Fusing Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours, Alaya is the place to dine and dance in DIFC
You name it, DIFC – Dubai’s financial district – has it. Restaurants with white-glove service, exclusive art galleries, auction houses and late-night haunts. Some of DIFC’s most popular concepts (and, in fact, the city’s) are thanks to Chef Izu Ani. Often regarded as Dubai’s first celebrity chef, Chef Izu Ani is responsible for Carine and Scalini as well as Gaia, La Maison Ani and ShanghaiME in partnership with Dubai-based restaurateur Eygeny Kuzin. The duo are also behind Alaya, a Middle Eastern restaurant that is an ode to the region.
The restaurant is bright, airy and contemporary during daytime, while its Art Deco-inspired elements add a sultriness to evening dining. Gilded touches, a mirror-covered bar area and art-splashed walls are reminiscent of an upscale bistro, while an open kitchen allows diners to get in on the action.
Alaya celebrates the history, heritage and influences that contribute to the vibrancy of the Middle East, taking inspiration from both tradition and the region’s multicultural residents for its cuisine, adding in a sprinkling of Mediterranean flair for good measure.
The menu is conveniently separated into easily digestible sections and opens with a selection of hot and cold mezze followed by salads. Dig into walnut-infused muhammara, lightly spiced green harissa prawns (for which it is highly advised to mop up the rich sauce with free-flowing bread), and perfectly charred octopus from the former, while Chef Izu Ani’s signature spiced carrot salad with crunchy bulgur is an essential order from the latter category.
Salt-crust turbot with artichoke and fennel and fall-off-the-bone lamb shank (or, rather, gently removed from the bone tableside by attentive staff) accompanied by an earthy eggplant puree are musts for mains, though you would not go far wrong by opting for the traditional route, either. Think: succulent mixed grill, shish chicken and grilled sea bass with za’atar leaves salad.
Do not leave Alaya without trying the Kunafa. Topped with kaymak ice cream, Chef Izu Ani’s take on the traditional dessert is oozing with decadence while somehow remaining light. For those searching for a smaller dessert, opt for a scoop of pistachio ice cream to end the meal on a sweet note before heading downstairs to Ly-La, the Bedouin-inspired lounge that comes alive until the early hours. Book Now
- Words by Savanna Smith