Gaia Dubai: A solid 9.3 for Chef Izu Ani’s ode to Greece

Named after “the Greek Goddess of Earth, the mother of the sun, the mountains and the sea”, Gaia Dubai is Chef Izu Ani’s ode to Greece. A chic and slick taverna (with a few surprises) situated in the heart of DIFC, inspired by Mediterranean culture. Join your friends at The Huntr as we present a closer look…

Nigerian-born, London-bred Izu Ani is no stranger to the country’s culinary scene. After successfully helming the La Petit Maison kitchen in DIFC, Ani went on to open La Serre with Emaar Hospitality, before launching a steady stream of his own all-star concepts – The Lighthouse in D3, Izu Brasserie & Bakery, Carine and most recently – Gaia; Ani’s elegant licensed Greek gem in DIFC curated in partnership with Chef Orestis Kotefas.

At Gaia you will find high-end interiors and Greek fine dining in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Divided between four sections, Gaia features a bar and lounge, indoor dining area and outdoor terrace and downstairs there’s a secret nightclub and a souvenir shop. The high ceiling and natural, cool colour palette sets an elegant tone and the open kitchen areas are flanked with a spectacular display of vibrant fresh fruits and vegetables. Modern yet classic, there are ample seating options for small and large groups and the chairs are comfy enough to make you want to spend a whole afternoon here. There’s a fish market to select your fresh catch from and we loved the eye-catching chandeliers.

Food-wise the menu at Gaia features dishes injected with Ani’s signature “simplicity with great flavours”. Like his other restaurants, this gem serves the highest quality, fresh ingredients and everything is made with love. To start our weekend lunch experience at Gaia, we were given a complimentary platter comprised of Calamata olives, cherry tomatoes, young Greek feta cheese and homemade marinated pepper, which is perfectly paired with a selection of home baked breads straight from the oven. Simple and delicious, it set the standard for what was to come. For cold starters, we opted to try the traditional Taramasalata (35AED), a Greek dip made from smoked cod roe, lemon juice, olive oil, served with homemade pita bread and the decadent Sea Bream Carpaccio (150AED), which is beautifully presented ‘in-fish’ and comes with three different dressings (lemon and olive, mandarin and our favourite – truffle). Fresh, delicious and picture-perfect – it was one of our favourite dishes. We also had the chance to sample some Dolmadakia (Greek stuffed vine leaves), which are going to be added to the menu soon. From the hot starters we selected the Grilled Calamari (55AED), which were tender and flavourful, the Greek Style Meatballs (45AED), with cumin, mint, tomato sauce and yoghurt and the Baked Feta Cheese (50AED) – a must-order for cheese-lovers, barrel-aged feta is baked with honey and nuts to create the perfect combination of sweet, salty and crunchy.

For the main event we ordered the faultless Orzo Seafood Pasta (105AED), tender calamari and prawns are spread amongst orzo pasta, which is also known as risoni pasta and is shaped like large grain of rice. Every bite is delicious and it’s the type of dish that you never want to end – don’t miss it. Plus a Grilled Seabass from the fish market, which was grilled in the oven with olive oil, deboned by the waitress at the table and served with tomato, condiments and mixed greens. To end one of the best meals we’ve had in recent memory, we opted to share the Fillo Mille Feuille (55AED) – filo pastry, pastry cream and pistachio, which has just the right amount of sweetness and crunch. Divine.

Drinks-wise, Gaia is fully licensed and offers a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. It’s the perfect spot to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday or a cosy romantic date and from reception to the waiting staff, the folks at Gaia are prompt, friendly and energetic.

Insider tips: Advanced reservations recommended especially for busy nights and weekends. Dress to impress. Indoor dining is a 100% smoke-free. There are ample vegetarian-friendly dishes. Enquire about the secluded chef’s table in the kitchen for the ultimate experience. The souvenir shop is the ideal pitstop for a quirky gift and stocks books, statues, magnets and jewellery from Athens. 

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