A tropical urban oasis in Dubai Marina is the perfect place for a delicious night out.
A sad reality about Dubai’s restaurant scene is that while many venues promise to be “different” or “unique”, most fail at it, falling back on regurgitated ideas and long-time clichés. Pier 7’s Mama Zonia, however, is a breath of fresh air.
Opened in December 2018, the first thing that strikes us upon entering the ‘Amazonian’ themed restaurant is the setting. True to its name, foliage seems to encompass the entire restaurant, creating an atmosphere more reminiscent of a greenhouse than a restaurant in the marina.
The foliage – which seems to be everywhere, including the ceiling – adds a nice touch and provides a “jungle” feel unlike most restaurants in Dubai. There’s even a mango tree. This, coupled with the always-stunning views of Dubai Marina and the JBR skyline, funky wallpaper and murals, make it a venue unlike any other.
Of course, a groovy setting is not enough to make a restaurant worth going to. Mama Zonia’s menu, for one, is hard to fit into any particular category, running the gamut from sushi to meat dishes and a raw bar.
A few dishes, however, stand out. The Wagyu beef tenderloin, with four peppers, soy sauce and ginger is among the best woks we have had in Dubai recently. For meat lovers, the restaurant’s signature dish, 14-hour slow cooked Mama’z prime beef short ribs, pleasantly accompanied by chili, confit ginger and garlic, cannot be missed.
The menu also includes a number of items made over the sand pit – an earth oven – such as giant tiger prawns with chili soy glaze and ‘jungle honey’, as well as Hokkaido scallops in the shell and – our favourite – a 1.5kg whole seabass with lemon and fresh thyme, green mango, fresh coriander and red onion salad. This dish, it should be noted, is enough for a party of three or four to share.
Given Mama Zonia’s exotic theme, it should come as no surprise that there are also a number of quirkier dishes for adventurous diners looking to try something new. One of the best is the Jungle Curry, made with frog legs, green pepper corns and sticky rice.
Another benefit of the venue is that it’s, for lack of a better word, lively. Even on a recent Tuesday night, the venue was packed with groups of animated diners, making for a particularly fun evening out.
The groovy music – and Ladies Night deals – all helped create a welcoming atmosphere.
For what it is, Mama Zonia is surprisingly reasonably priced, with rates ranging from between $11 and $14 for sushi up to around $110 for the more complex items on the menu. The most expensive dish – a 2.4 kg tomahawk Australian Black Angus – goes for a whopping $313, but is also enough to comfortably feed a small army.
Our final verdict: highly recommended.
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