Hawaiian nightclub tries hand at food - with mixed results 2 Reviews
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Despite elegant design elements such as cosy-looking wicker chairs, Mahiki’s Polynesian beachside theme is kitsch, to say the least. It called to mind an over-the-top Hawaiian-themed venue such as Pulp Fiction’s fictional ‘Big Kahuna Burger’; indeed, with Mahiki recently launching its ‘Sunset menu’, serving a selection of small-plate-style bar food, I snapped up the chance to try some pineapple in a burger (in this case in a sweet, sour, fruity salsa).
In all honesty, expectations of the food were not high; not necessarily in terms of enjoyment, but certainly in terms of complexity. Yet the menu arrived, and in a quick glimpse there was a little glimmer of excitement: luxurious ingredients (wagyu beef in the mini hamburger, truffle in the eggy toast), interesting combinations (pineapple salsa and a turmeric bun in the chicken slider), and a clever play on expectations (‘fish fingers’ as a sashimi and cuttlefish confit open sandwich), although this didn’t necessarily work in Mahiki’s favour.
Glancing around the spacious room at 8pm, halfway through the dinner service, Mahiki was fairly empty. Only a few tables were occupied, almost exclusively with women (although on a Tuesday night, that may be self-explanatory).
By the time the sliders – a trio of mini hamburgers – arrived, somehow all the excitement over the wagyu beef I’d spied on the menu had been completely forgotten. Even eating the sliders called no thoughts of wagyu back to mind: the meat itself wasn’t spectacular enough. Even so, there was nothing particularly wrong with the wagyu sliders – they were just fairly average.
This is how the story repeated itself as each subsequent dish arrived. Truffled eggy toast conjured up an image of elevated comfort food. Surely melted gruyère cheese would offer an extra level of warm, soft and gooey richness to the dish? Instead, the cheese wrapped itself tightly around the bread like some sort of slimy shrink wrap, and each ingredient – cheese, egg and oil – combined to create an overall impression of grease. In its defence, the toast boasted a strong, full flavour of truffle, yet the overall impression (and the word running continuously through my mind) was ‘claggy’.
The frito misto, a selection of battered seafood and vegetables, was similarly disappointing. The scallop tasted of little, while the prawns tasted overwhelmingly of too much, almost like fish that’s getting a little fishy. The ‘fish fingers’ was the most pleasant of the four dishes, yet also the most disappointing. What had seemed playful and imaginative on the menu was, in practice, rather unexciting, and the kingfish sashimi and cuttlefish confit were heavily masked by the dressings.
Food at Mahiki is only served until 9pm, and at nine o’clock sharp the lights were dimmed. As the space filled up for the bar service, the earlier, heavily themed, slightly kitsch impression was quickly undone. The nightclub lighting, with the odd flash of burning red from a few fittings, created a more vibrant atmosphere, reminiscent of hot evenings in beach bars on tropical islands. Suddenly, the appeal of Mahiki was evident: the fun and the element of exotic escapism. As my guest and I departed, leaving the revellers to it, my parting thought was that perhaps Mahiki should have stuck to that tried-and-tested, royally approved model of a nightspot, and left the burgers alone.
The bill (for two)
1x Sliders Dhs95
1x Frito misto Dhs110
1x Truffle egg toast Dhs75
1x Fish fingers Dhs95
Total (excluding service) Dhs375
Time Out Dubai,
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