Here are the 20 best things we’ve eaten in Abu Dhabi so far in 2016
01. The Josper Grilled Octopus at 55&5th, The Grill
Octopus? At a steakhouse? The new menu at this Saadiyat establishment surprised us in more ways than one, but the dish that really caught our eye is this stunningly presented bit of seafood. The marinated tentacle is cooked perfectly, tender to touch, and paired with green peas, marinated cherry tomatoes and a creamy chickpea purée.
St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 4988008. Taxi: St Regis Saadiyat. 55and5thabudhabi.com
02. Beetroot and feta salad at Steroid Café
Steroid Café might be for gym bunnies, but there’s plenty of healthy dishes for everyone to sample here, and this salad is one of our favourites of the year, thanks to simple ingredients combined well. Marinated beetroot and feta are a match made in heaven along with avocado, sunflower seeds, radish, asparagus and a subtle lemon dressing. Put simply, it is well and truly delicious.
Al Maqtaa, Abu Dhabi, daily 10am to 10pm. Tel: (02) 5557146. Taxi: near Fairmont Bab Al Bahr and BMW showroom, Between The Bridges. facebook.com/steroidcafe
03. Lamb dumplings at Royal Biryani
This Indian restaurant at Al Seef Village Mall only opened in the middle of 2016, and the lamb dumplings impressed on our first visit – the outlet’s interpretation on the cuisine’s classic samosas are pretty special, and are filled with minced meat that’s spiced with dried nuts, coriander and green chilies, making for a perfect combination of textures and flavours. We’re not sure we’ll order an ordinary samosa ever again.
Al Seef Village Mall, Khalifa Park, Abu Dhabi, daily 9am to midnight. Tel: (02) 4488556. Taxi: Al Seef Village Mall, near Khalifa Park. royalbiryani.ae
04. The Main Affair at Café Mandarina
Mandarina serves a varied international and Middle Eastern menu, and the highlight is the appropriately named The Main Affair. It’s a dish you’ll have to order one day in advance but it’s worth planning ahead. Served on a massive wooden platter, a braised leg of lamb is slow-cooked till tender and generously spiced with cumin, cinnamon and ginger. It’s so big it’ll feed four people.
Mandara Equestrian Club, Al Shahama, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Thur 10am to 11pm, Fri 2pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 5645770. Taxi: Mandara Equestrian Club, near Emirates Park Zoo. cafemandarina.com
05. Chupe Pot at Bu!
The pan-Latino outlet in WTC was crowned our Newcomer Of The Year at the What’s On Awards, and its Chupe Pot dish is almost worthy of an award of its own. It’s a delicate and creamy mixed seafood stew topped with a Parmesan crust – comfort food at its best.
World Trade Center Mall, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur noon until 3pm, 6pm to 2am, Fri and Sat noon until 3am. Tel: (02) 3048179. Taxi: World Trade Center Mall. butrinity.com
06. The burger at Art House Café
The homemade patty (with beef sourced locally) at Art House is served cooked medium with Emmental cheese, coleslaw, tomatoes and onion chutney on a simple white bun – it’s one of the best we’ve had all year.
Etihad Modern Art Gallery, Al Bateen, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Thur 9am to 11.30pm, Fri noon to midnight. Tel: (02) 4182466. Taxi: opposite Al Bateen Mall. etihadmodernart.com
07. The hot lobster roll at The Shack
Head to the Embassies District for a simple dish that has had team What’s On going back for repeat visits. The hot lobster roll won’t win any healthy eating awards, thanks to a combo of grilled seafood in a lemon butter sauce and mayo served in a sweet bread roll, but this one is all about the rich, decadent flavours.
Guardian Towers, Embassies District, Abu Dhabi, daily 11am to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 4491114. Taxi: near Shakespeare And Co on Muroor Street. facebook.com/shackseafoodrestaurant
08. Slow-roasted lamb burger at Al Gusto
You’ll have to phone ahead to find out when this one is available, as it’s from the specials menu. The lamb is served on a French brioche bun with a trio of condiments including guacamole, homemade pickles and caramelised onions. Cooked overnight, the meat falls apart.
Avenue At Etihad Towers, Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Thur 8am to 10pm, Fri 4pm to 10pm. Tel: (02) 6666444. Taxi: Etihad Towers. algustoitaliano.com
09. Veal medallions at Vasco’s
Vasco’s has a new Scottish chef, John McCallum – and he’s already had a positive effect on the dishes. His brief was to bring some sophistication to the menu and it’s apparent in the Dutch milk-fed veal medallions. They’re tender, full of flavour and served with truffle potato mousseline.
Hilton Abu Dhabi, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi, daily noon until 3.30pm, 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6811900. Taxi: opposite Hilton Corniche. hilton.com
10. Risotto Ai Funghi Porcini at Saluti
If you’re after Italian flavours, be sure to order the mushroom risotto at the Sofitel’s new Italian. Chock-full of porcini and button mushrooms, the risotto is layered with earthy flavours and is extremely indulgent.
