Náis Italian Kitchen in JLT is potentially a new favourite for Italian food. When it is so easy to get bored with Italian cuisine with its staple pizza, pasta and tiramisu, Náis is a breath of fresh air.
We walked in late – nearly 9pm. Exhausted from a long day’s work, all we wanted was some good food. Did we find it? Yes. In a bright eatery, nestled amidst the towers of JLT, Náis offers north-western Italian cuisine to its diners. How interesting, we thought, to be so specific about the region within the country. And the proof is in the pudding, with the specialty focus working in the restaurant’s favour.
It’s bright, white and green, with music playing the background. An open kitchen gives you views of the cooking process, and offers a view over the nearby lake too. The staff members were beyond amazing. Another trend I’m seeing in restaurants nowadays, especially new, small, and independent outlets, is the extremely knowledgeable and helpful waiters. Let’s hope it continues.
After starting with drinks: a veggie juice (not for those who don’t like vegetables!) and a fresh orange juice, we settled about with ordering.
I instantly wanted to try the farinata – described as pancake made from chickpea flour, I had never heard of the dish before, so knew I had to have it. ALAS, there was no farinata left. OR WASN’T THERE? Our lovely waiter, seeing my disappointed face, came back out and said, “There’s just one slice of farinata left, would you like to taste it?” YES YES YES!
I’m so glad we did, because if there’s ever a dish to describe as ‘moreish’, this would be it. Soft, full of creamy chickpea flavour, the farinata has a melt-in-your-mouth, sort of buttery, texture. Pile some cheese on it, eat it with the bread. Anything, anyway…I cannot recommend this enough, and it was so delicious I know it’s something I’ll be ordering the next time. Surprisingly not heavy at all. Loved it.
I also wanted to try the pizza – it was intriguing to see just three kinds of pizzas chalked up on a blackboard on the wall. Confused about which one to order, the waiter again came to our rescue and suggested we go for the pizza stracchino. Boy, was it a good idea. Let me tell you right from now: yes, there are other pizza joints that dish out a great disc of bready cheesiness, but I have yet to taste a pizza that tastes like this one. Not only was the cheese used superb, the base/bread in the pizza tasted different. How? I can’t describe it, really (I realise this is rendering me useless) but you need to taste it to understand how the cheese mingled with the bread and gave it a distinctive flavour.
The pasta we tried was the tagliatelle porcini, upon the recommendation of the waiter. I was surprised, again, at how light it was. So used to Italian restaurants where the food leaves you feeling like there’s a stone in your stomach, this was a delight. The mushrooms were fresh, moist and cooked well, adding that subtle tinge of needed flavour to the pasta. Nice one, but not my favourite from the night.
The parmigiana was tomato-ey and aubergine-based, with a huge crown of melted cheese (REAL cheese, mind you), oozing everywhere. Also not my favourite from the night, but pleasant enough.
I absolutely could not resist trying the tiramisu, and was I pleasantly surprised! A different twist on what you’ll find in every third restaurant on the street, Nais’ tiramisu is constructed different, with three fat spongey tubes lathered in cream and sprinkings of chocolate powder. It’s soft, slightly moist, and not sickly sweet. I’ve struggled finding tiramisu in Dubai which blows me away, but this did.
I wish I could describe everything better, but as my friend said, the details of these dishes don’t matter, because “they all meld into one bowl of gooey happiness.”
What I would order again from the night include the farinata, the pizza and the tiramisu. Hands down.
Closed the night with two shakeratos – both of which were satisfactory. We saw then that the time was past 10:30pm. And the restaurant is meant to close at 10pm. We didn’t notice also because not once did anyone at the restaurant stand pointedly around our table, or just come up to us and say we have to leave. I was so surprised that they kept the restaurant open for us to finish our meal in peace. Not many places do that, and for this I was grateful.
Náis is definitely a place to revisit – I suggest if you haven’t been, to run over soon and indulge in some really good Italian food.
Parmigiana – AED 35
Tagliatelle Porcini – AED 85
Pizza stracchino – AED 34
Tiramisu – AED 35
Orange juice – AED 18
Veggie juice – AED 22
Shakerato x2 – AED 30
TOTAL (for two) – AED 259
Practical tips: Located in Cluster F, you can choose to park at the parking on the upper levels; whether it has already been subject to the two-hour-only parking restriction there (if you go above two hours, you pay AED 200) I am not sure. But two hours are enough I think. You can also take the metro to the JLT metro station, exit JLT side, go to the cluster on the left, and walk around the lake till you see Nais on the upper level. Around 5-10 minutes walk.
Find more on the official website, Nais Kitchen.