There's a newly opened restaurant at Town Square neighborhood, it called our attention that it isn't inside a mall, or at some building's ground floor. It is just there, sitting by itself, on one side of the boulevard with its name big and clear: Caya.
After checking the place in and out there's no wonder why they chose that name for the restaurant, Caya means "pure" in greek and it holds to that promise everywhere, I see it as a whole concept, it's not inside a mall or any building, that's not Caya enough, it would pollute the experience with distracting noises you don't want while enjoying your food, the restaurant blends with the surroundings and respects the architecture style, it even has a green backyard with outdoors seating which we found very Caya.
Inside, it is all clean with light colors, lots of light telling you "we have nothing to hide, we are all Caya". This is a mediterranean restaurant, you'll find lots of Greek and Italian inspired dishes, but also Turkish and international European ones, specially in their breakfast menu. Mediterranean diet is also very Caya, a lot of seafood and fresh ingredients, Caya food is easy and pleasant to eat and enjoy with friends and family, simple and back to the basics.
Getting to Town Square is not difficult, Google Maps can take you there quite quick depending on how far away you live, for us it was a 25min drive, the neighborhood is new and there's still a bit of work in progress and a few streets are closed, so getting to Caya was a bit tricky.
To make the long story short, look for the Carrefour Supermarket and get on that service road, opposite to the Carrefour you'll see a parking lot, it's still under construction so it's more like a sandpit. After parking, get out of there and follow the Caya signs, they will guide you to the restaurant.
In the Restaurant
When you're approaching the main gate, you'll see a chalkboard greeting you "Welcome to Caya!", I really liked that, it makes a great scene for a photo. Once you cross the door you'll be greeted by a hostess, your temperature will be checked and you'll be able to sanitize your hands. I liked that the toilets are located just after the entrance, that way you can go directly to wash your hands with water and soap for 30 seconds and then use hand sanitizer, which is also located behind the door. We felt very safe, most of the COVID-19 measures are well respected, all the staff is wearing face masks and gloves, there's hand sanitizer at the door and on every table but the safe distance between guests is not respected all the time, although there are acrylic panels between most of the tables, these ones are the safer ones in my opinion. They have a digital menu, but you need to use their tablets to see it, I like QR codes better, but this modality is also fine as long as the tablets are sanitized after every guest.
The restaurant is all pristine, it makes you feel as if you were just few meters away from the coast, sitting in Santorini or somewhere like that, the interiors are very white and light colored with a lot of natural light, a huge panoramic on the back that leads to the backyard and a central patio which is also suitable for outdoors dining and they have a central patio, perfect for special occasions or small private events.
Mind the fact that it might be quite busy by lunch time, on one of our visits we had to wait for about 30min along with another 3 groups, waiting area can accommodate few groups comfortably and safely.
- Classic Bruschetta
- Kale Caesar Salad
- Crispy Calamari
- Prawn Tacos
- Mushroom Risotto
- Truffle Mushroom Pizza
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Sparking filtered water
- Apple mint juice for the kid
- Chocolate Eclair
- Chocolate Fondant
- Nutella Tiramisu
If it seems like a lot of food it's because we visited several times and didn't order the same dishes, we varied our order to try some more of their menu.
Dish by Dish
Nothing can go wrong with a piece of bread, pesto and a lot of tomato, add some pesto and pine seeds for extra freshness and texture. This is a super refreshing appetizer, perfect for a hot day. It's sweet, fresh, a bit crispy and very easy to eat. Perfect to eat outdoors and feel like you're in a picnic somewhere in Tuscany.
Kale Caesar Salad
I'm always nervous when eating a Caesar salad, I'm afraid the knives might hurt my mouth, historic jokes aside, this one is quite good. Kale, caesar dressing, croutons and some purple cabbage to add more texture without abusing the croutons. The salad is very well balanced, the dressing is not greasy not garlicky, we devoured it in almost no time.
This is one of our favorites, this made me feel like I was nearby the beach at a family trip very long time ago, we used to have this every time we went to the beach, only that Caya's calamari are way better.
When you order this type of fried dishes you know your fingers will end up all greasy, well, think twice, a lot of grease in your food is not too Caya, these Crispy Calamari were not greasy or oily at all, the crust was super crispy, the calamari was al-dente inside the crust, batter was also very tasty with a little bit of paprika and a bit spicy, you feel a light kick. Served with tar-tar sauce to dip in, which is also very well balanced and complements the flavors present in the squid and the batter. Close your eyes and you'll hear the sea after every bite, this is what I call comfort food. Well done!
This taco comes with all refreshing flavors, mango, lime, salsa fresca, grilled prawns, chopped iceberg lettuce to add some crispiness, a bit of cucumber, cilantro and sour cream, this is something I would have at the beach definitely, it is as refreshing as it is delicious. The only bad thing about this dish is that it is too small, at least for me, the two tacos are the normal size of a taco but I finished so fast I felt like it should be served in a tortilla sobaquera, and my Mexican friend agreed.
