you Le BHV Marais) that interrupts the flow of the otherwise small but appealing space, making for a strange first impression and unfortunate disconnect for the Izu brand. Fortunately, guests are able to sit in either section and we select a tan leather booth in the galley-like Brasserie, representative of space maximisations if nothing else.
Seated in close proximity to the small kitchen, it’s a wonder the Chefs are able to churn out good food in such a confined space, but the Mediterranean menu is the strongest selling point of this Brasserie. We begin with breakfast items, indulging in a French Toast (AED 50) reminiscent of the one at Tasha’s. Presenting a thick slice of fluffy brioche accompanied by a berry compote and an addictive caramel cream. The simplicity of the plating draws immediate attention and is a recurrent theme throughout our meal. The Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon (AED 55) represents a pleasing take on the breakfast classic thanks to a glorious Hollandaise sauce. Yet it’s the lack of accompaniments (even bread) that leaves us feeling somewhat frustrated.
The Spanish Omelette is recommended to us by our friendly waiter and makes for a worthy recommendation, albeit a pricey one at AED 50 for one slice. The tortilla is very good, packed full of potato and onions and a good ratio of egg, but it’s the Avocado Tartine (AED 40) that leaves a lasting impression. Presenting thin slices of avocado layered onto top of cool labneh. The open-faced French sandwich is a real winner in terms of both flavour (there’s an unexpected element of sweetness) and texture and makes for a dish we would wholehertedly recommend to the readers of Out & About UAE.
Moving onto the lunch/dinner menu we struggled to resist the Burrata (AED 65). Izu presents his signature version with peppers and a pesto sauce that 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 though perhaps not the best in town (that title still goes to Wakame), it’s certainly up there. Similarly, the Squid Ink Ravioli (AED 75) is as unique in taste as appearance, with the thicker-than-usual stained black pasta generously stuffed with seabass and prawns and adorned with a cheese tuile. Served with a butter sauce, the ravioli is a standout dish and one we only wish comprised of more than five (admittedly pretty) pieces.
The Mediterranean Style Seabream (AED 80) is great value for money but perhaps this is due to the fact that sides dishes come at an additional cost. The fish itself is well-cooked with a crisp skin and is laden with vegetables. The fish though well-cooked is a dish we’re unlikely to remember though a welcoming texture is provided via the inclusion of pine nuts
Team Out & About have long been searching for the best tiramisu in town and we think we may have FINALLY found it. The TiramIzu (AED 50) is constructed in front of diners and offers everything (minus the alcohol) you would expect from the classic Italian dessert. The coffee base isn’t too strong but soaks perfectly into the base of ladyfingers, while the thick cream is piped heavily on top with immaculate precision before being dusted generously with chocolate. The indulgent tiramisu is more than enough for two people to share and represents a standout dish that has the potential to attract diners from all over the city! Paired with the excellent Boon Ethiopian Coffee (farmed using traditional methods and roasted locally in Dubai) it makes for a match made in heaven.
Despite Chef Izu’s notable absence during our weekend lunch (we hope to meet him soon) the team were thoroughly engaging. We suppose they have to be with such a short space between the pass and dining tables, but the team (especially those in the kitchen) generate a genuine warmth with diners. One thing to note is that there are no bathrooms at Izu Brasserie and Bakery and you’ll have to schlep through the department store and out into the CityWalk complex should you need to use the facilities.
Izu’s modern take on the Brasserie with it’s exposed lighbulbs and distressed wooden tables feels very ‘hipster’ and slots easily into the cafe culture that’s engulfed CityWalk in recent months. Yet, Chef Izu’s latest venture does enough to stand out as a dining destination in its own right and sits comfortably alongside the likes of Lima and Toro + Ko, two CityWalk restaurants that have already made quite the impact on team Out & About. Izu Brasserie & Bakery should be seen as a hidden gem purely due to it’s bizarre location, but with food this good, it’s unlikely to remain hidden for long.
Out & About UAE were guests of Izu Brasserie. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.