Best dishes in Abu Dhabi 2014
What’s On lists the best dishes in Abu Dhabi from some of the best restaurants in Abu Dhabi, including starters, desserts and breakfasts.
It’s been a vintage year for food in Abu Dhabi. Here are the dishes that will live long in the memory – and even longer in the taste buds
Roasted octopus and prawn salad
You’ll find a creative menu at this Italian, and one of the standout dishes is the polpo arrosto e gaberi e pomodori confit. In English? Roast octopus and Mazara red prawns with mandarin foam and tomato confit. All combined, it simply sends taste buds potty, thanks to the perfectly cooked, juicy, tender and delicately salted pieces of seafood.
Le Royal Méridien, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 3pm, 7pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 6742020. Taxi: Le Royal Méridien. leroyalmeridienabudhabi.com
Rock shrimp tempura
There’s no sharing with fellow dinners when this one appears. Served on a smattering of frisee lettuce, an absolute mound of crunchy fried tempura shrimp gets a dousing of creamy chilli sauce. No judgement here if you nix the chopsticks and dive in with a fork.
Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur noon to 3pm, 6pm to 3am, Fri and Sat noon to 3am. Tel: (02) 5581117. Taxi: Souk Qaryat Al Beri. soukqaryatalberi.com
Camille’s brother’s quail
It’s no surprise that What’s On’s Restaurant Of The Year in 2014 has made it on the list, but even we were surprised that our favourite dish just happened to be one of the starters. This soft piece of meat with spinach stuffing is served on a bed of mash with raisin juice and is hearty, yet not too filling. It’s an unconventional appetiser, which delivers surprising results – and that’s just what you’d expect from a multi-award winning restaurant like Bord Eau.
Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, daily 6.30pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 5098888. Taxi: Shangri-La Hotel. shangri-la.com
This restaurant in the Southern Sun has quickly made a name for itself thanks to its incredible steaks (and won a What’s On Award as well in October), but there’s more to the menu than cuts of cow. Make sure you try the seared scallops with a creamy, green pea juice and, chilli mango salsa.
Southern Sun Hotel, Al Zahiyah, Abu Dhabi, daily 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 8184888. Taxi: Southern Sun, Al Mina Street, Tourist Club. tsogosunhotels.com
We’re no strangers to the chicken variety of this dish, although we were admittedly a bit hesitant to try this version. But the chunks of lemon-marinated white fish sandwiched in Arabic bread was fantastic. Succulent and juicy, this wrap is a winner.
Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to midnight. Tel: (02) 4418244. Taxi: Eastern Mangroves Promenade. easternmangroves-promenade.ae
How can you make a simply portion of fried squid stand out from the crowd? Cook it delicately, cover it with basil salt and serve it with lemon rosemary dip. Market Kitchen keeps this version of a classic simple, but uses clever ingredients to make it one of the best versions you’re likely to try in the city.
Le Royal Méridien, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur noon to 4pm, 7pm to 11pm, Fri to Sat noon to 4pm, 7pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 6742020. Taxi: Le Royal Méridien. leroyalmeridienabudhabi.com
Goat’s cheese baklava
You won’t find many vegetarian dishes at this high-end, Eastern Mangroves Promenade steakhouse, which is an import from California. So it’s good news that this cheeky little number just happens to be one of the best on its menu. Layers of crisp, flaky pastry are covered with pistachios and truffles and, of course, creamy cheese. It’s salty and rich and very, very moreish.
Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Tue 12.30pm to 1am, Wed to Fri 12.30pm to 2am. Tel: (02) 6411500. Taxi: Eastern Mangroves Promenade. easternmangroves-promenade.ae
Frankie’s Italian Restaurant & Bar
This one we like to call a happy accident. Tired eyes resulted in a misreading of the menu and it was ordered by mistake, but we’ve reordered on every visit ever since. Wafer-thin slices of beetroot are presented with walnuts and goat’s cheese. Light, refreshing and moreish.
Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Khor Al Maqta, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 3pm, 7pm to 12.30am. Tel: (02) 6543333. Taxi: Fairmont. fairmont.com
Fribourg cheese fondue
Bread dipped in cheese: it might give you weird dreams and make you feel like your heart is beating faster than a drum ’n’ bass track, but it’s an essential dish for any foodie’s palate, as long as you find a restaurant serving a quality one. Café D’Alsace’s is particularly good and the Gruyere, Comete and Appenzeller selection of fromages all work together perfectly. There’s nothing more satisfying than stabbing some bread with a fork, submerging it in a gooey, bubbling pot of bubbling cheese and waiting for the food coma to take hold.
Yas Marina, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 8am to 11pm. Tel: (050) 8115414. Taxi: Yas Marina. cafedalsace.ae
Miso black cod
Sitting at a traditional Japanese style table and digging into each shimmering sliver of cod was a revelation and addictive. Perfectly cooked, this slightly sweet and slightly savoury dish was both nuanced and impressive on our visit.
Hilton Abu Dhabi, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 3pm, 6.30pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6814151. Taxi: Hilton Corniche. hilton.com
Chilean sea bass
Caramel Restaurant And Lounge
This classy outlet based at The Collection on Saadiyat has a clever, inventive menu, but our favourite dish from it in 2014 was the sea bass. Infused with lemon and herbs, the fish is beautifully cooked and comes served on an equally stellar rock shrimp risotto.
The Collection, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed, 7pm to 2am, Thur and Fri 7pm to 3am. Tel: (02) 6783344. Taxi: The Collection, Saadiyat. caramelgroup.com
Australian wagyu beef tenderloin
This steak is pretty much as close to perfection as you can get. Juicy and incredibly flavourful without faffing about with any sauces on the side, all you need is a fork and knife. If melt-in-the-mouth meat is what you want, then head here.
Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta’a, Abu Dhabi, daily 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 8188888. Taxi: Ritz-Carlton. ritzcarlton.com
Abd El Wahab
You’ll find lots of tasty mezze dishes at this Levant eatery on The Collection, but the sausages in particular tickled our tonsils in 2014. The sweet pomegranate and molasses sauce might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s all in the spices. It’s sweet, but still feels like a hearty, savoury dish.
The Collection, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 11.30am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6772238. Taxi: The Collection, Saadiyat. thecollection.ae
Steamed sea bass
Shortlisted at the What’s On Award in 2014, Pachaylen is one of the most authentic Thai restaurants in the capital. Our menu highlight this year was the steamed sea bass, a light, zesty dish with lemongrass, lime and chilli garlic dressing.
Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, daily 12.30pm to 3.30pm, 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6561181. Taxi: Eastern Mangroves. abu-dhabi.anantara.com
Tandoori lamb chop
Modern Indian cuisine is presented in a sophisticated, surprising and absolutely delicious way at this restaurant in the Rosewood Abu Dhabi. Plenty of lime, chilli and coriander make this spice-rubbed lamb chop one you should definityl savour with your fingers.
Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Fri 6.30pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 8135550. Taxi: Rosewood, Al Maryah Island. rosewoodhotels.com
Torchon of foie gras
As if foie gras wasn’t decadent enough, the revolving restaurant in Le Royal Méridien turns the fancy factor up to 11 by adding caramel condensed milk, plus jam and pineapple doughnuts to scoop it all up with. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
Le Royal Méridien, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur noon to 4pm, 7pm to 11pm, Fri to Sat noon to 4pm, 7pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 6742020 Taxi: Le Royal Méridien. leroyalmeridienabudhabi.com
Lamb shank pie
Bentley Bistro & Bar
Is it a pie? Is it a shank? At Bentley, it’s both. The lamb shank pie comes with a bone protruding from the pastry, but you know the rule: meat on the bone usually is more flavoursome, and this pie is a winner packed full of succulent strips of meat and a thick gravy, plus a divine serving of fries served on the side.
Bentley Bistro & Bar, The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 9am to 2am. Tel: (02) 6262131. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island. bentleybistro.com
Pad Thai goong
Silk & Spice
This is one spot in the city where you’re guaranteed authentic Thai cuisine. The noodles here are just what you’d expect – flavourful, spicy, and topped with juicy tiger prawns. A squeeze of lime and a topping of crushed peanuts make for heaven on a plate.
Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, Corniche East Road, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur noon to 3.30pm, daily 6pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 8137777. Taxi: Sofitel Abu Dhabi. sofitel.com
A biryani that’s actually good for you? We’re not sure just how healthy it is, but this Galleria mall outlet’s take on the Indian classic is excellent. Served in a clay pot with a bread lid, this vegetarian version is huge, but so light you won’t feel bilious after scoffing the whole portion. Why is it so special? The quinoa soaks up the flavour of the sauce, meaning every mouthful is chock full of flavour.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed 10am to 11pm, Thur and Fri 10am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6766555. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island. biryanipot.ae
Abu Dhabi’s first Greek restaurant is serving home-cooked style food that doesn’t scrimp on flavour, especially the moussaka. A portion so big and chunky you could use it as a doorstop, you’ll find an abundance of nicely cooked aubergine among the mince, and a layer of béchamel on top that enhances the flavours without overwhelming them.
