There’s more to food in the capital’s malls than McDonald’s and KFC. Inside Abu Dhabi’s shopping centres you’ll find fine-dining outlets, What’s On Award winners and restaurants serving dishes created by celebrity chefs. Here’s our pick of the best

What’s On Awards winners

Outlets that have our seal of approval

01. Zuma

It’s been crowned Restaurant Of The Year three times in a row by the What’s On team and incredibly it’s attached to a mall – albeit the rather high-end Galleria on Al Maryah Island. With mains such as the classic miso black cod and roasted Boston lobster with shiso-ponzu butter, this is as far away from a food court burger as you can get.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Thur, noon to 3.30pm, Sat to Wed 7pm to midnight, Thur and Fri 7pm to 1am, Fri 12.30pm to 4pm (brunch). Tel: (02) 4015900. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island.

02. Dai Pai Dong

Dai Pai Dong is technically part of the Rosewood hotel, but is actually situated inside The Galleria. Taking its influences from Hong Kong’s street food scene, it walked away with our Best Chinese gong at the 2016 What’s On Awards. It’s Saturday brunch is always packed and we recommend you check out the moreish dim sum.
Rosewood, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 3pm, Sat to Wed 6pm to 11pm, Thur and Fri 6pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 8135552. Taxi: Rosewood.

03. Bu!

The pan-Latino dishes at Bu! impressed team What’s On so much in 2016 we named it Newcomer Of The Year. Check out its vast selection of ceviches but leave room for hearty mains such as the black Angus rib eye.
WTC Mall, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed noon to 2am, Thur and Fri noon to 3am. Tel: (02) 6668066. Taxi: WTC.

04. Tamba

We named Aditya Kumar Jha our Chef Of The Year in 2016 at the What’s On Awards and with good reason – his menu of street food-inspired Indian dishes is unique and often surprising (on it you’ll find lamb gyoza plus roasted duck). Its location in a mall hasn’t stopped Tamba becoming one of the capital’s most popular venues.
WTC Mall, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Wed noon until 1am, Thur to Sat noon until 2am. Tel: (02) 6728888. Taxi: WTC Mall.

05. Zaytinya

If you’re after Middle Eastern dishes that won’t break the bank, head to Zaytinya, winner of the Favourite Middle Eastern Restaurant category two years in a row at our annual awards. The mixed grills here are of a high standard and it’s family-friendly.
Al Seef Village Mall, Abu Dhabi, daily 11.30am to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 4474489. Taxi: Al Seef Village Mall, near Khalifa Park.

06. Biryani Pot

Great Indian food that puts many high-end outlets to shame, but at mall prices. Many wax lyrical about the quinoa biryani served here, but What’s On always orders its tandoori chicken tikka.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Sat to Wed 11am to 11pm, Thur and Fri 11am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6766555. Taxi: Galleria, Al Maryah Island.

07. Smoking Doll

Smoking Doll won the Favourite Thai Restaurant award in 2016 but confusingly, it’s a Thai restaurant that also knocks out Japanese dishes, including sushi. Its curries are what really stand out though – try the panang.
Boutik Mall, Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 11am to 11pm. Tel: (600) 560603. Taxi: Boutik Mall

Something different

Menus and décor that are a little out of the ordinary

08. Acai Express

The acai berry is one of those superfoods that experts reckon is full of antioxidants, can aid with recovery after exercise and can even help you lose weight. The small red and purple fruits look like a cross between a grape and blueberry and they’re served in milkshakes and smoothies at Express, but What’s On is a fan of their Special Meal menu – the berry is served like a sorbet in a big plastic cup with a variety of ingredients. We recommend Coconut Dreams – it comes with acai, condensed milk, milk powder, pineapple, coconut and mixed nuts.
Yas Mall, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed 10am to 11pm, Thur and Fri 10am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6423855. Taxi: Yas Mall.

09. Sushi Art

The Galleria’s classy Japanese restaurant adds a European twist to some dishes (thanks to some input from acclaimed French chef Joel Robuchon), the menu is huge, offering everything from ceviches to soups to maki rolls, and equally creative, and the sushi is fresh and colourful.
The Galleria, Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, Al Maryah Island, Sat to Wed 11am to 11pm, Thur and Fri 11am to midnight. Tel: (04) 4495702. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island.

