• 5 minute read
  • July 20, 2023
French-Mediterranean Restaurant Carine Is Chef Izu’s Culinary Love Letter To His Wife And Should Be On Your Must-Visit List

When you drive past the tent-shaped white gates into Emirates Golf Club, it feels as though you’ve suddenly escaped an urban jungle and been transposed into a sprawling green haven. The sky-high scrapers are a distant, misty reality in the backdrop of this gorgeous property, at the end of which you’re greeted by three more elegant white tented structures. On the far-left wing, tucked away amidst green blooms, rests Carine – a French Mediterranean fine dining hotspot conceptualised and helmed by one of Dubai’s most revered, Chef Izu Ani.

If the exterior is an expansive green desert, Carine is its version of a modern-day oasis, complete with a selection of delectable French and Mediterranean-inspired dishes and the craftiest cocktails. From the moment you enter, you’ll be captivated by the relaxed, monochromatic-modern furnishings. Floor-to-ceiling windows on one side offer a glimpse of the outside world, enveloping the space in the sun’s rays, while bowls brimming with vibrant lemons and tomatoes adorn the open breakfast bar on the other side, evoking the ambience of a quaint farmer’s market in the South of France.

As you reach your table, you’ll pass a tantalising display of freshly baked bread reminiscent of the renowned Parisian boulangeries that inspired Chef Izu’s culinary journey. Every aspect of the restaurant, from its name dedicated to his beloved wife to where their love story began – the boulangerie in Paris – reflects Chef Izu’s personal and romantic voyage. The ambience agrees with the romance in the air; while most Dubai restaurants are known for their fast-paced approach, here, guests are encouraged to unwind, take in the serene surroundings and enjoy their meal over several relaxed hours.

Regulars re-visiting the outpost will notice that the large open terrace overlooking the golf course and the city’s uptown skyline has undergone a sleek summer transformation, complete with a pergola, making it perfect for all-year outdoor dining. Given its airy feel and the lovely views, we, of course, opted for a table on the terrace under the big olive tree that sits at its centre.

Our culinary journey commences with a captivating mocktail named Juan Verte, expertly crafted by the talented head mixologist Eranda Attanayakage. This delightful concoction combines the crispness of fresh green apples, the vibrancy of kiwi, the coolness of cucumber, and a touch of fragrant elderflower. If you’re usually hesitant about green drinks, we urge you to set aside any preconceptions and give this refreshing elixir a chance. With the perfect balance of sweetness and zest, it’s sure to exceed your expectations.

Next, we’re served a set of four juicy cherry tomatoes that seem like they’ve just been plucked from a farm, followed by a basket of bread. I take a piece of each of the three slices of bread – focaccia, white baguette, and carpaccio – and dip them into what can best be described as the freshest concoction of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Much like several ingredients served, the olive oil, I’m told, has been sourced from Chef Izu’s farms in Greece and is named after his son, Theo –  a testament to the personal touch that infuses every aspect of Carine’s culinary offerings.

While relishing our bread and oil dip, Pascal, our server for the afternoon, brings along four brightly colourful dishes. At this point, it’s best to come clean and say that this is my first foray into French Mediterranean food, and so the excitement and anticipation coursing through me over every dish added an extra layer of enjoyment to my experience.

The appetisers, considered the jewels of the tasting menu, showcase some of Carine’s most beloved offerings. Among them are the tantalising grilled harissa prawns, the delicate sea bass carpaccio, the invigorating lentil salad with hazelnuts, and the absolute star of the show – the creamy burrata adorned with cherry tomatoes, capsicum, and pesto. Labelling it the best burrata I’ve ever tasted would be an understatement, as evidenced by the fact that four of the five occupied tables around us were also savouring this exquisite dish. We also really enjoyed the harissa-dipped prawns, which we used as an alternative bread dip – on Pascal’s recommendation –  an inspired choice that I wholeheartedly endorse and encourage you to try. Be prepared to find yourselves wiping the plate clean with a swoosh of bread, just as we did!

Moving on to the main course, we tried the marinated baby chicken, roasted sea bass enveloped in a luscious tomato sauce, accompanied by sumac-infused rice and homemade tortellini. Each dish boasted its own unique charm and fresh flavours, but the marinated baby chicken and the fluffy potato gratin emerged as clear favourites. By this point, our appetite had reached its limits, prompting us to pause momentarily before indulging in our final treat of the afternoon.
We took this moment to explore the restaurant and its charming views, only to discover a lovely photo wall just behind the outdoor bar. We spent the rest of our pre-dessert break snapping Insta-friendly shots, immortalising our memorable experience.

During this interlude, Leo, the ever-charming restaurant manager with a perpetual smile, checked in to see if we were ready for our final feast, with the head chef Saman Jayalath also making a delightful appearance, engaging us in a brief but enjoyable conversation. To finish our meal, we indulged in a passionfruit cheesecake and slurped through the molten brown with anglaise cream. While I have a soft spot for chocolate brownies, I found myself eating spoonfuls of the decadent cheesecake, thanks to its crispy bottom, creamy middle, and refreshingly zesty crown – It’s an excellent summer dessert.

With its unassuming French flair and laid-back ambience, Carine stands as a testament to the convergence of culinary excellence and a unique dining experience. It has garnered not only our admiration but also the royal seal of approval from His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. As we bid adieu, for now, to this exceptional establishment, one thing remains certain –  Carine has woven its way into our hearts as a destination for unforgettable gastronomic indulgence, and we’ll definitely be returning for more.

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Images courtesy of Carine

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