Review: Aioli Restaurant

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.

Thai chicken skewers, with red cabbage
Thai chicken skewers, with red cabbage

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.

Fine dining Male' style
Fine dining Male' style

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.

Tasty crème brulee
Tasty but not caramelised

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.

Aioli Restaurant

Food 7/10
Atmosphere 8/10
Value 6/10
Service 7/10
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.


5 thoughts on “Review: Aioli Restaurant”

  1. That table right there was where I had my first office dinner.

    I'd actually highly recommend this place. Food is good, service was excellent.

  2. Thats true.. Naby ... But comapare to the other restnts in Male' the food is excllnt .. speclly the meat , even I tried from some of the near by resorts I couldnt find any red meat like Black Angus and Wague ,als seafoods like Scallops and Salmon dishes ... I m a regular guy for the Nasandra Palace ... they even serve Indian Tenderloin for their main meat dishes ...

  3. Firstly, I wish to note regarding the above review that you cannot compare the food and quality to Sydney Australia as Maldives is not an advanced country and Australia. The reviewer should base their comments on the actual restaurant and not compare it to other restaurants in Australia.
    Also, regarding the comment of "bistro-style food with a fine-dining feel", I believe the food is not bistro.

    I dined at Aioli in October 2009 and found it to be an excellent experience. The staff where very well presented and helpful when ordering. The food was also excellent in regards to taste and presentation. I highly recommend the Tuna Steak with Black Eye Beans.

    Would recommend that you go and experience this fine restaurant.

  4. @ Peter

    Thank you very much for your opinion on my review.

    i would like to note here that the reviews are not a comparison to other cafe's or restaurants in Male' or any other country. Reviews are an assesment of the food, something as simple as cooking the meat without drying it out is the very basics of cooking regardless of where its made. If you are making a crème brûlé should be a crème brûlé matter where its produced, and it is the STANDARD, just because its made in maldives doesnt change the fact that it is a crème brûlée, a french desserts which has to tick certain boxes for it to referred by that name.

    There is a great distinction between fine dinning restaurants and bistro style high end cafe' food. If Aioli wants to be a fine dining restaurant it still has long way to go, in terms of the menu, presentation, flavours etc.if you have a good look at the first photo which is the lamb dish, there is nothing fine about that dish. its very rustic and a chunky presentation.

    i would say Aioli is among the better restaurants in Male, there is always room for improvement, and there is no reason why maldives can't have a good restaurant and be on the same platform as other countries, because we have so many talented people in the industry.

  5. one thing for sure is the crème brûlée doesnt look anything close to what it should look like..if that pic was in their menu i wouldnt even order it!!!!


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