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Dubai Restaurateur Talks About His 'Pizza' de Resistance, Saudi Expansion

03 Jun 2021 - Moon Slice Pizza has only just opened in Dubai’s trendy Dar Wasl Mall, but there are already lines of people out the door waiting for a slice of the action.

People are flocking to the new artisanal pizza joint for what is being heralded as some of the best pizza in Dubai, with a twist — the menu is full of unusual ingredients served on a hot and crispy Neapolitan-style dough.

There’s the diavola — Wagyu carpaccio, spicy meatballs and olive aioli — the frutto di mare — shrimp and octopus carpaccio, fontina cheese and barbecue aioli — and other quirky menu additions such as an avocado pizza, or one with ricotta cheese, walnuts and honey. But the “pizza” de resistance, the pizza clouding Instagram feeds around the country, is the truffle-laden MS; pecorino cheese and truffle paste, truffle foam and grated truffle.

It is not quite what you’ll find at your local trattoria in Naples. Which is fitting then, because neither of the entrepreneurs behind the concept are Italian. In fact, one is Emirati, and one is Singaporean, and best known for his Japanese fare.

Moon Slice is helmed by Emirati restaurateur Mahmood Al-Khamis and the menu was dreamed up by Reif Othman, a well-known name in Dubai’s culinary scene previously working in the kitchens of Zuma and PLAY, and now best known for his innovative takes on Japanese street food across multiple outlets in Dubai. The founder of Reif Japanese Kushiyaki, Othman is riding the wave of his success (despite a tough year for the restaurant industry) to open six new restaurants in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia this year. The first franchised Reif Japanese Kushiyaki restaurant in the world will soon open in Cairo, and three new franchised locations are being explored for Riyadh, with the first due to open later this year.

“It was always our intention to expand the Reif Japanese Kushiyaki brand regionally and internationally. In light of the pandemic, we have been able to negotiate compelling deals with landlords and franchisees, allowing us to take the concept further afield in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Specifically for Saudi Arabia, we have signed three franchised locations in Riyadh with the first due to open later this year,” Othman said.

But with such an indomitable resume of Japanese cuisine behind him — why then, did Othman turn his sights to pizza?

Othman himself says it’s a question of nostalgia.

“I have a soft spot for Italian cuisine as I started my career in an Italian kitchen,” he said. “Whilst my own concepts embrace an unconventional twist on Japanese cooking, my dishes incorporate cuisine fundamentals from Italy and France.”

Arab News