Review: MASTI Cocktails & Cuisine, Dubai: A Value Brunch?
MASTI Cocktails & Cuisine: Dubai’s Best Value Brunch?
Masti Cocktails & Cuisine, The Elephant Bath Brunch, 1 ‘dirty’ brunch package, AED375 (US$102, £80, €86). The non-alcoholic package is AED 215 (US$59, £46, €49). Masti, Cocktails & Cuisine, South La Mer, Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
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Written by EatGoSee
Very good value brunch option under 400 for four courses with booze or under 300 without booze
Great cocktail menu especially MASTI Spritz, Bramble and Turmeric Tommies
A la carte style brunch with dishes cooked to order
Glamourous, beautiful decor - a modern take on British Raj
Service is friendly and attentive
Shame you cannot order multiple plates of the same course
Some dishes somewhat miss the mark and are not the best version of what they could be
MASTI: I Am A Guy, Staring At a Brunch Menu, Asking It To Feed Me, Well
You see brunch is a risky foray for someone like me. Someone who actually enjoys, you know, food. All too often, the proverbial thumb presses the scale towards booze and “vibes”. Rest assured, I am not above a party (hard) brunch. Still, the idea that brunch bears any resemblance to the love child of breakfast and lunch often strains credulity in this city. Katsuya by Starck was my last positive brunch review just before COVID19 became a household name.
Created from the team that brought us Bombay Bungalow and helmed by chef Hari Nayak, a Vineet Bhatia protégée. The credible provenance coupled with a quick flick through the brunch menu assuages me that brunch should be good eating. Oh, MASTI also holds a clutch of awards from those magazines that like to hand out such things.
MASTI: Heavy on the Vibes
It is a fearless celebration of colour. Refreshing pool-like teal benches are paired with pale wicker headrests. Green palm leaves arch over ornate picture frames. Batik-style floral armchairs positioned under glossy wooden tables. The bar glows under art deco-style lighting fixtures. The space is bright this afternoon but heavy with mood during their gin and jazz nights, which I also recommend. The playlist pipes out obscure remixes to popular songs that I Shazam incessantly. Yes, Shazam is now used as a verb.
This is probably what the lead characters in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel thought they would lay eyes on when they arrived.
The downstairs dining space is equally refreshing with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing the beach-side sunshine to flood into the restaurant. Alfresco dining is available with skyline views of Downtown Dubai, however, only the brave would endure the oppressive September humidity. I sit comfortably upstairs overlooking the views indoors.
MASTI: The Elephant Bath Brunch Cocktail
The cocktail menu is a strong selection of five cocktails, spirits (vodka, gin, rum, whiskey), bottled beer and, of course, red or white wine. Sparkling wine by the bottle is available at a 20% discount for brunchers on the Dirty Package.
A bar that extends its cocktail craftsmanship into it weekend brunch seriously wins my respect. My eyes are strained by constant eye-rolling at brunches that churn out bland batch-made cocktails. MASTI’s standout favourites were the MASTI Spritz, Bramble and Turmeric Tommie. The MASTI Spritz resembles a refreshing summertime Pimms but slightly sweeter and served with a woody bay leaf. These make for dangerously indulgent day time drinking. The fresh amethyst-tinted Bramble and rust-colour Turmeric Tommie balance strength and aromatics.
You will be pleased to know that MASTI continues to serve cocktails throughout the 1 pm to 5 pm period. I tire of brunches that stop serving half an hour before brunch ends.
MASTI: The Elephant Bath Brunch Food
The Elephant Brunch features a tidy collection of 20 items across four sections: cold starters, hot starters, mains and desserts. An impressive nine vegetarian dishes are available making nearly half the menu vegetarian. Our server reconfirms that diners can choose one dish per course. Additional orders are available a la carte for a supplemental charge. Other brunches do allow multiple orders but clearly this pushes the brunch price north.
Our cold and hot starters come simultaneously. We order the tangy cassava chaat, citrus and mesclun salad, lamb croquettes and smokey chipotle paneer tikka. Most dishes keep pace with the decor with an impressive presentation. Overall they hit the spot with minor quibbles.
The lamb croquettes arrive vibrant with thready meaty croquettes with Kashmiri spices and a cooling English pea puree. The tangy cassava chaat is nutty with a sweet and sour chutney enjoyable in that sort of Chinese takeaway sweet and sour Chinese kind of way. A tamarind, coriander, mint dressing a la pani puri would pair better with the nuttier diced cassava.
Our smokey chipotle paneer tikka looks anything but vegetarian drenched in a blood-red glossy tikka glaze. The milky firm paneer is a real pleaser as the smoky, spiciness gently builds. A tussle of mesclun salad is a palate cleanser between courses but bears a passing resemblance to a decorative side instead of a cold starter in its own right.
The seven main courses showcase the Indian inspired menu. “Indian inspired” is a frame of mind where the menu clearly strays outside of the Indian subcontinent and, instead, reimagines dishes through the lens of this style of cooking. I am told MASTI means “fun and mischief” in Sanskrit and this outlook is evident in the main courses much more so than other areas of the menu.
The “mastified paella” draws together arborio rice, seafood and a dose of mint raita sitting alongside a stracciatella and dill butter chicken.
We opt for the Saag Paneer Lasagna and Veg Biryani. Both dishes are well-executed. The vegetarian Saag Paneer Lasagna is beautifully presented as a low rise lasagna. Impossibly thin layers of pressed paneer between smears of spinach and topped with a mozzarella topping in a pool of tomato purée. The absence of pasta sheets makes for a lighter dish; a fact I appreciate when the soporific effect of multiple courses often takes hold. This dish is accompanied with rewardingly crunchy, smashed spiced potatoes that could be their own starter. This dish exemplifies the spirit of the kitchen reinterpreting an Italian classic through an Indian lens, with ability.
The vegetarian biryani is a plated spring garden crowned with dark, forest green fried kale leaves and glistening English peas. Fragrant cardamom-scented steam billows from the biryani. It is gratifying reconfirming Indian vegetarian food is uniquely delicious with its mastery of aromatics and spices. The light fluffy biryani rice does not need the accompanying raita but the biryani is enjoyable with raita nonetheless.
MASTI: The small matter of dessert
A trio of dessert options brings a close to an enjoyable menu. A modern Rasmalai Coconut Cake shuns the traditional dish’s heavy sauce and, instead, a contrast of black and white arrives. Cardamom-scented sponge sits like decorative coral around a circular, coconut laced cake. A heavily layered spoon is dragged through strawberry jam collecting white chocolate buttons and a chocolate nutty base.
It is a light pudding. I acknowledge the technical skill, however, this cake feels soulless and lacks the child-like joy that separates the good from the great for me when it comes to matters of the sweet tooth. Still, it is rare to be served a dessert at brunch with this much finesse.
Would I Come Back To MASTI’s Elephant Bath Brunch?
MASTI is no Tresind, but it is also not trying to be. Although the cocktail menu gives both Tresind Studio and A Cappella a run for its money.
You need to look at the proposition as a whole. My enduring impression of the MASTI Elephant Bath Brunch is the impressive value for money proposition. The price point here is key. Sure the food could be that little bit better. Yes, MASTI could serve a little bit more food. But this quality in a beautiful setting is rare to find in Dubai at this price point. Many brunch guests will be impressed with the generous alcohol package available throughout the entire brunch period.
We walked away satisfied and certainly curious about coming back.