It’s official. I have a new chef crush.
Chef Izu Ani.
What’s not to love? He’s charismatic, well-spoken, passionate, humble and ambitious. He’s so gracious and warm that he immediately makes you feel like you’re old friends. And that smile! Even my hubby is crushing.
Chef Izu is the Nigerian-born former head chef of the lauded La Petite Maison, creator of La Serre, and consultant chef to The Lighthouse. He’s spent time in London, Greece, France and Spain but is now a long-time resident of Dubai.
He is knowledgeable and passionate about his food and focuses on creating simple dishes using high-quality ingredients where the flavours really shine through. He even makes dishes that sound boring (rigatoni Bolognese, Spanish omelette) taste delicious.
Chef Izu has recently launched his eponymous restaurant in Le BHV Marais at City Walk. If you love food and aren’t familiar with Chef Izu, then you must go to IZU Brasserie & Bakery, stat.
There are actually two separate restaurants which flank the department store – the brasserie and the bakery. The bakery has more casual seating perfect for a relaxed early morning (or late morning) brekkie, with the freshest and loveliest pastries, buns and croissants on display. There’s a small open kitchen where the coffees and simple dishes are prepared. On the other side is the brasserie with more bistro-style seating and a full kitchen.
This is the perfect place to meet up with friends for a casual coffee, a leisurely breakfast, afternoon snack, dinner, or anytime, really. Plus they serve perfectly prepared Boon coffee, the organic, single-origin Ethiopian coffee roasted locally in the UAE (small glasses, not too much milk, just the way I like it), and one of my favourite teas, JING Tea.
On my recent visit, Chef Izu was on the premises and I was fortunate enough to get an impromptu demonstration from him on the humble carrot. How cutting the carrot in a particular way with a very sharp knife and splashing it with a fresh squeeze of lemon, some salt and a douse of olive oil from his very own olive trees in Greece, can elevate the flavour profile so profusely. I never knew a carrot could taste so appealing!
There were three of us and we enjoyed EVERYTHING. From the pastries to the coffee to the salads to the pasta to the burger to the desserts and back to the Spanish omelette and French toast we finished with. How they can currently have a rating of 3.1 on Zomato (from only 6 reviews, mind) is beyond me. There is only one sensible explanation. Internet trolls. But I digress…
Just look at this spread!
What’s on the menu:
Artichoke salad with citrus fruits – such a perfectly refreshing summer dish. I loved this salad so much, though neither of my dining buddies enjoyed it quite as much as me. To each his own! I loved the bitterness of the pink grapefruit, the sweetness of the orange, the tartness of the olives and the tanginess of the artichokes.
Avocado and strawberry tartines – these are almost too pretty to eat. Makes a very simple breakfast. You can also opt for a poached egg on top (of the avocado one, I suppose) For me, it was perhaps a bit too simple sans egg, but still yummy, for sure.
IZU burger – diehard burger fans, look elsewhere, because this is not a burger at all, but rather a sophisticated sandwich with the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth steak slices, Hollandaise sauce (my favourite) and caramelised onions (my other favourite) on a soft and squidgy brioche bun (which I also love!)
Prawn and mushroom fettuccine – I would never have thought to pair mushrooms and prawns but Chef Izu has made it work. The fettuccine is made fresh in-house and has just the perfect amount of bite. This is the dish we were all fighting over and one of the many I’ll be ordering again.
Rigatoni Bolognese – I was in Bologna several months ago and struggled to find a Bolognese that I actually enjoyed. Had I known about Chef Izu’s Bolognese, I needn’t have travelled so far! Again, a perfectly cooked pasta with a rich and flavourful meat sauce.
French toast – is it breakfast or is it dessert or is it the fifth course of my already gluttonous meal? Frankly, who cares? Who knew such a simple piece of fat bread could taste so good.
We finished our meal with the French toast alongside a piece of Chef’s simple Spanish omelette, passion fruit cheesecake and tiramisu.
Verdict: The new top restaurant on my recommend-to-friends list. And my breakfast list. And my City Walk list. And my favourite chefs list.
Note to self: Stay tuned for his new restaurant coming up next year.
IZU Brasserie & Bakery
Le BHV Marais
Tel: 04 403 3030
Chow for now!