Restaurant review: Riviera vibes at Mare Mare, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort
Blink and you could be on holiday in the Mediterranean when you dine at Saadiyat Island's newest Italian restaurant
Everyone in Abu Dhabi knows Saadiyat Island – it’s that posh place with all the villas and hotels, isn’t it? The one near Louvre Abu Dhabi with the nice beaches, not to mention Formula One guru Eddie Jordan’s favourite golf course. Also nestling among these attractions is Mare Mare, an Italian restaurant attached to Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, which opened last year and has already made an impact on the island’s culinary landscape.
What to expect and where to sit
One of Mare Mare’s most appealing features is its location. As far as settings go, you’d be hard pushed to find better. The restaurant sits on Saadiyat Island’s north-west shoreline, so diners experience glorious views of the Arabian Gulf wherever they are on the premises. When the weather is cooler, get a seat on the open-air terrace and take in the captivating surroundings.
Even after dark, you can still experience the moonlight twinkling on the surf and enjoy the gentle sound of lapping water as the waves roll on to the sand. It’s all very romantic and calming.
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Many Italian restaurants offer choices that can at best be described as pedestrian. Staples such as pizza and pasta are easy to prepare and can make food providers lean lazily on such dishes. Mare Mare does not do this. The standard of food is adventurous yet authentic, exacting yet simple.
Not surprisingly, fish and other seafood feature heavily, the clue being in the venue’s name. You can order raw seafood dishes, including oysters (Dh25 each), red prawns (Dh25 each), and a tuna tartare with sour cream and avocado (Dh75). If making your mind up is a bit tiresome, you can opt for the selection of seasonal seafood (Dh295) to share.
No restaurant of this kind would be worthy of consideration without fish soup and here you’ll get a garlic-crouton-encrusted speciality (Dh75). Fresh carpaccios of sea bass, swordfish and octopus are also on offer (Dh65 to Dh85).
There are alternatives for those who want the seaside vibe, yet find what comes out of the water unappealing. Those eschewing the aquatic options can choose from starters such as roasted tomato soup (Dh45), spinach and pine nut salad (Dh55) or a burrata cheese medley with salad (Dh95).
There’s plenty more fish when it comes to the mains, with the seafood risotto (Dh180 for two to share), chargrilled langoustine platter (Dh210) and mussel and clam saute (Dh250 for two to share) all proving popular. Meat options come in the guise of veal cutlets (Dh210) and a slow-roasted baby chicken (Dh125).
Should you want something more traditional, though, thin, delicate pizzas are available, with a variety of toppings (Dh75 to Dh100).
The restaurant also does daily specials early in the week, with lobster pasta (Dh220) on Wednesdays, rib-eye steaks (Dh240) on Tuesdays, and clam spaghettata on Mondays (this is a specific Italian meal, meaning, essentially, a feast served for a party of people). On Sundays, Mare Mare serves burgers, in lobster (Dh125), beef (Dh95) and vegan (Dh85) options.
Desserts are what you’d expect, with a selection of gelato (Dh40), among Italian classics such as ricotta and chocolate tart (Dh50) and tiramisu (Dh45). You can also get a particularly appealing citrus sorbet, made with Sicilian lemons.
The carpaccio dishes are worthy of a spot on the table of the finest restaurant, but, when it comes to more substantial offerings, the grilled seasonal seafood with saffron polenta (Dh345 for two to share), the one-kilogram sea bass with mixed vegetables (Dh195) and the black squid ink tonorelli pasta (Dh110) offer a proper taste of the best Italian coastal fair. Meanwhile, the magnificent chargrilled 1kg fiorentina steak (Dh550 for two to share) will prove a hit with serious carnivores.
Chef Simone Federici is Italian-born, bred and trained, and ended up at Mare Mare via culinary establishments in the Caribbean and the US. He has a simple philosophy, and that’s to produce dishes customers actually want. This would seem an obvious trait in someone involved in the dining game, but, as any diner will tell you, it isn’t always the case.
People come to places such as Mare Mare for authentic Mediterranean cuisine, and chef Federici ensures that’s what they get, including flying in Venetian shellfish on ice for the clam spaghettata as he wants the ingredients he knows will work best, local or not.
Mare Mare, located at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, opens from noon to 11pm, Saturday to Wednesday, and noon to midnight on Thursday and Friday. Tables can be booked by contacting 02 811 4342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant
Updated: February 27, 2020 02:55 PM