Zuma Maldives review: Floating restaurant offers dreamy ambience and signature flair

From a dramatic entrance to delectable dishes, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi upholds the Zuma name

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The world's first floating Zuma opened at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi in September. The design of the overwater restaurant is inspired by the resort's astounding natural beauty and luxurious location.

Zuma Maldives is also the first permanent restaurant to be conceived and completed by the in-house Zuma design team.

Where to sit and what to expect

Huge woven bamboo and glass screens surround the space and its dramatic entrance is through a tunnel-like structure that creates a dazzling optical illusion with its accent lighting and wood panels.

The central island bar, robata and combined sushi counter are a first for Zuma and the focal point of the restaurant space, with tables set across and around the bar. The counters feature carved wooden tops with shells and volcanic stone, all inspired by the rustic nature of the Maldives. The resin blocks in amber shades make t seem as if the bar is glowing from within. Some of the intricate features, such as the place mats, are inspired by local weaving techniques.

Regulars to Zuma Dubai will spot a few familiar faces at its Maldives outpost.

The menu

My dining companion and I started our meal with edamame ($15) and crispy fried squid with green chilli and lime ($33), which are both light, fresh, crispy and refreshingly addictive. Next we had the recommended mixed sashimi selection with four delicious variations ($70) including fresh local tuna, a popular fish in the Maldives. The Japanese Wagyu nigiri, shiso and truffle ($85) is bite-sized, but packed with strong truffle flavours.

For mains, we could not resist the signature black cod ($78), which was every bit as good as Zuma in the UAE. The spicy beef tenderloin with sesame, red chilli and sweet soy was well cooked and paired well with grilled asparagus ($76), but it paled in comparison to the cod.

We ended our meal on a light note with the exotic fruit platter with mochi and sorbet ($38).

Standout dish

The signature black cod stands undefeated. Wrapped like a gift in a hoba leaf, it was soft, tender and moist, bursting with miso flavours and instantly melting in the mouth.

As for drinks, the virgin Zuma colada can best be compared to savouring the Maldives in a sip.

A chat with the chef

Pawel Kazanowski, executive chef for Zuma Middle East and Turkey, has been working closely with Zuma’s founder Rainer Becker since 2006, allowing him to further explore the knowledge of masterfully executed Japanese cuisine that defines the restaurant's DNA.

“I like to work with seasonal ingredients so dishes are always at the peak of their flavour. Particularly with vegetables, I prefer to extract the natural flavours out of the ingredient rather than process it too much,” Kazanowski says. “This is one of our creator Rainer Becker's key cooking philosophies ― the product is always the foundation of a dish and it is our job to enhance not mask it.”

Other than the dishes we tried, Kazanowski recommends the spinach salad with sesame dressing ($25), which, he says “has been on the menu since day one of Zuma London”; the grilled Chilean sea bass with ginger and chilli dressing ($78); and the special chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert ($30).

Price point and contact information

The expansive menu is divided into categories. Nigiri options range from $29 for the unagi, ebi, salmon and sea bass, to $85 for the Japanese Wagyu. Maki rolls go ffrom $14 for the cucumber, to $50 for the tuna with spring onions. Tempura costs between $30 for the assorted vegetables and $70 for the lobster.

Edamame aside, the starters and soups range from $18 for the miso soup to $37 for the soft-shell crab with wasabi mayonnaise. Zuma Maldives also has a selection of cold dishes, which cost from $39 for the yellowtail, salmon and sea bass options, to $150 for the chu toro tartar with Oscietra caviar and miso bun.

Mains are divided into seafood, meat and poultry, and range from $19 for the chicken skewers and chicken wings, to $280 for the 200g Japanese Wagyu loin cut. Desserts cost between $28 and $38.

Zuma Maldives is at the Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, which is a 45-minute boat ride from Velana International Airport. It is open for dinner from 7pm to midnight, and reservations can be made by contacting 00960 400 0300 or MLEON.hotel@waldorfastoria.com.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: November 25, 2022, 6:02 PM