Le Méridien, Al Zahiyah, Abu Dhabi, daily 1pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 6446666. Taxi: Le Méridien. acropolisabudhabi.com
Grilled harissa chicken
Leopold’s Of London
The simple dishes are often the best. A perfectly grilled chicken wing on a bed of cous cous with pomegranates might not sound out of the ordinary, but it’s beautifully spiced and the chicken is juicy. We’ve heard rumours they are thinking of taking it off the menu. Expect to see us outside protesting with pitchforks if that’s the case.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 7am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6777271. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island. leopoldsoflondon.com
Stewed organic salmon
The stand-out dish at this restaurant in Abu Dhabi’s arty district of Manarat Al Saadiyat. The fish is soft, juicy and flaky, and it’s served with perfectly roasted vegetables, asparagus, a chunky tomato sauce and cous cous, again stuffed full of pomegranates.
Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, daily, 10am to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6575888. Taxi: Manarat Al Saadiyat
How many mixed grills have you tried in this city that are either devoid of taste or are drier than the deserts of the Western Region? Then we’re chuffed to tell you that thankfully, one of the best we’ve ever tried is right here in the capital, and it’s in a mall, as opposed to a posh hotel. Expect chicken and beef so tender the animals must have lived on a bed of feathers. Does it come with a big portion of chips? Of course it does.
World Trade Centre Mall, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed 10am to 10pm, Thur and Fri 10am to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6351609. Taxi: World Trade Centre Mall
Orichette, in case you didn’t know, is pasta shaped like cowboy hats. And at this Yas Island Italian eatery, it’s combined with garlic oil, broccoli and anchovy to deliver a complex punch.
Radisson Blu Hotel, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 3pm, 6pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 6562000. Taxi: Radisson Blu, Yas Island. radissonblu.com
Comte and courgette ravioli
This delicate dish is made up of pasta-like ribbons of finely cut courgette. Cut into one with your fork and an oozing of light, airy veg cream comes out. Gorgeous to look at and to eat.
Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Mon to Sat 7pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 8135550. Taxi: Rosewood, Al Maryah Island. rosewoodhotels.com
Smoked fish curry
This one is just as much about its unique presentation as it is about the flavours. Served in a huge glass jar full of smoke, this fish curry comes with steam veg and cod with a delightful banana sauce on the side.
Boutik Mall, Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 11am to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6778849. Taxi: Boutik Mall (Sun and Sky Towers), Al Reem Island. smokingdoll.com
Flourless chocolate cake
Leopold’s Of London
To satisfy your chocolate fix, a wedge of this dreamy, velvety and somehow flourless cake is a must. Decidedly dense and rich, this dessert is served with a dollop of whipped cream and a gooey caramel sauce for an utterly indulgent treat.
Boutik Mall, Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 7am to midnight. Tel: (600) 560602. Taxi: Boutik Mall. leopoldsoflondon.com
Vanilla crème brûlée
This crème brûlée is as dreamy as it gets. Encased with a thin and crispy sugar crust, a spoonful of this creamy custard is delightful on its own but topped with strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar, and you have magic encapsulated.
St Regis Abu Dhabi, Al Khalidiyah, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 3pm, 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6944444. Taxi: St Regis Corniche. stregisabudhabi.com
Almaz By Momo
You can barely move in the UAE for macaroons. They’re on almost every menu and at every brunch. So it takes a special one to make our list and they don’t get much better than the one at Almaz. Served with raspberry sorbet and marmalade, the flavours are sharp yet creamy at the same time.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 10am to 1am. Tel: (02) 6767702. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island. thegalleria.ae
Sea salt caramel cookie
This cookie can do no wrong. Filled with thick chunks of chocolate, ooey, gooey caramel and topped with thick flakes of sea salt, it has all your bases covered. And it has just the right amount of chewiness to hold itself up to the obligatory dunk in milk.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Thur 7am to 10pm, Fri 10am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6749380. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island. magnoliabakery.com
Take three colossal scoops of frozen custard and then stir in some toppings (we recommend M&Ms and Snickers pieces) and what do you get? A mighty fine tasting shake. This pudding is so filling it might be an idea to skip the starters. And the mains, come to think of it.
