Upon our arrival to Aioli, we were greeted by one of the many unique art pieces that punctuate the interior of this “Mediterranean- inspired” restaurant. It is colony of diver figurines mounted onto the wall, each with their own respective shadow hovering behind. This piece sparked a whim of conversation, which set the mood for an evening that was nothing short of relaxed and delicious.
Perched above Haagen-Dazs and Mario’s in Elerslie Plaza is Aioli, self-described as a “European-fusion restaurant…featuring Italian, French and Spanish dishes handcrafted by Chef John Michael Aboud.” Within the past year or so, we were introduced to Aioli Marketplace, which as now become a staple, and arguably the catalyst in the “gourmet to-go” boom taking place in Trinidad. However, the “revamp” of Aioli Marketplace’s older sibling, Aioli, allows us to see that technical skill, creativity and hospitality of the Aioli team with fresh eyes.
The cocktail menu offers over fifteen options that include a range of base spirits, from rum to scotch to sake. I thoroughly enjoyed my Rum Shaker cocktail, which was a harmonious play on a sour cocktail and included dark rum, Meyer lemon and triple sec (yum).
As many other restaurants have chosen to limit their menus with fewer options, Aioli has opted to take the opposite approach. This reintroduction of Aioli has now led to quite a large offering, which includes a Pizzette section for pizzas and a Pasta & Risotto section on the menu. There are new, playful fusion items as well, such as Duck Sushi and Deep Fried Peking Duck Burrito on the Starters list.
To start, we were treated with the Chef’s French Onion Soup topped with Pastry Au Gratin. It’s appearance provided that “wow-factor” and the delicious cheesy pasty crust served for dipping into the sweet-savoury broth. Other standout starters include the Chef’s Escargot served with bacon and cognac butter and the Lobster Bites paired with the best aioli I have ever had.
The familiar sounds of The Beatles and Elton John whispered in the background as we enjoyed our main course. Every ingredient felt intentional and well handled. The Seared Chilean Sea Bass that I enjoyed was expertly cooked, with a fabulous crust on top while the interior of the fish remained tender and flaky. I was able to snag a taste of the Seared Beef Steak and the Braised Short Rib as well, which were both cooked skillfully, maintaining maximum flavor and juiciness.
As I mentioned before, the restaurant’s interior is glittered with conversation starting art pieces and furniture, lending to a genuinely relevant, modern and overall chic ambience. The space begs to be photographed and bragged about on social media, with many “Instagrammable” nooks and focal points within the area. In the wine display area upstairs, you see many notable cookbooks displayed, perhaps giving the guests a delightful peek into Chef John Michael’s inspiration.
The night’s finale included perfectly pulled espresso shots, alongside the Tiramisu and Basil Panna Cotta with Strawberries. The desserts reflected the same traits of the entire meal, thoughtful and well balanced.
The prices at Aioli do lean toward the more expensive side. However, this is chef-driven restaurant and the price points, I believe, are justified by the quality of ingredients, the attention to detail and warm service provided while dining at Aioli.
Many thanks to Chef John Michael Aboud and the entire Aioli Team for having us in! Special thanks to our server, Zion, who was entirely professional yet warm and personable. For more information check out Aioli on Facebook at facebook.com/aiolitt or on Instagram at aiolitrinidad.