The number of Greek restaurants in Dubai might have reached saturation point. Last year, a glut of blue-and-white themed eateries threw open their whitewashed doors, adding to an already strong list of Greek restaurants. After all, how many ways are there to make a gyro? And so, you could be forgiven for entering the Greek isle-themed Ammos in The Rixos Premium Dubai,and wondering what could possibly set this one apart. That is, until you try the food.
What to expect and where to sit
The restaurant is perched alongside the Rixos's sprawling pool, which is positively heaving with people on the Saturday afternoon we visit. Ammos takes up a small space, with only a dozen or so tables. The decor is fittingly Mediterranean, as if we've stepped into an upscale beach taverna on Santorini. There's blue and white aplenty and rustic wooden finishes. You'll have a pool view wherever you sit.
The first thing to note is that there is not a single gyro on the menu. But, as our waiter informs us, Ammos is known for its seafood.
The starters are a real treat here, especially if you're into sharing (read: indecisive and cannot stick with a single dish). The home-made tzatziki might seem an uninspired choice (Dh38), but the light and tart globule of yoghurt, cucumber, garlic and fresh pita bread is the perfect start to a meal (and middle and end, because I don't stop chomping on it until the moment we leave).
Another culinary staple reproduced in dining rooms across the world is the Greek salad (Dh70), which at Ammos is a delightfully simple medley of fresh produce and combines four types of tomatoes, each bursting with flavour, having been ripened under the Greek sun and imported into Dubai (as 90 per cent of Ammos's ingredients are). Serving it with feta, rusks and Greek olive oil makes all the difference.
The garides saganaki (Dh80) takes things up a notch, offering a delicious mound of tiger prawns cooked in a hearty tomato sauce and topped with baked feta. The highlight for my dining companion is the feta tyropita (Dh55). The dish seems like something a plucky Greek cook invented, having exhausted all other ways to serve his native cheese; this is feta wrapped in filo pastry and doused in honey. Ammos introduces watermelon and chilli flakes to the mix, for a refreshing yet hot hit of flavour.
The home-cooked flair carries through to the mains. We try the seafood orzo (Dh115) and Greek sea bass fillet (Dh145). The former is a hearty pile of Greek pasta in a tomato sauce whipped up from scratch, which exemplifies again how much a sweet, sun-ripened tomato can elevate a dish, and is topped with a generous helping of prawns, calamari and mussels. The latter is a perfectly moistened smokey fillet of fish, served with nothing other than roast vegetables and lemon.
For dessert we are served a panna cotta (Dh45) and baklava – neither of which is traditionally Greek. However, Ammos remedies this by creating a Greek yoghurt panna cotta, rather than using cream like the Italians, for a not-so-gelatinous take on the dessert.
The garides saganaki were a hands-down favourite, as was the orzo pasta – basically, anything with a tomato base should be your go-to. Just know you'll never be able to eat a regular tomato again. A special mention goes to the Freddo cappuccino (Dh25), a smooth take on the frappe.
A chat with the chef
Head chef Lazarou Dimitrs says his menu was drawn from his 15 years of experience working in leading restaurants in Greece. Hedescribes his dishes as "simple, yet aesthetically pleasing" and believes that importing key ingredients – feta, olive oil, Greek yoghurt, sea bream and orzo pasta – helps to ensure each dish is "bursting with flavour".
He says the lobster pasta (Dh345 for two people) is another favourite with guests, as well as the grilled octopus (Dh90) and moussaka (Dh95).
Value for money and contact information
The mains range from Dh95 to Dh280, so there's a huge range of food on offer, whether you're in the mood for a no-nonsense moussaka or want to splash out on the catch of the day. Starters are from Dh38 to Dh90, meaning you can order a few small dishes and still leave feeling satisfied. Ammos is open for lunch and dinner at the Rixos Premium Dubai, and tables can be booked by calling 052 777 9473.
This review was conducted at the restaurant’s invitation