A new player on the Abu Dhabi fine-dining scene, Mazi at The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, is the international outpost of the London restaurant that offers a modern take on traditional Greek cuisine.
What to expect and where to sit
The contemporary twist promised in the menu translates to the decor as well – from the entrance to the indoor and al fresco dining areas, there is the instantly recognisable Greek blue and white theme, upgraded here with touches of gold via the lighting. We sit indoors (it is still a bit too hot to sit outdoors mid-October), facing an interesting accent wall of blue doors. The music is pleasant, but not loud enough to intrude on your conversation, while service is friendly without being overbearing.
Who’s eating there
My dining partner and I visit the restaurant about a week after its opening on a Friday evening, and spot a mix of families and groups of friends. Once the weather cools, the outdoor tables should beckon couples and intimate groups.
An amuse-bouche shot of passion fruit and lemon mint is followed by delicious herb bread with olive oil on the side. The menu offers enough variety without being overwhelming, and is divided into jars, salads, hot plates, signature dishes and desserts. Mazi means "together" and the restaurant has planned its portions to be shared.
Our waiter recommends the spicy tiropita to start. Not being a cheese fan, I am a bit sceptical about the jar of broken filo pastry with leeks and chillies (Dh35). But as I bite into the cheese scooped up with the pastry, I am surprised by how flavourful the creamy blend is (although it's not spicy in the least). Even once the pastry is gone, the cheese can be paired with the herb bread.
One taste of the fresh Greek salad with cherry tomatoes, barley rusks and tangy feta (Dh55), and I’m beginning to see the appeal of cheese in Greek dishes.
Among the hot plates, the courgette cakes with cucumber and mint dip (Dh50) and the smoked prawns saganaki with ouzo and metzovone (Dh75) come highly recommended. Some of the dishes feature alcohol as an ingredient and are marked accordingly on the menu, but can be made without on request. Even though they are deep-fried, the courgette cakes are light and pair well with the slightly sweet dip, which doesn't take away from the flavour of the vegetable. My dining partner loves the fresh prawns that go swimmingly well with the smoked tomato and feta base they are placed on top of and says it reminds him of a dish he sampled in Santorini.
For mains, we share a portion of the black truffle chicken hunkar begendi (Dh95) and shredded lamb shoulder stifado with miso aubergine (Dh120). While I enjoy the juicy and succulent slices of perfectly cooked chicken breast, I find the accompanying aubergine mousse a tad bland. The lamb, on the other hand, which is served shredded on top of a slice of miso aubergine, feels like hearty comfort food and is incredibly flavourful.
You'd think that after eating all of that food, we would be bursting at the seams – but not really. The portions at Mazi are enough that you get a lasting taste of the restaurant's offerings, but not so much that you are too full for the next course.
For dessert, the waiter recommends the pistachio and mastiha parfait with strawberry and melon coulis (Dh40). It is the perfect end to a meal that features dishes packed with flavours without being overpowering. Here, too, while the pistachio stands out, the parfait itself isn't overwhelmingly sweet and the coulis offers a touch of fresh flavour to offset the nutty base.
I am going to cheat a little and choose two dishes here – the spicy tiropita jar and the courgette cakes – and for two very different reasons. If a dish can feature an ingredient that a diner doesn't like and make them fall in love with it, it is a major win in my book. I couldn't get enough of the creamy cheesy goodness and would go back to Mazi to feast on this jar alone. The courgette cakes tasted so absolutely perfect, they took me right back to my honeymoon where I first tried the dish at a beachside restaurant in Mykonos – except the dip at Mazi is far superior.
A chat with the chef
I ask chef Sarantos Rapatas about sourcing the ingredients, since Greek produce – tomatoes, for example – has a very distinct flavour, which impacts the authenticity and taste. "My team and I work very hard on this," he says. "We try to source only the best produce – but it is a mix of ingredients we get from Europe and the best we can find locally. We also need to find that balance where we are able to offer the best ingredients at a good price."
The ingredients will also dictate the menu, as Rapatas says the offerings will change every few months depending on what's in season. Those familiar with the London menu will be happy to know that most of its dishes have made it to Abu Dhabi.
Value for money and contact information
The dishes at Mazi are well-priced, given that it is a fine-dining restaurant. Jars start at Dh35, salads at Dh55, hot plates at Dh50 and signature dishes at Dh95, while the desserts are all Dh40. A meal for two can be had for about Dh300. Mazi is at The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, and is open from 4pm to midnight on Sunday to Thursday and from noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday. Tables can be booked by calling 02 418 2534.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant