An Argentinian steakhouse with an Emirati twist may sound more like confusion than fusion, but the result is one of the best-kept secrets in Abu Dhabi.
MouzMari is named after owner Moadad Almazrouei’s children, Mouza and Mariam, and is set on the Reem Island waterfront in the capital. MouzMari is a carnivore's dream, which offers new and exciting flavours and concepts that ignite even the most seasoned palettes.
While the menu by head chef Sergio Cabrera may be hard to read on paper (font size is tiny), it is easy to overindulge. And overindulge I did.
Where to sit and what to expect
MouzMari is cozy and homely, featuring Emirati-style domed arches. The open kitchen and private dining room gives a sense of a restaurant bigger than it actually is.
The floor-to-ceiling windows offer a clean and unrestricted view of the city and the water's edge, while the jazz music stays firmly in the background. It's a lovely setting for being close yet far enough from the hustle and bustle of downtown, and for watching the world go by.
A fusion of two very different heritages is subtly and expertly welded together. The vibrant spices of the UAE complement the meaty flavours of Latin America, and my dining partner and I were lucky enough to have Chef Cabrera on hand to guide us on our culinary journey.
It seems silly not to go on his recommendations, and we weren't disappointed. For a steakhouse, this sure does a fine sideline in delicate and delightful fish dishes. The ceviche is inspired by Abu Dhabi’s renowned muhammar fish, combining the sweet and sour flavour with traditional Argentine cooking techniques. The dish is a testament to the restaurant's commitment to sustainable cooking, with more than 90 per cent of the ingredients sourced from local farms.
The otoro bluefin tuna drizzled with aji Amarillo and black garlic emulsion is light and tangy, and enhanced by the chef's recommendation of drinks to go with it. He does this for almost every dish, pairing beverages with flavours ranging from lemongrass to ginger ale. Each swig adds to the sumptuous dishes already bursting with flavours.
The mains are meaty and moreish. The beef short rib melts in the mouth, and the Wagyu tenderloin is succulent and perfectly complemented by an innovative side of steamed corn swimming in a cheese sauce. The ingredients are basic, but what Cabrera adds to them is a taste sensation, blending diverse culinary traditions with each dish telling its own story.
Cabrera's favourite ingredient to work with is potatoes, and you simply cannot visit MouzMari without trying the papa gratinada. More than 30 layers of potato are oven-cooked and then sealed for 11 hours. When it's ready to eat, the potato is topped with Parmesan foam and onion charcoal powder.
It's the size of a brick and more than enough for two. I've never come across anything like it and my only regret is I didn't save room for more.
A chat with the chef
Born in Zapala city in the province of Neuquen, Argentina, Cabrera has more than 20 years of culinary experience during which he has worked at leading kitchens in Spain, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina.
“We soft-launched MouzMari at the end of May 2023, but the concept development began more than a year ago. I've been involved from the start, ensuring meticulous attention to every detail,” he says.
“My cooking style is rooted in simplicity. I emphasise the ingredients, applying diverse cooking techniques to extract the best qualities and flavours by blending traditional Argentinian cuisine with Emirati nuances.”
Chef-recommended dishes include: Berenjenas a la parrilla, grilled aubergine with Parmesan foam on a tomato base, is for vegetarians; tapa de ojo de bife, a classic Argentinian beef cut, for meat aficionados; muhammar paella, which Cabrera calls “the true highlight of our menu, inspired by Abu Dhabi's treasured muhammar seafood known for its sweet and sour notes”, for seafood enthusiasts; and grilled and caramelised pina colada for those with a sweet tooth.
Price point and contact information
Starters range from Dh86 to Dh168 ($23 to$45), mains from Dh62 to Dh640, and desserts from Dh49 to Dh60.
MouzMari is open from 2pm-11.30pm Monday to Thursday, 2pm-midnight on Friday, and 3pm-midnight on Saturday and Sunday. For reservations, call 02 626 6344.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant