Truly authentic Greek food isn’t that easy to find in the UAE, but ZOE Modern Greek Kouzina has arrived in the capital to change that.
Bringing something fresh, exciting and refreshingly different to Abu Dhabi’s dining scene, every inch of the exterior and interior is chic, minimalist and immensely photogenic.
Scattered with bright pink flowers and Santorini-esque blue and white decorations, the terrace is situated just meters from the moored yachts of the trendy area of Marsa Al Bateen. Relaxed and welcoming, the place oozes laid-back Greek island vibes, and we immediately feel a world away from the busy streets of downtown.
Describing itself as a ‘modern’ Greek restaurant, ZOE specializes in taking the country’s most iconic traditional dishes, and serving them with a contemporary and creative twist.
Offering enticing options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we like that the menu is well thought out and selective, rather than being overwhelmingly long and randomly eclectic. Given the pleasant winter weather, we dine al fresco and start our Mediterranean-inspired experience with a trio of creamy dips.
Following the cheerful restaurant manager’s recommendation, we forego our usual tzatziki to try melitzanosalata with grilled eggplant, fava bean dip and beetroot skordalia.
The latter is sensational, striking the perfect balance between light, healthy and utterly delicious.
Sadly, the fava bean dip doesn’t do much for us, but we adore the smokey flavour of the melitzanosalata. The homemade flatbreads are also dangerously good and it’s a challenge not to gobble them all down and fill up before we even get started.
Next up, the kale salad presents a winning combination of avocado, chicken and sweet potato covered in a slightly sweet pomegranate dressing. It’s simply superb, and (if we weren’t so hungry and keen to try as much as possible), it could easily have been a meal in itself.
A third starter definitely isn’t necessary, but we can’t resist trying some spanakopita (spinach and feta filo pastries). Golden brown and piping hot, they’re a perfect reminder of why Greece’s casual and unpretentious cuisine is arguably the best in the world.
With temperatures hovering as close to ‘cold’ as they ever do in the UAE, our mains feature a hearty winter warmer of tender lamb stifado, joined by an incredible platter of souvlaki. Starring skewers of juicy chicken, beef and lamb, joined by aromatic rice, fries and dips, ZOE should be applauded just for bringing this masterful Greek interpretation to our sun-kissed shores.
While we chose meat and protein-heavy options that were ideal for a post-gym session refuel, ZOE offers plenty of vegetarian and fish dishes too, including vegan moussaka, pan-seared salmon and shrimp saganaki served in a spicy tomato sauce.
Everything we tried was genuinely excellent and, as an added bonus, very generously portioned and reasonably priced.
Starters hover around Dh40 to Dh70, mains are between Dh60 and Dh120, and the brilliant-value business lunch offers two courses and a drink for only Dh79 per person.
We take home every bit of the leftovers, and we can’t resist ending with a strong Greek coffee and a taste of some sweet, but not too sweet, Greek baklava rolls.
With ‘Zoe’ meaning ‘life’ in Greek, the restaurant certainly lives up to its namesake.
Colorful, vibrant, and providing a flawless fusion of fantastic sharing-style dishes, flawless service and a homey ambiance, it’s a place that feeds your soul as well as your stomach.
Even if you’re a Greek food connoisseur, you’ll find the cuisine to be just as unforgettable and authentic as any you’ll find served along the cobbled streets of Mykonos.
• For more information, follow @zoekouzina on Instagram or call 02 886 8286.
• This meal was provided for the purposes of a review. We try a lot of things here at Livehealthy, but we only publish Livehealthy Approved reviews for those that are truly worth it.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.