Mushroom Risotto / Truffle Mushroom Pizza
The reason why you're seeing two dishes here and only one photo is because I ordered the Mushroom Risotto and somehow they messed up the order and I ended up having the Truffle Mushroom Pizza, then, I ordered on the following visits to validate consistency. I don't know how it happened, when our host repeated the order he got it right and when ordering I even pointed to the risotto, maybe they made a mistake when punching the order, I don't know, I'm still yet to try the risotto in our next visit.
Now, the pizza, this is easily one of the best pizzas I've had here in Dubai. It has a base of mushroom sauce instead of the classic tomato sauce, enoki and chestnut mushrooms, cheese and it comes topped with truffle oil. the dough is tasty, crusty and spongy at the same time. However, the first time I had this pizza, which was the same visit they messed up the risotto order, I didn't feel the truffle at all, the place was super busy that day and I can imagine they forgot to add it after it came out of the oven which is understandable but not acceptable. This is an A+ pizza though and I would order it every time.
[We forgot to take picture, someone will get fired]
A normal Carbonara with veal bacon to make it halal, although we appreciate this is the first carbonara we eat here in Dubai made with eggs and not with cream, this came underseasoned, we had to add some salt and pepper at the table after trying it. Maybe something to work on in the kitchen.
I finally got to taste it after few visits!, I have to say I'm a huge fan of mushrooms and I love them in risottos. This one didn't disappoint me, it is creamy, it has all the earthy flavors I love, typical in mushrooms, a hint of truffle which I also love! it is what I was expecting from such a dish, a very well balanced risotto.
That being said, it was the first impression, I loved it so much I recommended it to some friends another time we visited and it wasn't as good, that time I ordered the truffle mushroom pizza (which I love) and I tried the risotto from my friend's dish (not so COVID compliant, don't do that), the texture was wrong, it was underseasoned and was bland, but two days after another friend tried it and he loved it, maybe there's a bit of consistency to work on with this dish, risottos are tricky to make, feedback was passed to their chef and I'm sure they'll do something to make it consistently awesome.
Not much to say about the Eclair, it's shown in the menu topped with nuts but it came plain and the filling was not evenly distributed inside, there were sections in the middle without any filling at all. The dough, the filling and the topping were good though, but I missed the nuts.
I really loved the way this dessert is presented, I didn't want to eat it because it looked so beautiful I only wanted to take pictures and stare at it, it's served with vanilla gelato on top of a raspberry coulis. The fondant is as expected, hot and melted inside but the vanilla gelato felt more like an ice cream than a gelato. This dessert tends to leave your mouth a bit dry after each fondant bite, the ice cream is a good way to refresh and reset your palate.
I have mixed feelings about the Nutella Tiramisu, this is one of the best tiramisu I've had here in Dubai, but it missed the mark on the Nutella part, it has a thin layer in the middle, but it gets overshadowed by the mascarpone and you barely feel it or don't feel it at all, this is a great tiramisu and was almost always consistent, I don't know what happened on our last visit it came a bit hard, as if the ladyfingers were not soaked enough. Also something to watch in the kitchen.
Don't get me wrong, if this was sold as a plain tiramisu, I would have truly loved it, but I was expecting some more Nutella.
Caya is a super family friendly place to go, if you have kids you'll love it, there's an in-doors kids play area with a small kitchen, toys and few books, there's an out doors seating area with a huge grass field for the kids to run, no cars so no danger, there's an outdoors park where kids can go play while adults talk about work, life and all those boring things that make me go to the park with the kids. Food is very very good, although there are few adjustments to make consistency-wise, normal in any newly opened restaurant, there are dishes that are the same as the first time I tried them all the time, great pizzas, good pastas, fried calamari are to-die-for, tasty desserts and very friendly staff.
Something to note about Caya, and this is something not very usual in Dubai restaurants, water is free!, even sparkling water, they only charge a fixed fee for the bottle (10 dirhams which is what a small local water cost in JBR walk) and then you can refill it as many times as you want, I hope more restaurants copy this, in many places water is a complimentary service and it should be everywhere.
Caya is not pricey, it's a very affordable dining experience with healthy and delicious mediterranean food with a friendly staff ready to host you every time.
- Overall: 3.8 out of 5, this is what they have in Zomato at the time of writing and I have to agree, food is good, service is good, but it has some issues that makes the experience a bit inconsistent between visits, 3.5 would be too tough, 3.8 feels fair. I'm sure we can improve this rating in upcoming visits a few months from now.
- Value for money: 4 out of 5, not expensive, fresh and tasty food and a very good service, the fact that water is free gives them few extra points here, I wish more restaurants copy this.