I was invited to the VIP preview at Pi Dubai, a couple of weeks back, which I was quite looking forward to as it was organized by Sadu PR- and they tend to organize great events. I was, however, also prepared to be a little underwhelmed by the food as soon as I heard it was going to a pizzeria. I’ve been eating far too much pizza and pasta of late. You can find A LOT of good Neapolitan style pizzas in Dubai, which is a very good thing, but after a while it ends up becoming “Oh, good, another option for when I want pizza”, rather than a “Oh wow, this pizza place trumps all others”. What I was not expecting was a truly exceptional meal.
Amidst the otherwise maddening chaos of The Dubai Mall, we found ourselves a bit of classy LA in the confines of this comfortable New York style, Neapolitan-inspired ristorante. With Sinatra playing in the overhead, marble-topped tables, leather upholstery, wood-paneled ceilings, and hexagon-tiled floors – the subtle yet blatant symmetry was very calming in ways. Pi Dubai is owned by married couple Rami and Amber, who are also the owners of the Pizza Guys. The walls here are lined with artistic -mostly black and white- photography, almost all of which was done by Amber herself. If there was absolutely anything wrong with the interiors, it was only that the lighting was terrible for food photography; and it’s a shame that the pictures couldn’t do justice to how stunning the food tasted.
The brief yet elegant menu boasts some sophisticated combinations of ingredients, and an interesting observation I couldn’t help but make was the use of Za’atar across so many of the dishes. I’m not sure if this was deliberate or not, keeping in mind how popular Za’atar is in this part of the world, but I did love it.
I started off with a Hibiscus Iced Tea, which -much to my pleasure- was beautifully fragrant and unsweetened. M had an Apple Cardamom Crush which was one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. There was no artificial taste to it and it used up all of the apple. M did not enjoy it as the little bits of raw apple peel annoyed him, but I loved that little crunch! Also, cardamom and apple in a chilled drink was new to me. Absolutely loved it.
Our starters included a Kale Ceasar salad that had a buttermilk dressing (which M just couldn’t get enough of and is still reminiscing over). While I loved the dressing, I felt there was way too much Parmesan in the salad (but again, M loved that).
There was also a “Pizza Dough Gnocchi“, which was a big plate of Nope. You see, the pizza dough at Pi is made with very little yeast, and allowed to ferment for two days, which makes it very light and fluffy, and breaks down most of the gluten. Can the dough pass off as Gnocchi though? Impossible.
The Stracciatella Burratta was quick to offer redemption, though. It came with hormone-free heirloom tomatoes, a hint of soy sauce and a pleasantly strong taste of sesame seeds. Loved this.
My favorite appetizer of the lot was the Cajun Prawns. With a bold melange of lemon, zaatar, chili, fish sauce, bay leaves and my favorite: slivers of fried garlic; this dish paid perfect homage to Pi’s chef from Louisiana. I even wiped all the sauce off the plate with my bread- it was that good!
Of the pizzas, we tried the Classic Margherita, the Truffle Pie, and the Roasted Potato. Of the three, only the Truffle Pie really stood out. It’s not that any of the other pizzas were unimpressive- quite the contrary, in fact- it’s just that a good pizza has become so easy to come by that it takes some really unique flavor combos to make a pizza memorable for me now.
For the mains, we enjoyed some Broiled Salmon with Pesto, some Wagyu Beef Lasagna and some Seafood Fettucine. The Fettuccine was made with basil and chervil and came with a gorgeous seafood Ragu. The Wagyu beef Lasagna had Wagyu meatballs, and was topped with some beef scaloppine. This lasagna was easily the best lasagna I’ve ever had. It was not drowning in oodles of marinara and white sauce and was quite the grown-up take on a childhood favorite.
We concluded our consistently impressive meal with an equally impressive dessert. Of the silky Lemon Tart made with a pine nut crust, or the creamy Pistachio Cheesecake with Saffron; it was really hard to pick a favorite. Both were thoroughly enjoyed and quickly devoured.
After my tasting, I went back again on a weekday, as a paying customer and the staff had no clue that I’m a blogger. I ordered the Ricotta Gnodi, the Wagyu lasagna, and the Kale Ceasar Salad. The Gnodi was simply amazing, in a creamy, Sage brown butter sauce- I cannot stress enough on how much I loved this appetizer. The Wagyu Lasagna was as good as I remembered it to be, and the Kale Ceasar salad had less parmesan than before (which made it taste better). I also ordered the Apple Cardamom Crush again and it’s definitely one of my favorite drinks now, and Pi is most certainly one of my favorite casual-chic Italian joints now 🙂