Review: Welcome to the Jungle at Dubai's Mama Zonia restaurant
Ask us what to expect from an ‘Amazonian’ restaurant and we’d probably stall for time, scratch our head and unconfidently answer: …greenery?
As it turns out, according to the relatively new Mama Zonia restaurant in Dubai’s Pier 7, we’d be pretty bang on. In fairness, ‘greenery’ is an understatement, as there is nothing understated about the city’s first Amazon-inspired restaurant.
It’s all a bit OTT, but not necessarily in a bad way. If you don’t clock the massive mango tree at the entrance or the less-the-subtle fake foliage covering the restaurant’s ceiling and interiors, the dark (and we’re talking dark), ominous mood-lighting gives you that rather exciting jungle-at-night vibe.
The interiors are dominated by wicker furniture and plush burgundy-coloured chairs, with tiny tables and a dominating centre bar, which tends to attract a lively crowd on week nights.
So, we got the ‘greenery’ bit right, but ask us what to expect on the menu and we’d probably scratch our head red raw.
As it is, the menu is a bit all over the place with options ranging from a sushi bar to live meat cooking stations and curries. Like the décor it’s a sensory overload, however – like the décor – that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The despite the menu’s scattergun approach, the food is really rather good.
Stand out options include a yellow fin tuna, mango, yellow chilli and coriander dish; and an outstanding Wagyu beef tenderloin with four peppers, soy sauce and ginger. The restaurant will likely be a favourite of meat eaters with its signature dish being a 14-hour slow cooked prime beef short rib, accompanied by chilli, confit ginger and garlic. If you’re feeling adventurous, however, you could always opt for the fried frog’s legs with yellow curry sauce.
Kitsch and OTT concepts can be a tricky thing to pull off – but the first step to doing that is to commit to it, and there is no question that Mama Zonia does just that. Not only is it markedly different from a lot of Dubai’s other restaurants, but you’ll also know what to expect the next time you go to an Amazonian restaurant.
Pier 7, Dubai Marina. Call 04 240 4747 for bookings.