The number one chef on this year’s Caterer Middle East Power List has a venue for every need. Gaia has become the place to be seen in DIFC, Aya satisfies any Asian craving you might have, while Carine’s French Mediterranean dishes have proven a hit at Emirates Golf Club.
For his latest concept at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Izu Ani has gone for more wholesome fare, for those looking to enjoy a life well lived, without having to worry about what they’ve eaten.
“It’s all about living a lifestyle, not a diet,” Ani says about the Swedish-named Fika. “I don’t want people to come here thinking ‘oh I can’t eat this, I can’t eat that’, I want you to come and enjoy it.”
Ani says that Fika is inspired by “the Asian principle of food being medicine for the body” and is all about “keeping it simple, keeping it honest, and understanding all of the ingredients”.
Diners can enjoy the likes of charcoal roasted lobster, Spanish octopus, and even Swedish meatballs as a nod to the venue’s name, but the light, fresh look of the restaurant situated on the Arabian Gulf deliberately entices guests to order the seafood.
Ani helped design the restaurant as well as the menu, and laughs as he cites the film Will Smith film Focus about a conman who uses visual clues to bend people to his will. Whether it’s the location by the sea or the plates that look like they were straight from your grandmother’s house, everything about Fika relaxes you and lulls you into the exact state of mind that Ani’s team wants.
That team includes former Zuma executive chef Carlos de los Mozos who helps develop all of Ani’s new concepts, and with Fika’s head chef hand-picked from one of his previous restaurants La Serre, Ani has a trusted team around him.
“It’s a joy working with people who have talent,” he says. “We never start with a blank canvas. Whatever I’ve done before, we always use as a base for the next thing to grow.”
But Fika is still significantly different than what has come before, and that’s the way Ani likes it.
“The reason I do different concept and different directions of cooking is because I want to learn more. I don’t want to ever stop learning, I get itchy.”