With an emphasis on freshly sourced produce, Nicole’s is a feat of Mediterranean flair. Chef Christopher has come along way from mastering French Toast at the age of eight to perfecting the menu at Nicole’s. The newly appointed Chef aims to put out dishes bursting with love and passion – we can certainly attest to that…
When it comes to clean eating, Mediterranean cuisine is your failsafe, first-thing-that-comes-to-mind option. Being January, and generally a month where we’re feeling a little sorry for ourselves/beating ourselves up for being too indulgent, healthy food is the onwards and upwards right now. And as far as authenticity is concerned, Nicole’s “have started going straight to the source,” according to Chef Christopher. “If I go meet the farmers and fisherman then I know that I will get the fresh product,” he adds.
Having trained at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Boston, Chef Christopher has amounted a vast repertoire of experience, including working under CMC Joseph Leonardi “to really hone my skills”. This multicultural background in his culinary career stems from his American-Lebanese heritage: “I was brought up in the US, but with Lebanese food and tradition also being a major part of my upbringing. At eight years-old I started to make little things like spaghetti and French toast, hoping to wow everyone with my selfimposed creative genius. And then as I got older I started to take over all of the household cooking, whenever I had the time. I was later trained in formalised French cuisine and then took courses in Italian cuisine.
I love all of it. If I had to pick something it wouldn’t be a cuisine but more a style of cooking. I really enjoy taking a gastronomical approach to Mediterranean cuisine.”
From appetisers to desserts, the emphasis on clean, minimal and artful presentation is akin to Chef Christopher’s philosophy that “taste is first and foremost the most important, but it starts with presentation. People eat with all of their senses. If something looks and smells beautiful you are already half way there. It has to be a blend of both. If a plate looks terrible and tastes great or looks amazing and tastes bad then you are not doing your job.” His delicate hand at composing a plate takes some serious skill – especially where fragile food is concerned. The Almond-Citrus Crusted Sea Scallops were particularly engaging on the plate and were remarkably soft to chew. The menu itself has had somewhat of a change, an upgrade. Having sampled the menu before and after Chef Christopher’s arrival, we can definitely say the offerings have stepped up on the quality ladder.
The small plate/tapas of Gambas al Ajillo, which sees a tasty marriage of sautéed shrimp with spicy garlic tomato sauce and coriander pesto, is the perfect bite size entry into a cuisine so beautifully complex of flavour. The sauce had a richness to it in a way that didn’t killed off our taste buds, but energised them further. Citrus is a key ingredient that binds most of Chef Christopher’s dishes together. “I am rather fond of the Variation of Cucumber and Crab Salad. To me this dish screams freshness. Citrus notes bounce around your palate, it is so refreshing,” explains the Chef.
The aforementioned Cucumber and Crab Salad is a duo of cucumber, crispy crab cake, citrus crab salad, red pepper mousse, petite greens and citrus vinaigrette – it’s tart and crisp in all the right places. Another feat of presentation was the Deconstructed Tiramisu – all elements of the much-loved dessert were separated on the plate, in their own light if you will – very gourmet, and a great opportunity for Tiramisu enthusiasts to mix and match the ingredients differently.
Chef Christopher’s has a palpable and unrelenting determination to accomplish each dish with love, and this can only put a smile on your face. “To me it is better to strive to get better than to be happy with where you are. That doesn’t mean just learn and disregard what you know. Be open to new ideas and techniques to bring your food to another level.”
On top of that, he creates a sense of homeliness – a hallmark feeling in the Mediterranean culture: “Our true Mediterranean concept and our family mentality sets us apart. We want you to come in and feel like you are at home. We strive for our staff to be extremely warm and welcoming and for our food to bring a smile to your face. We are light and fresh, the true Mediterranean profile.” And with that said, we leave with a happy, full tummy.
GO: Visit Nicole’s Mediterranean Restaurant & Lounge in Adliya. Call 3514 0504 for reservations and more information.