F&B Focus: Aye to the new Nay
Hotelier Express goes behind the scenes to discover the rationale for Nay restaurant's relaunch
Upon completion of a refurbishment this spring, Nay, the signature restaurant at Somewhere Hotels Barsha Heights, relaunched on May 20 as a Lebanese restaurant serving what the hotel’s executive chef Samer Othman describes as “traditional, authentic Lebanese food, but with a modern presentation, a contemporary ‘twist’”.
“I’m offering my guests Lebanese food that’s traditional, authentic but in a modern presentation. If you close your eyes and you didn’t see the plate and you taste the food, then you think you are in Lebanon. But you open your eyes and the presentation is a bit different – more contemporary in approach,” Othman explains, during a visit by Hotelier Express to view Nay’s make-over.
He adds that maintaining a balance between pure authenticity and consideration for his local clientele is something he always keeps in mind when it comes to his food.
“It’s like here in Dubai where people are mixed, yes, they are Arabic but they also have their own culture. So when you are planning a new concept or a new menu, even if it’s Lebanese food, then you also have to consider the other opinions and make adjustments,” Othman says.
He explains further: “I will give you a small example. In Lebanon, we eat a salad called tabouli. This salad should be a little bit sour; it is part of the recipe. Here, if you do it with that sour taste, it is not really accepted so you have to adjust. There is a difference when you make your tabouli here and when you are in Lebanon. It is still Lebanese food, using Lebanese ingredients and the same recipe, everything, but you also have to consider small things such as the local considerations.”
Othman goes on to provide a background on Nay’s origins, which was initially conceptualised as a Mediterranean restaurant when it first made an appearance in Dubai at Somewhere’s first property in Deira in 2013. He adds that the company’s intention, a few months after Nay’s relaunch in the Barsha Heights hotel, will be to revisit the original Nay concept in Deira and transplant the Lebanese concept of the restaurant in the Barsha Heights hotel over to the restaurant in the Deira hotel apartments, albeit with slight adjustments.
“We aim to bring it back there but in a very different way. The cuisine there is Mediterranean so we will bring it back exactly like here, traditional, authentic Lebanese cuisine in a modern way with very adequate prices that everybody should be able to afford,” Othman says.
He continues: “This concept, therefore, should be able to attract all levels, people with salaries of AED 2,000 (US$ 545) or people with salaries of AED 20,000 ($5,446). It can be the same menu in both places but the portioning can be different to reflect the selling price. But the quality, the taste should be the same. It will be challenging but it will work. We are planning to bring this concept back to Deira after summer, by August or September this year.”
As for the rationale behind Nay’s relaunch, Othman says that research led him and the hotel management to realise that an Arabic restaurant was needed in the evolving landscape and the accompanying demand drivers of Dubai’s Barsha Heights district.
He says: “This type of restaurant is very important to the local community because majority of the people who live around here are Arabs. Some are Emiratis but also Arabs from other parts of the region, such as Lebanese, Jordans, Syrians, Palestinians.The neighbourhood The Greens is also nearby and is a very important target clientele. That’s why we relaunched here and we decided to go for Arabic. We did some research and found out that the community needs this type of restaurant.”
Othman says that discussions on narrowing down the restaurant concept took a while but once a clear direction was set, it only took him two months to engineer the new menu.
“Since I’m Lebanese and specialise in Lebanese food, it did not take long for me to create a Lebanese menu. What takes time is the identifying and planning of the concept itself. It may be a Lebanese concept but there are many aspects to a Lebanese concept,” he says.
In his years of experience working as a chef in various countries in the Middle East, from his native Lebanon to Oman to the UAE, Othman declares that his culinary philosophy has emphasised qualities close to his heart.
“My philosophy is centred on simplicity, as well as innovation. It comes first with good ingredients, products, taste and presentation, and these add up to make the guests satisfied. This keeps me going forward,” he says, adding: “A simple recipe can be written and is easy to use for training, easy for sharing, easy to explain to the guests. I don’t like things which are too complicated.”
A focus on quality ingredients pays off, Othman believes, asserting: “When you have a good ingredient, a good product, this will guide you to good taste and you can have good quality, by default.”
He believes that offering a quality product, matched by service, forms the cornerstone of success for the new Nay.
“Any chef wants to achieve the financial target but to get there, first attract the people to come here, then satisfy the guests, let them to enjoy our food, relax. That’s why the restaurant is designed in a way that we have indoor smoking and non-smoking, a terrace outside that is especially nice in the wintertime. We have the screens, you feel at home and it’s casual dining,” he says.
He is adamant about extensive, detailed training about the new Lebanese dishes being conducted for the restaurant’s service staff.
“For both the service and kitchen staff, we had lots of product testing and taste tests, so they know exactly what they are talking about to the guests. They are the ones who are dealing directly with the guests so this is very important,” Othman says. He adds: “The service staff have to know the product as well as the chef – maybe not about the technique but about the product, what is in it and how it is prepared.”
Othman is already relishing the prospect of Nay’s relaunch in Deira, saying: ”When I’m busy, I enjoy more. I don’t like to be quiet.”