Mixing the perfect blend of food, service and ambience, Four Seasons Hotel, DIFC recently launched Mina Brasserie in partnership with American chef Michael Mina and he tells Mahak Mannan why Dubai continues to be his favourite business location outside the United States.
Bringing the American tradition of a brasserie to Dubai, Chef Michael Mina says the sophisticated and diverse clientele in Dubai is what makes conceptualising a venue for this market exciting and a great playground for chefs.
“I have the luxury of being in the market for the past year and a half and I am really getting to understand the clientele here. It is a very sophisticated one, people in the UAE are really passionate about food but at the same time they are very relaxed, there is also a sense of family and community which fits very well into a brasserie,” Chef Michael says.
“There is an elevated sense of dining here in which people are looking for really good quality products, a great setting, good cooking techniques and good service, this proves that it is an educated clientele which makes it very interesting for us chefs.”
Ensuring every aspect of the venue blends in with each other, Chef Michael says the biggest learning curve in the conceptualisation of Mina Brasserie was the design element.
“Over the last couple of years a big part of building Mina brasserie was putting time into designing the place and getting it right,” he says.
“Making a beautiful patio and bringing together the entire look and feel needs a lot of attention. The little questions like, should we have table cloths or not, all comes into play and we learn through our clientele when they tell us what they want.”
Bringing the dynamics of brasseries to Dubai, Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) has sought inspiration from the elegance of European designs as well as the contemporary personality of Michael Mina and Four Seasons Hotel DIFC to build the interiors of the venue.
“Atmosphere is a very important part, as important as food. In terms of getting it right, equal attention has to be given to all three aspects at any restaurant, a third each of ambience, food and service. All of them are either a 100% or zero and when you start getting into a high level of dining, the expectations have to be up there,” Chef Michael explains.
The idea behind bringing the brasserie concept to the UAE was to give the customers a social spot to unwind, “I love brasseries, because they have the elegance and chicness to it and you really have to strive to create very high quality food. Back home we have places we call a whisper joint where you feel intimidated to be very social in but a brasserie is like coming to someone’s house,” he says.
“I wanted to do an American style brasserie and use the influences from all the food in the States and match the interiors with it.”
Of Egyptian descent, but having lived in Europe and the US, Chef Michael’s menu is a mix of all three cooking styles, techniques and ingredients.
Highlights of the menu include za’taar salmon and caviar with shallot potato cake, pickled onion and cucumber yogurt, Michael Mina’s tuna tartare with pine nuts, garlic, mint and sesame-habanero oil, beets and burrata with toasted pistachio, quinoa pilaf and buckwheat crouton and wood-fired lamb chops, to name a few.
“On the American side we are bringing new products like the lobster from Maine, right around Boston, crabs from Alaska, all of our beef is also coming from the US so we are bringing in some really great products,” Chef Michael says.
Visitors at the Mina Brasserie will also be able to see majority of their food prepared live, “An important aspect about brasseries is tableside preparations,” according to the chef.
“We have a lot of that over here, we carve the chicken on the table and plate dishes in front of the visitors too.”
“People over here like bold flavours in their food and want it to be well balanced. Not too spicy or too acidic, it should not be very rich or have too much fat either but on the same hand it should not be subtle and that is how we cook at Mina.
“Customers in the UAE also like sharing as compared to the customer in the US, they order for the table instead of having separate dishes for each person,” he adds.
“Over the next few months we will focus on consistency, winning people over and hopefully making them fall in love with Mina Brasserie.”