Gourmet bread in Abu Dhabi

Italian chefs bring Api Cae's Better Bread campaign to life Comments

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Just off the Corniche is a new gourmet joint that is unlike the other cafés in the area. It’s like a cafeteria where you start at the salad end of the service counter, choose what you want as you travel along to the desserts and then pay. But unlike your usual cafeteria the food at Api Cae is fresh, wholesome Italian fare. The selection isn’t huge, but that’s ok because the menu changes every day.

The name Api Cae is derived from Apicius, which has a long association with an excessive love of food, due to the habits of a certain Marcus Gavius Apicius. This man was doubtless rotund, and a Roman gourmet who indulged in refined luxury. But does Api Cae Gourmet do justice to its name? Well, aside from excellent Italian chefs with the kind of passion you can taste, there is one thing about Api Cae Gourmet that is special and demands to be shouted about. It’s the bread. And they’re so proud of it, they’re launching a Better Bread campaign. We asked Communications Director Damian Brandy to tell us what it’s all about:

‘Better Bread is a way for us to be able to champion our own determination to stick to quality,’ he said. ‘We make our bread from sourdough yeast. It’s a very slow acting yeast that takes days to rise. But the benefit from that is that it doesn’t give you the bloatedness you’d get from other breads. And it can last for weeks, even months. So it’s better for you, it tastes better, lasts longer, but just takes longer to make, so that’s why people don’t do it.’

To get a better idea of how this special sourdough yeast works we’re invited to the kitchen where we meet the bread and pizza chef, Giovanni Staiano. Hailing from the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, he comes from a family of bakers, chefs and mozzarella makers. Giovanni introduced us to a vat of sourdough yeast that had been worked on for three days. It smells sour like yogurt.

Now ‘work’ is the key word here. You can’t just leave this yeast to its own devices. You have to care for it, air it, feed it, mix it – this is high-maintenance stuff. And even when it’s all ready, the active ingredients are still alive.

The result is those rustic breads with natural irregularities that are heavy to hold but light on the stomach, and taste fantastic. Giovanni also demonstrates its long-life quality by cutting a slice from a roll that’s been sitting in the open on the kitchen shelf for three days already. It looks and tastes like it was baked the night before.

The Api Cae Better Bread campaign will be giving away thousands of loaves of bread all over the city. Expect to see them at schools, malls and local businesses. With your bread you’ll get an educational leaflet, with a very brief step-by-step instruction of how you can make your own better bread, using healthy, quality ingredients. And if you haven’t got the time to bake your own, you now know where you can get it ready made.
Api Cae Gourmet is open daily 9am-11pm, Khalidiya Tower A, Khalidiya (02 666 8909).

Review
We tried two varieties of salad, the insalata mista was largely cabbage, which was a nice change for this part of the world, and the rocket, parmesan and sun dried tomato salad rocked our socks. We bypassed the pasta station but deliberated before the pizzas rather longer than necessary over which slice to choose. The siren call of the mushroom pizza was the strongest, and we weren’t disappointed when we bit into it. The crust was springy but not doughy. The tomato sauce was the best we’ve tried in the city and the cheese topping was phenomenal. We topped all this with a few items from the pastry section. The classic cannoli was so good it should be illegal. The thick crème patisserie was delicately flavoured with orange zest, while the outer edges of the crust had been dipped in dark chocolate. How we were able to share it we don’t know, but our waistline was thankful even if our taste buds weren’t.

By Elest Ali
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

User reviews:

Posted by: Deborah on 01 Jun ' 12 at 17:25

I don't know what all the fuss is about. I have only eaten pizzas there and they were not very good. Even the iced coffee and so called natural drink was not very good either. I really think they are having themselves on if they think their pizzas can compare to ones in Italy. It is a shame as I was looking forward so much to having a authentic Italian place here.

Posted by: Deborah on 22 May ' 12 at 08:16

Been twice and had pizza both times but was disappointed. Although the ingredients are fresh, the pizzas were a bit bland and the crust too crispy for my taste. My husband likes calzone and ordered one but was not aware that he could have a one with other ingredients than just cheese. The calzone had absolutely no flavour at all. We also ordered a iced coffee which was surprisingly over sweet and the organic fizzy drink wasn't good either. I was so looking forward to this place as it had great reviews but will not be coming back.

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