Penelope Walsh gets an exclusive insight into the eclectic fusion recipes served at Pier 7’s new restaurant.
The new addition to Pier 7 in Dubai Marina is Asia Asia restaurant and lounge. Now open in an unlicensed soft launch phase, this fusion concept takes its inspiration from Melbourne restaurant Spice Market. Like the Australian venue, Asia Asia is offering diners an original repertoire of recipes, designed to reflect and bring together the flavours and food cultures of countries from across the ancient spice route, stretching from Asia through to the Middle East. As such, you’ll find innovative and daring fusion creations such as lamb kofta siew mai, Malaysian sambal chicken tajine and Thai maki rolls.
The man behind that menu is executive chef Mark Molnar. Originally from Hungary, chef Mark’s career has taken him through the Michelin-awarded restaurant kitchens of El Bulli in Catalunya, London’s Zuma and Dubai’s own Karma Kafé. Here, chef Mark gives us an exclusive lowdown on the signature dishes to try on Asia Asia’s menu.
Asia Asia is open now. Pier 7, Dubai Marina (04 276 5900).
Originating from Beijing (formerly known as Peking) this is one of just a few highly traditional dishes to feature on the menu at Asia Asia. Prepared in classic Chinese style (served with pancakes, cucumber and hoi sin sauce), the restaurant uses a traditional Chinese technique for roasting duck, known as ‘pi pa’. This is because the shape of the duck during the roasting process resembles a Chinese musical instrument of the same name.
Sambal chicken tajine
This Tunisian-style tajine is flavoured with a Malaysian-style sambal chilli paste. According to chef Mark, ‘the idea is to bring Malaysian flavours into the tajine world, in fusion with the traditional North African way of cooking’. A chilli-shrimp sambal paste is prepared in-house at Asia Asia and used to marinate the chicken thigh, adding flavour to the sauce in which the chicken is slowly stewed.
Teriyaki chicken with ‘ras-el-hanout’ and fennel
Chicken thighs are teriyaki-glazed and charcoal grilled (as per the Japanese method) and then topped with shaved fennel slices and sprinkled with a traditional North African spice mix known as ‘ras-el-hanout’. Literally meaning ‘head of the shop’, this blend implies it is a mixture of the best spices the seller has to offer. ‘This North African spice mix was implemented to give a different personality to the deep and sweet teriyaki flavours,’ says chef Mark.
Persian style black cod
Chef Mark has long been experimenting with black cod fusion recipes, creating ‘Bangkok Black Cod’ for the menu at Karma Kafé. At Asia Asia, the challenge was to incorporate Middle Eastern flavours. ‘Persian cuisine is full of sweet and rich flavours. Miso black cod is a perfect subject to be dressed up with Persian flavours and textures,’ he says. The fish is marinated with miso for four to five days, grilled and then served with a sauce of white grape, raisin and black olive, and a Persian spice mix (made in house, called ‘advieh’), and coriander pesto.
Australian flank steak with harissa butter
Black Angus beef flank steak is cooked half in French-style (in a cast iron pan with butter and rosemary), and then finished off in Japanese-style on a robata charcoal grill. ‘It is topped with harissa butter, bringing a North African twist to the dish and giving it a real Asia Asia trademark feel.’
Thai maki roll
This sushi-rice roll contains chicken katsu, broccoli, asparagus, carrot, Thai salad and curry mayo. ‘The idea is to recreate the experience of a traditional Thai curry with rice, but turned into a maki experience: a fusion of Japanese technique and Thai flavour’.
Lamb kofta siew mai
‘Every Lebanese, Syrian or Egyptian restaurant will serve you a nice lamb kofta, but grilled,’ says chef Mark. At Asia Asia, a little Chinese fusion is added to the dish by making it into an open siew mai dumpling, with
lamb kofta mix as the filling, and steamed.
Japanese scallops with chilli mentaiko and umeboshi
The association here comes from the French idea of ‘caper butter’, usually served with fish and scallops. In this recipe, Asia Asia replaces the caper with salty and sour Japanese pickled plum called ‘umeboshi’ to create an ‘umeboshi beurre noisette’. ‘I created this dish back in Zuma London in 2008 and it spread around the Zumas of the world as a big favourite’, says chef Mark.