Mama Zonia, Pier 7’s new Amazon-inspired terrace bar and restaurant, promises to bring a dose of exotic fine dining to Dubai Marina.
Has it caused a rumble in the jungle or is it just another paradise lost? We went along to see if the plates were worth clearing in this artificial forest.
The tall arboreal form of Pier 7 is the perfect spot for a deliberately wild space. As we walk through the plant reclaimed entrance, there’s a faint mid-distant loop of hypnotic tribal drum beat that immediately places a subconscious Jumanji filter on the venue. Shown to our terrace table, we weave through outcrops of tropical canopy, wrought sculptures and nooks of soft low lighting.
With lofty views over Dubai Marina, the restaurant has a pleasing and regionally unique designer treehouse feel (we absolutely recommend reserving outside seating for as long as the temperature allows). The menu offers pan pacific cuisine; an easy melange of Japanese, Latin American and Polynesian, with a casual dash of quirky European on the side.
There’s also a raw bar serving up sashimi and ceviche. Here you’ll find maki, poke bowls, dishes from log fire ovens, sandpit ovens, and cuts charred over Amazon coals. It’s as exotic as you could hope for in the world’s most relentlessly futuristic city.
As a group of four, we find the dining format is best attacked by sharing plates, so order several platters of sushi, ceviche and maki rolls. It’s a remarkable and genuinely singular entry into Dubai’s busy sushi market.
The octopus, chalaca and yuzu sushi (AED 43) will easily break into many people’s personal top 10 sushi roll roundups. The watermelon tataki (AED 48) is stunning, fragrant and fizzing with a fresh citrus zing. The red snapper ceviche (AED 66) is also spectacular, light, refreshing and delicately spicy. We’re moved by beef tataki (AED 67) replicated in such an authentic Shikoku style. Spice, salt, citrus, sweet – all flavours represented in perfect complimentary order.
There’s clearly been a painful degree of decision-making and focus that’s gone into minute details of the presentation and it’s paid off. Bright flourishes of colour, ornaments of visual attraction add to the whole and not distract from it. The venue is as wild as it claims.
The main plates begin to line up on our table. We chose, under council from the house, the lamb cutlets (AED 165), beef short ribs (AED 210), BBQ red miso baby chicken (AED 145), wagyu beef skewers (AED 85), fried frogs legs with curry sauce (AED 87) and the banana leaf baked red snapper with curry rub (AED 370).
It sounds like a lot of food. It is a lot of food. The portions are generous, but the quality of the ingredients, the professionalism and authenticity of the preparation means, we’ve already accepted we’re going to be waddling out of here, and few plates head back towards the kitchen unravaged.
Everything is so proficient, immaculate, delicious that it’s hard to pick out what might be the signature dish. We’d come back for the beef alone, for raiding the raw bar, sipping the blended beverages or to get stuck into the sushi. The frogs legs initially seem like an odd inclusion, but lifted by the curry sauce (which is reminiscent of a cumin flavoured béarnaise), they are a perfect fit.
We feel for Mama Zonia how Sting feels about rainforests in general. It’s an incredible new entry into Dubai’s dining and nightlife portfolio. Whether you try the ladies’ night, a gents’ night, Friday brunch or other dining deals it’s a wilderness worth exploring.
Dubai Week dined as a guest of the venue.
Mama Zonia. Second floor of Pier 7, Dubai Marina. Call 04 240 4747 for reservations. Open 12pm-2am daily (3am Thursday/Friday).