Al Muroor, Abu Dhabi, daily 11am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6411161. Taxi: Al Muroor, just off Delma Street. hwy55burgers.com
Spaghetti ice cream
A dessert should be about more than just the flavours: it should look the part as well. And you won’t find one as grand looking as the majestic spaghetti ice cream served at the Ritz-Carlton. Vanilla ice cream shaped like pasta is covered with strawberry sauce and almond biscuits to create a faux Bolognese topping.
The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta’a, Abu Dhabi, daily 1pm to 1am. Tel: (02) 8188888. Taxi: Ritz Carlton Grand Canal. ritzcarlton.com
Caramelised white chocolate saikoro
This swanky Japanese eatery walked away with the Best Newcomer gong at the 2014 What’s On Awards and with good reason. Not only are the starters and mains served here a bit special, the puds are some of the best in the city as well. This deliciously sweet white chocolate comes with a yin and yang dark chocolate crumble and a subtle whisky jelly. Heaven on a plate.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur noon to 3pm, 7pm to 1am, Fri to Sat noon to 3pm, 7pm to 2am. Tel: (02) 4015900. Taxi: The Galleria. zumarestaurant.com
Fair play to Sacci. The Italian restaurant has only been open two months, but has quickly grabbed our attention by serving a diverse menu – and in particular their Amedei cioccolato chocolate fondant. The Amedei chocolate is from Tuscany, and it’s combined with vanilla gelato and crema Inglese for a devilishly good end to an evening.
The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Sas Al Nakhl, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 3pm, 7pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 6169999. Taxi: Westin. Wetinabudhabi-golfresort.com.
Jones The Grocer
The perfect reason to skip breakfast, Jones’ coconut porridge will keep you full until lunchtime. Coconut milk is mixed into a pile of white oats and a topping of butterscotch compote with peanut and banana praline finishing off proceedings.
Various locations including Gardens Plaza, Al Raha Gardens, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, daily 8.30am to 10pm. Tel: (02) 5574882. Taxi: Al Raha Gardens. jonesthegrocer.com
For fans of a traditional fry up, you won’t find one more satisfying than the one served at whEAT, the artisan café in Le Royal Méridien. Simply called Breakfast, this classic mix of veal bacon and sausages, Portobello mushrooms, spinach, eggs and cherry tomatoes is filling and, most importantly, not at all greasy. We recommend eating it alfresco and watching the Corniche traffic go by.
Le Royal Méridien, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, daily 8am to 10pm. Tel: (02) 6950450. Taxi: Le Royal Méridien. wheatabudhabi.com
You live in the Middle East, so you should try a traditional Arabic breakfast while you’re here. The shakshouka at this What’s On award-winning café is immense and consists of poached eggs, tomatoes, chilli and onions. Mop it all up with some soft saj bread.
Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi, daily 8.30am to 12.30am. Tel: (02) 6439699. Taxi: Opposite Mushrif Children’s Park. facebook.com/CafeArabia
Sea salt hot chocolate
What’s so special about a hot chocolate? This one looks a little ordinary when served, although the flavours are anything but. Rich and creamy, the salt gives it an almost malty, savoury taste. It’s like drinking a warming mug of caramel. Read our full review of this new Emirati-owned café on page **.
Al Marasy Apartments, Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur noon to 11pm, Fri and Sat 10am to 11pm. Tel: (02) 4416100. Taxi: Al Marasy Apartments, Al Bateen Marina. no57.co
Tom Yam Yen
Some like it hot when it comes to mocktails and this offering will leave you sweating. Made up of kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli, it goes down easy but leaves a smoky, lovely aftertaste.
Mushrif Mall, Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur 11am to 10.30pm, Fri and Sat 11am to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 6500205. Taxi: Mushrif Mall. lemongrassrestaurants.com
Chocolate Diavolo tea
Leopold’s Of London
A simple cup of tea becomes a show when a glass teapot, complete with candle burner and stand, sand timer and filter, gets set at the table. The notes of cocoa and chilli certainly get intense, but in a good way.
Boutik Mall, Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 7am to midnight. Tel: (600) 560602. Taxi: Boutik Mall. leopoldsoflondon.com