Sofitel Abu Dhabi, Corniche East Road, Abu Dhabi, daily noon until midnight. Tel: (02) 8137888. Taxi: Sofitel Corniche.
11. Palak paneer at Punjab Grill
For a change, there is no cream or cashews in this classic mix of cheese and spinach (even though the texture is still creamy) and it’s all the better for it. The flavours are rich, warm and moreish and it’s the best paneer we’ve ever tried anywhere, not just in the UAE. It’s also a great main option for vegetarians.
Venetian Village, Al Maqtaa, Abu Dhabi, daily 12.30pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 4087201. Taxi: Venetian Village, by Ritz-Carlton. foodquest.ae
12. The miso black cod at Zuma
We crowned this Japanese our Restaurant Of The Year, for the second time in a row last month, and one of the reasons is its consistency – and its miso marinated black cod wrapped in a hoba leaf is a perfect example. Fluffy meat works magnificently with the slightly sticky, sweet miso marinade.
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
13. Kale salad at Basiligo
Once in a while, team What’s On likes to order a fancy lunch to be delivered to our office, but we’re also keen for it to be healthy. Step forward Basiligo, with its ever-changing menu of healthy dishes. Our favourite? The ludicrously tasty kale salad with quinoa, pistachios and pomegranate seeds.
Mussafah, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Thur 10am to 10pm, Dhs25 to Dhs70. Tel: (02) 5530049. basiligo.ae
14. Steamed hammour at Dai Pai Dong
Hammour is a fish that can cause controversy on a menu – after all, it’s often overfished, meaning we at What’s On think you should only have it once or twice a year, as a treat. But make sure you have your treat at the Rosewood’s What’s On Award- winning Chinese restaurant. The whole steamed hammour in ginger, spring onion and soya sauce looks the part and tastes spectacular as well.
Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed noon until 11pm, Thur and Fri noon until midnight. Tel: (02) 8135552. Taxi: Rosewood, Al Maryah Island. rosewoodhotels.com
15. Slow-cooked salmon at Market Kitchen
Our final main dish comes from this Le Royal Méridien outlet’s Thursday night brunch menu. Market Kitchen’s slow-cooked salmon with snap peas sits on a bed of creamy, rich, salty mashed spuds and truffle vinaigrette. The flavours are tasty but not overwhelming and the fish is soft and cooked
Le Royal Méridien, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Thur 8.30pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6950300. Taxi: Le Royal Méridien. leroyalmeridienabudhabi.com
16. NYC Cheesecake at JW Steakhouse
You’d be a fool not to save some space for this iconic pud served at the city’s newest meat-loving eatery. Using the same recipe from their Grosvenor House location in London, it has a perfect crust-to-cream ratio. It’s so popular that the recipe has been shared online.
Marriott Hotel Downtown, Al Wahda, Abu Dhabi, daily 6pm to 1am. Tel: (02) 3047777. Taxi: Marriott Downtown, near Al Wahda Mall. marriott.com
17. The Ciocco Colato at Roberto’s
The showstopper at this recently opened Italian on Al Maryah Island consists of 72 per cent chocolate foam served with hazelnut ice cream. The foam is more akin to the sauce you find in a chocolate fondant and is sensational with the nutty ice cream.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily noon until 1am. Tel: (02) 6279009. Taxi: The Galleria on Al Maryah Island. robertos.ae
18. La Bombonera cake at Café Diego
This cleverly designed chocolate brownie at Diego Maradona’s joint looks like a football pitch corner flag and is a cascade of colours and flavours, including crushed chocolate biscuits, a layer of nuts and another of ganache. On the side you’ll find yoghurt caviar, meringue in the colours of the Boca team kit (he used to play for them) and vanilla ice cream. It’s a clever dish that could feed four.
Nation Galleria, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi, daily 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6772344. Taxi: Nation Galleria. allied-brothers.com
19. The Break-Up at Tamba
This hip, What’s On Award-winning Indian restaurant in the World Trade Center has several curiously named desserts, but the best has to be The Break-Up. It’s a decadent and rich dark chocolate mousse ball with peanut semifreddo, salted caramel and chocolate sauce, which is cracked open by the waiter when served. It’s probably our favourite pud of 2016 and the one we order every time we visit.
World Trade Center Mall, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Wed noon until 1am, Thur to Sat noon until 2am. Tel: (02) 6728888. Taxi: World Trade Center Mall
20. The OMG Julie’s at Julie’s
The only breakfast dish to make our list and it’s an indulgent one, to say the least. The OMG Julie is two doorstop-thick slices of French toast served with roasted papaya, pineapple and mango and caramel sauce. Great for sharing, it isn’t as overpowering as it sounds and the roasted fruit are a particular highlight.
Beside Adnoc Petrol Station, near NBAD, Al Khalidiyah, Abu Dhabi, daily 24-hours. Tel: (02) 3048047. Taxi: Al Khalidyah Adnoc, just down from Family Park and Corniche.