When I first heard about Cucina Mia – located in the Trident Grand Residence Building at JBR in Dubai Marina – I admit I wasn’t too enthused. With a gamut of high-end Italian eateries taking over Dubai’s culinary scene, the cuisine’s core virtues have diluted to a great extent. Most of the existing Italian restaurants in five-star hotels are overpriced – and with the exception of a couple of pizzerias, there hasn’t been much to take note of.
On a quiet midweek afternoon, we were one of the few patrons in for lunch at Cucina Mia, so all the attention was on us. As we made ourselves comfortable at a corner table, the eager-to-please chef brought over an iced platter of fresh seafood, showing off the daily catch.
He suggested the sea bream carpaccio and a lobster linguini. Both were items I would have ordered anyway, so this gave me a good idea about the chef’s intuition and confidence. I also made a request for a smaller version of the restaurant’s special metre-long pizza. Not only is pizza a good gauge of the authenticity of an Italian restaurant, but it is also on my list of culinary obsessions.
While the chef prepared our meal, he sent out a dish of bite-sized polpette di melanzane (fried balls of aubergine) to whet the appetite. Coated in crunchy breadcrumbs, the savoury aubergine mixture was a pleasant surprise. Simply plated on a dollop of aioli and garnished with fried courgette strips, this amuse-bouche was much appreciated.
As we sat in the restaurant taking in the sights and sounds of a faux Venetian style piazza, the sea bream carpaccio arrived filleted and flattened to order. It was served over a mixed green salad, topped with sliced apple and drizzled with olive oil. It was accompanied by a trio of black, pink and white salts; the idea is to season the dish to your liking. There was no doubt that the fish was as fresh as could be, but the dish needed a touch of citrus to brighten its natural seafood essence.
The next course was the lobster linguini, which, at Dh160, is a reasonably priced indulgence. Sautéed with green tomalley (lobster liver), cherry tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vegetable stock and a touch of parsley, it hit the mark. The linguine was cooked al dente, tossed with lobster meat and sweet tomato sauce; the evenly coated pasta was seasoned to perfection.
The grand finale of the afternoon was the pizza. Featured by the metre on the menu, there are options to order per 25 centimetres as well. We opted for the eponymous house special, which took the classic Margherita up a notch. The finishing touch was a sprinkling of salty Pecorino Romana cheese which melted into the Buffalo mozzarella and proved to be a winning fusion of flavours. It transported me to a pizzeria in the heart of Napoli. The proportion of cheese and sauce, along with the texture of the cooked dough, was the exact combination I was looking for.
Cucina Mia has gone to great lengths to preserve the spirit of Italian cuisine: it takes pride in the quality of ingredients and lets the food speak for itself. Well spoken.
• A meal for two at Cucina Mia costs Dh325. For reservations, call 04 425 9696. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito