Review: The Maine Land Brasserie, Dubai: The Maine’s Best Yet?
The MAINE Land Brasserie: MAINE's Best Yet?
The MAINE Land Brasserie, 3 starters, 2 mains, 1 dessert shared, 2 cocktails, 2 bottled still water, 4 glasses of wine, 3 digestifs and 1 coffee (excluding service): AED1348. Ground Floor The Opus by Omniyat, Business Bay, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
tel. +971 4 577 6680
The dining room is smartly-designed, opulent and just awesome
Service is attentive, very well briefed on the menu and charming
Strong focus on locally-sourced ingredients like local beef tomatoes and Dibba Bay oysters
Well-executed: short rib beef croquettes, maple veal chops, triple-cooked chips and the apple tart tatin
Reservations are an absolute must right now
Request a seat away from the smoking section if you are sensitive to smoking (e.g. booths)
The MAINE Land Brasserie: The Experience
2020 was not the year to open a restaurant. The MAINE Land Brasserie team must have gritted their teeth to a near smooth paste at points in the run-up to their opening (originally due in late 2019). Would they ever open, should they open? Would people shed their slovenly isolation gear, dress up, mask up and come out?
The MAINE Oyster Bar and Grill in JBR was my first introduction to the now three-strong MAINE trilogy. We celebrated a birthday fueled by jalapeno margaritas slumped in booths forever setting the tone. The MAINE came to be this time capsule of an era gone by. A Great Gatsby-esque escape into glamour, opulence and charm. The team followed up with a (much appreciated) Studio City opening a mature option for nearby residents.
What would The MAINE Land Brasserie deliver what was not already achieved in its earlier iterations? Does Business Bay and Downtown need another design-forward restaurant?
The MAINE Land Brasserie: First impressions
The MAINE Land Brasserie landed an iconic location in the late Dame Zaha Hadid’s Opus building. The ground floor restaurant requires a quick pass through a disinfecting mist. Admittedly, I enjoyed this brief spritz wearing a linen jacket on a day where the mercury is pushing passed 40 Celsius.
The devastatingly lavish restaurant decor is deserving of one Dame Zaha Hadid’s last contributions to the earth. A feat unsurprising from MAINE founder Joey Ghazal. The striking decor wraps a dark seaweed around wood-panelled walls leading to a soaring ceiling flanked by cathedral-like windows. The gloss, stone-like parquet floors glimmer and highlight the rattan furniture with sage soft furnishings. The quartet of oversized chandeliers sings abundance, excess and grandeur. Even the exposed, white-painted air conditioning vents add a cooling contrast and soft industrial look that, well, just works. The 100-seater dining room is flanked by a long bar paired with a phalanx of stool beneath the incandescent chandeliers. Any minute now a towering martini glass will emerge from the floor with a coiffed burlesque dancer blowing bubbles over an adoring audience of diners. Dubai rarely provides this scene save for, well, the MAINE’s other haunts and The Restaurant at the Hotel Address Boulevard.
High back chairs run like a spine down the dining room floor leading towards broad semi-circular leather booths perfect for small groups looking for socially-acceptable distancing. The Maine Land Brasserie is heavy on the vibes finding that perfect line between refined but accessible and then dances all over it. The Man Men touch means this is suitable for date nights, group gatherings, family get-togethers and casual business meetings. The business crowd may enjoy the prix fixe lunch menu of three courses for AED130 ($35, £28, €31).
The decor is not the only thing that stood out to me. The MAINE is PACKED. There is not a single empty seat. Smart waiters weave between diners carrying trays groaning with grain-fed Australian wagyu steak frites (AED150, $41, £32, €35), glasses clinking, the sound of laughter and chatter erupts – “what pandemic?”, I ask myself. Mrs EatGoSee and I shuffle our way between tables, chairs and booths to sit near the open kitchen affording us a perfect view of the dishes rolling out. Our highly-capable server, Laurence, tells me The MAINE Land Brasserie was booked solid since they opened approximately three weeks ago. I am impressed. A new restaurant – and a big restaurant – opening during a pandemic is near sold out like tickets to Beyoncé at Coachella.
We swiftly start proceedings with MAINE’s cocktail menu. She orders the grassy and bright Mayflower Martini of parsley-infused Botanist gin, dill oil and lemon essence and I follow up with a balanced Olive Oyl Spritz (each AED85, $23, £18, €20). My spritz mixes olive oil-infused Botanist gin, El Jimador tequila and clarified tomato juice topped with prosecco. A spring of thyme tickles the sensorial experience.
The MAINE Land Brasserie: The Menu
The menu reflects an expected oyster bar and chop house structure with a raw bar, starters, flatbreads, maines (see what they did?) and steaks and chops. There is an impressive plant-based menu with no less than eight items from a lentil salad with golden raisins and maple balsamic vinaigrette (AED49, $13, £11, €12), roasted eggplant in miso marinade (AED85, $23, £18, €20) and beetroot tartare with avocado and soy ginger dressing (AED55, $15, £12, €13). I admire this nod to a plant-based menu as brasseries tend to be animal protein-heavy. It means there are inclusive menu options.
The MAINE menu dabbles between two worlds. It is an American in Paris that enjoys local food but longs for home classics. French brasserie stalwarts such as burgundy snails in herbs and garlic butter, classic steak tartare (both AED110, $30, £24, €26) and seared foie gras (AED70, $19, £15, €16) as a side. The new world nods are plentiful offering lobster rolls with homemade potato chips (AED115, $31, £25, €27), crispy fish tacos (AED69, $18, £15, €16) and 48-hour slow-braised Australian short rib (AED155, $42, £33, €37).
On arrival, we are presented with sliced local beef steaks tomatoes dusted in sumac, oregano dredged through a pool of olive oil. This is accompanied by a large fresh bread loaf with a slow-roasted garlic bulb. I admire the MAINE’s focus on sourcing local ingredients as much as possible; this is a positive development reducing travel time and air miles. The menu celebrates half a dozen or a dozen Fujairah-native Dibba Bay oysters (AED130/240, $35/65, £28/51, €30/56) are available with other imported options. Salads, microgreens and herbs from Dubai, chicken from Al Ain and most vegetables sourced from Abu Dhabi.
There are 47 menu items excluding sauces and sides with 22 items over AED100 means there is a decent split of affordable and premium options. This may be more important for restaurants to provide more affordability given announcements about coming making redundancies and certain industries slowing. The menu does spike in the steaks and chops section (AED150-820, $41/223, £32/176, €35/193) and the Poseidon Platter (AED810, $221, £174, €191) which quickly escalates to corporate expense account territory once supplemented with lobster tails and stone crab claws (AED1235, $336, £265, €291).
The MAINE Land Brasserie: Our Orders
The prawns a la plancha are a lesson in less is more. Good ingredients cooked simply speaking for themselves. A plump prawn duo grilled with their heads on, in-shell topped with rosemary, garlic in a pool of delicious olive oil. I usually enjoy prawns like this in Portugal or Cape Town. The hamachi ceviche is served inside a scallop shell on ice with aji amarillo, coriander and sweet potato. A light starter where I would have liked a bit more of that signature citrus zip and some spice.
You could easily come to The MAINE Lane Brasserie to eat their raw and starter menu without touching their main courses. The variety and prices suit a couple or solo diners. But this is a review and I am on a (much overdue) date with Mrs EatGoSee.
Our Wine Choices
The MAINE offers nothing short of 6 sparkling options including four champagnes, 35 red wine choices, 19 white and 6 roses. The dessert wine menu is considered later. There is a selection of two to four options by the glass ranging between AED42-146. Mrs EatGoSee and I opt for ordering by the glass. The Alamos Viognier, Mendoza is one to order again (AED58).
The Main Courses
I order the Maple Veal Chop (AED 221, $60, £47, €52) and Mrs EatGoSee orders the No Meat Short Rib (AED125, $34, £27, €29) from the plant-based menu. My 350g maple milk-fed veal chop comes served with sticky rice but I ask our charming waiter Laurence to swap the rice out for their tripple-cooked fries (yes, exact spelling on the menu). It also comes with a mini-copper pot of veal jus, which is not mentioned on the menu. The veal chop is charred, blushing medium-rare and better than the veal chop I ate in Terra Secca or Luigia recently.
Time out for these triple-cooked fries that I needed to protect from Mrs EatGoSee’s investigative fingertips. These could be nominated for some of the best fries in town.
Mrs EatGoSee’s plant-based short rib is a wintery bowl of soy-based mince on a bed of smoothest truffle mash topped with kale chips and vegetable jus. This is a filling portion with a flavour reminiscent of some well-known meat substitutes. The truffle mash is indulgent comfort food and smartly paired with kale chips to inject some depth of flavour that rounds off the dish. This generous, filling main course is a strong introduction to a plant-based menu that inspires me to look more deeply at these options next time.
Then came dessert
Any sensible person would abandon the prospect of dessert. Regular readers know that my greed overpowers my restraint. The MAINE offers a focused menu of seven classic and modern desserts ranging in price between AED38-65 ($10/17, £8/18, €9/15). The soft-baked cookie as this is meant to be a signature MAINE dessert (AED50, $14, £11, €12). Laurence the Super Server informs me that the apple tarte tatin is only available at The MAINE Land Brasserie. Just like that, I am drawn in like a moth to a pink lady apple flame.
I am a soft touch to apple tarte tatin; I regularly make one at home. The firm, sweet pink lady apples are an inspired choice. A slump of softly whipped cream cools a light caramel sauce supported by a plank of butter-rich puff pastry. Let this dessert be a lesson to all those pathetic melting chocolate orbs that show is no substitute for substance. Classics exist for a reason. My only ask: I like a little more warming spice in my tart tatin. That is just me.
You can pair your dessert options with a 10-year-old tawny port (AED80, $22, £17, €19) and the elusive, hard-to-find Hungarian tokaji (AED95, $26, £20, €22) like we did. The tokaji plays well with the apple.
Would I Return to The MAINE Land Brasserie?
The MAINE Land Brasserie is a tasteful extension of a popular growing chain. The Dubai food scene loves to chase a trend and squeeze the life out of it. It often chases the now and seldom stands back to focus on classic dishes delivered with confident simplicity. The MAINE Land Brasserie fills this void. I do love trying new cuisines and expanding my repertoire and horizons. Call it an occupational hazard for a part-time food blogger. Yet the MAINE confirms there is still a place in Dubai for delivering well-executed classics utilising local ingredients. It does not need dry ice and popping candy, as nice as that can be.
Who Should Come to The MAINE Land Brasserie?
Lovers of decor, glamour and looking for something special. People who like the new hot thing. Cocktail sippers and gin lovers. Art deco fans. Corporate expense accounts looking to snuffle up big steaks and chops. People looking for French, European and American classics.