Foodie Review: Girls' Night Out at Aioli

So, with my BFF back on the island (happy dance), it was reason to celebrate...and eat, cause that is just what BFFs do. I was so happy cause we think alike and so I had a riding partner to try the new restaurant, Aioli.

I had previously missed a very early opportunity to dine at Aioli because of work (darn it), so was looking forward to trying the place and of course the food. I had only heard good things, and of course, with the seal of approval from superwoman and friend extraordinaire, LSJ, I knew I was in for a treat.

The plan was almost derailed by hectic flip flop life, with Saturday errands in the sweltering heat making its own meal of me, but nothing a shower, some well placed curlers and a shot of coffee could not fix. Gotta love those curlers!

So first off, Aioli is located in Ellerslie Plaza in Maraval, just upstairs Haagen Dazs. As we parked, we wondered where on earth was this place, and just as I was going to seek a security guard to give us some guidance, lo and behold, I had parked Sophie smack dab in front of the door. Fate! 

What immediately struck me was the sophisticated dark wood decor and the amazing lighting. Those light fixtures were stunning and held my gaze for most of the night. The interior is gorgeous to say the least. First win.

Then let's talk about the service. As you know, I am the Service Nazi. If you want to stay on my good side, be generous with the hellos, may I help yous and apologies, and don't be farse and bright. From start to finish, Dianna and Jeremiah (thanks LSJ) were top notch - attentive, courteous and helpful. Second win, and a major win at that especially as I am known to get on bourgie rancid over bad service.

But of course, it was the food. Aioli's fare is described as

A European fusion menu with a heavy Mediterranean base (Amalfi coast inclusive of Spain, France, Italy and Greece) with hints of influences from the rest of the world, prepared using classical French techniques.

Now this was always going to be a challenge, keeping in mind that I have been on a fat busting mission and just that morning had almost busted a lung on the hills of my neighbourhood. But the challenge was now magnified by 1000 when I studied the menu, because everything looked amazing. 

It was a great tragedy that my dinner mate does not partake of the pig cause I really wanted to share in the Jambon Iberico experience, but I am not worried as I am sure mi amiga, Sonso will make sure I do not miss out on it in less than 2 weeks. There were proscuitto wrapped scallops (sob), a delightful sounding seafood minestrone which featured the three major food groups - mussels, clams and scallops (sob sob), among others, and that's just for appetisers. However, in the end, hard as it was, I did make an attempt to become more intimate with the food offerings. 

Apologies in advance for the photos, which were taken with my smartphone, in horror, as I am always conscious that I am going to be THAT girl taking photos of her food. I also stuck to taking photos of what was in front of me and not my girlfriend's orders.

I started with the shrimp cocktail, which was served with a very sensational mango salsa. The mango salsa complemented the shrimp nicely, with a nice local touch.

On special for the night were the lamb meatballs, which my girlfriend started with, and these were phenomenal. A must-try. I was really impressed with these, with the flavours bursting in my mouth and of course there was a lovely spiciness which I of course appreciated. I will also add here that when we ordered our appies, somehow the meatballs got lost in technological translation, so that only my shrimp cocktail appeared initially. So while I expected and we got apologies, I did not expect the chef, John Aboud to personally come out and apologise for the mix up. Take note people - THIS is what you do. Don't start me.

For my entree, it was inevitable - no competition. The pork loin. Yes, I bow to the pig. But this...

...this was the highlight of my night, of my week (of my life?? okay, not quite but it was awesome). The pork loin was served with this incredible sweet potato and apple puree and a vegetable medley, and one could really tell that each item on that plate was specifically and lovingly put there to complement the other. That puree, with that lingering appleness, with that pork, with those vegetables - perfection. That puree that was just right - the sensual blend of textures and flavours, not too sweet, but marrying ever so wonderfully with the very succulent cuts of pork. I savoured this, bite by bite. So when as indicated on their Facebook page, the chef says "My cooking is my prayer", this is the kind of spiritual sensation we talking about. lol. It was the best pork dish I have had in a long, long time. It was the best part of my evening for sure. Ku-dos!

By this time, I was really conflicted because now would be the real test of character. Dessert or no dessert. I mean, I got up at 5am to run up hills, in a light drizzle, so dessert would be a travesty. But the bigger travesty was certainly going to be NOT having dessert. I mean, who does that? So I bit the bullet and true to form, ordered the Tiramisu Explosion, while my girlfriend had the Basil Infused Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries.

I must admit, I ate that entire thing, AND sampled the panna cotta, which was so interesting. I saw it and thought to myself "basil infused"? In a dessert? But it worked sooooo well and was delicious, as was my tiramisu, which is always a predictable choice for me, as I am the tiramisu master, but it was not at all disappointing. I promise though to try the Napoleon next time.

I ended my night with a shot of espresso to counter the effects of a long day, and the added effects of a full and happy stomach, to ensure I got my passenger and my good self back home safely. But I do HIGHLY recommend Aioli. I dare say, it has given my fave restaurant a good run for its money and I am excited to take other friends there.

Speaking of money, you must be wondering what type of damage a night like this would do to your wallet. It's not Breakfast Shed, kids, so please don't be confused. Appetisers were in the $75-$110 or so range; entrees in the $130-$230 or so range, and the desserts in the $55-$75 or so range. (please note the "or so"; I did have wine after all). And all delicious, served with the exceptional service that one expects in a fine dining establishment and in a place just compelling you to sit back and enjoy. 

Aioli - Ellerslie Plaza, Maraval
Phone: (868) 22-AIOLI (222-4564)


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