I’m no food expert. Let’s make that perfectly clear. I like to eat, but I’m not a connoisseur. If anything, I’m slightly picky, which tends to keep me from the really exotic foods on offer here in Dubai. I’m kind of like a 12 year old child stuck in an adult body. So, when my very talented and lovely blogger friend Zoe of the Luxeologist invited me out for dinner at MINA Brasserie, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to end up eating. Thankfully, I lucked out. Not only did the menu cater for, well, pretty basic tastes, it did a damn fine job of exceeding expectations.
Admittedly, my expectations were not particularly high. I was aware that MINA Brasserie replaced a previous American-style diner that didn’t last very long at all. This didn’t surprise me. The Four Seasons hardly seemed like the prime spot for a diner, even if it would attract the Failed-in-London-tried-Hong-Kong (and now Dubai) finance crowd. Having the gap filled with a comfortable, classy and welcoming brasserie seems much more logical to me.
Mina Brasserie is a creation of Michael Mina, an American celebrity chef and businessman. The master of a small empire of restaurants across the world, his website description for MINA Brasserie is a little interesting. Guests to MINA Brasserie will be “welcomed by a fun and dynamic environment, elegant yet informal, timeless yet modern, warm, sexy and sophisticated.” Am I the only person who isn’t quite sure how a restaurant is sexy? Am I missing something? Regardless, the setting was very nice – one might say, timeless yet modern – and the attentive staff were one of the first things I noticed. They actually paid attention to our requests! They paced the meals according to our needs! The Nepalese bartender, K.C. (like KFC but without the F, he reminded us, which was very helpful three drinks in) was ever-ready to refill our glasses. The Executive Chef, Michael Dahlkemper, took the time to speak to us, and Angel X Shi, the Restaurant Manager, was friendly and welcoming. These small matters are actually the elements that make up a good night out in Dubai – and where many restaurants fail.
And the food. While I may no be a food blogger, I can appreciate good food when I taste it. Zoe provides a much keener insight than I, but I will highlight my favorite dishes. To start the evening, we each ate a truffle scroll. I’m not a fan of truffle. I feel like, for a serious time period, everything was truffled. We reached peak truffle. Tonight turned around my truffle-hating-attitude. The scroll was delicious, and went down a treat. Next came the beef tartare. I will admit that the last time I sampled beef tartare was in the Old Town Market Place in Warsaw. I wasn’t even sure what it was at the time, and it most certainly wasn’t seasoned. It was also followed by a shot of dodgy cherry liqueur, and I had to waddle my way back to my hotel feeling a little green. This time? The meal was heaven. Perfectly seasoned, I couldn’t help going back for seconds – and thirds.
Even though I’m not a huge mushroom fan, the porcini ravioli with parmesan and roasted mushrooms went down surprisingly well, a simple but effective flavor combination. The foie gras was a little too much for my delicate taste buds, but I thoroughly enjoyed the smoked beef short rib – presented to us from under a bell jar, with artistic flourish. I may have also eaten my weight in truffle fries. Truffle is clearly finding its way back into my cold, truffle-lacking heart.
Lastly, the desserts. One of these was a banana tarte tatin. Anyone that knows me knows I have intense hatred of all things banana, so, despite the dessert looking gorgeous, I gave this one a wide berth. Ironically, although I loved the other dessert, I have no idea what it was. I recall almond, little meringues on top, raspberry coulis and caramel. Whatever it was, it was rather tasty. I’ll have to go back and investigate again. I topped off the evening with a classic Old Fashioned, and by this stage, we had moved to the outdoor area of the restaurant – which had a lovely ambience (even if it wasn’t as sexy as claimed).
Would I recommend a visit to MINA Brasserie? Yes. Okay, so the drinks were a little on the steep side (you aren’t going to get much change from 100AED for a glass..), but if you are looking for a solid range of delicious, well seasoned and classic dishes, you can’t go wrong. The setting is lovely, and for us in Downtown, it’s only a short cab ride away. Treat yourself. You know you want to!
Despite the slightly pricy drinks, MINA offers a well priced evening out in a beautiful setting. With a simple but tasty menu, it’s the service that really sets this restaurant apart.
Where: Four Seasons Hotel, Gate Village, Dubai International Finance Centre
Opening hours: Lunch (12-4PM) and dinner (7-11.30PM). The bar is open 12PM – 1AM.
Cost: Budget for around around 300AED per person upwards.