Aioli is a French sauce, an emulsion of oil held together with other water based liquids to create a unique texture. The restaurant emulates its namesake the sauce in offering an emulsion of different cuisines, in a fine dining atmosphere.
The shade of the huge mango tree gives is pleasant as we enter Aioli at lunch time. Men occupy the two tables downstairs, chit-chatting about the latest stories around town. We look longingly at the dessert counter filled with colourful macarons, brownies and other tantalising sweet items as we head up the winding stairs.
A few tables at the balcony are occupied as despite the hot mid day sun, the place has a nice feel to it, the nearby tree keeps it cool. We opt for the glass- doored air-conditioned room with seating capacity for about 40 people. The menu offers diverse range of dishes, Mexican fajitas, mutton mysore, Thai items, a couple of vegetarian dishes, and top quality beef like the Black Angus rump steak, poultry, pasta and even a local speciality ‘addu kukulhu reha’, Addu style chicken curry.
Most surprising and intriguing is the dessert page, tempting varieties not available anywhere else in town – we almost skip the main course. Interestingly the menu has explanations of cooking terminology, helpful to those who are looking to experiment and expand their gastronomical repertoire.
The waitresses are friendly and smart, with black shirts and black skirts they blend right in with the concept of fine dining restaurants.
The drinks arrive fast, chilled water melon perfect for a hot afternoon, and home made lemonade; a combination of lemon sparkling water and ice, tipped a little heavily on the sparkling water side and lacking in zing. The papaya juice tasted smooth and decadently sweet.
The teriyaki beef-fry was well presented with a jasmine rice dome next to it. The sauce had an overly peppery taste to it and lacked the tangy-sweet and brackish flavor of a real teriyaki sauce, while the steamed rice is under seasoned and over cooked. The dish has ground to cover before it would live up to its name.
The lamb chops, served with grilled zucchini, potoato slices and red and yellow peppers had colour, but the presentation would have gone up a notch if the chops had been placed on top of the vegetables to add some dimension.
The orange sauce on the bottom added a bit of moisture to the utterly dry lamb chops, amusing given that the menu had a whole page explaining degrees of cooking meat. The shred of red cabbage sprinkled loosely on the plate added nothing to the dish and was a poor addition.
Thai chicken on skewers placed on top of steamed rice with more shreds of red cabbage came with a generous portion of pak choy. The chicken was tender and succulent, but the pak choy bathed in garlic was toothsome and a bit over cooked. The dish is a bit dry as there is little sauce to go with jasmine rice; this could have been a brilliant starter without the rice and pak choy.
Finally the moment we had been waiting for, the classic French dessert crème brulee arrived on the heels of Italian panna cotta.
It looks like the crème brulee needs more caramelising and more sugar. It was impossible to relive the moment in the famous scene of the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding, when Julia Robert’s character cracks open the caramelised crunchy sugar, exposing the creamy and smooth custard. Nevertheless it was full bodied and flavorsome, just lacking caramlisation, the essence of this dessert.
The panna cotta was presented neatly on a plate with drizzled chocolate sauce topped with a green cherry.
The flavours were balanced in the cooked cream which is set with gelatin. The texture was a bit rubbery for a panna cotta; it should have just enough gelatin to hold its shape and should have wobbled a bit more on the plate.
Overall: bistro-style food with a fine-dining feel. The world’s many different tastes are served in this very promising restaurant, which holds a place among the best in town.
Total 7 /10
Fresh water melon juice – 25 Rf
Fresh Papaya Juice – 25 Rf
Home made lemonade – 40 Rf
Cajun Lamb chops – 150 Rf
Teriyaki beef stir-fry – 60 Rf
Thai chicken – 70 Rf
Crème Brulee – 55 Rf
Panna Cotta – 45 Rf
Aioli Restaurant is located beside Bank of Maldives Main Branch at Lotus Golhi. It is open from 9:30 am to midnight, on Fridays from 16:00 pm to midnight.
Naby Mariyam is a Le Cordon Bleu chef graduate, and works as a cookery trainer in Sydney, Australia.