10. Bikers Café

The décor here is worth a visit alone – the walls are lined with photos of people on motorbikes and bicycles (including celebrities) – and the menu is strong, particularly when it comes to breakfast options (pepperoni omelettes, anyone?). Service has been a little erratic on some of our visits but that’s a minor complaint – this is one of the city’s most unique mall offerings. It is a popular weekend haunt for expat and Emirati families.
Al Seef Village Mall, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur 7am to midnight, Fri and Sat 8am to midnight. Tel: (02) 4443942. Taxi: Al Seef Village Mall, near Khalifa Park.

New kids on the block 

Recent additions to the city’s a scene

11. Azkadenya

A new outlet that only opened in the capital last month, Azkadenya is a Middle Eastern restaurant that places a focus on fusion dishes – they sell a falafel pizza, for example. Its sister branch in Mall Of The Emirates is popular with our pals at What’s On Dubai.
Marina Mall, Breakwater, Abu Dhabi, 10am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6212788. Taxi: Marina Mall.

12. Genghis Grill

Another recent addition to the city, Genghis Grill opened back at the end of April and the concept is a simple one – you build your own meal by choosing from a section of ingredients (proteins, spices, veg and sauces). You can make soups and noodle dishes, but if like team What’s On your knowledge in the kitchen is a tad limited, there is also an extensive a la carte menu of Asian dishes available.
Al Wahda Mall, Al Wahda, Abu Dhabi, daily 11am to 10.45pm. Tel: (02) 5824449. Taxi: Al Wahda Mall.

Abu Dhabi classics

Old favourites always worth a repeat visit

13. Nolu’s Downtown

An upmarket Afghan-US café with unique dishes on the menu such as the Afghan mantoo dumplings (steamed beef with onions, coriander, tomatoes and garlic yoghurt).
The Galleria, Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily 9am to 11pm. Tel: (02) 6441516. Taxi: The Galleria. 

14. India Palace

Tasty, no-frills curries – this is all about standard Indian fare done well, such as samosa, bhajia, tandoori dishes such as murg tikka shole and biryanis.
Mushrif Mall, Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to midnight. Tel: (02) 4472420. Taxi: Mushrif Mall.

15. Lemongrass 

Lemongrass keeps things simple by offering decent quality Asian dishes at prices that won’t bust your bank account. Their pad Thai goong noodle dish is particularly good.
Mushrif Mall, Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to midnight. Tel: (02) 6500205. Taxi: Mushrif Mall. lemongrass

Celebrity eats

Visit a restaurant owned by the rich and famous

16. Café Diego

Diego is part owned by ex-footballer Diego Maradona and is a real curiosity – while the colourful décor will transport you to a backstreet in Buenos Aires (it feels like a sports bar, complete with TVs showing Maradona scoring goals throughout his career), the food is fine-dining in look and taste. You’ll find everything from soups to ceviche and huge steaks here.
Nation Galleria, Al Khubeirah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Wed 9.30am to 11pm, Thur to Sat 9.30am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6772344. Taxi: Nation Galleria.

17. Asha’s

An Indian outlet in Yas Mall, Asha’s is owned by legendary Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle. The star has recorded more than 12,000 songs for 850 films during her career, and the 83-year-old was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dubai International Film Festival back in 2014. Try the paneer kebabs.
Yas Mall, Yas Island, Sat to Wed noon to 11pm, Thur and Fri noon to midnight. Tel: (02) 4926680. Taxi: Yas Mall.

18. Famous Dave’s

You’d be forgiven for thinking Dave’s is just another boring old chain from the US, but the ribs and barbecued chicken in particular are of a high standard. What’s more, Famous Dave is also a bit of a personality – he’s been declared bankrupt twice, but also has friends in high places. Oprah Winfrey once gave big Dave an Angel Network Award for his work with at-risk Native American kids. He was also a torchbearer at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Utah.
Famous Dave’s, Al Zahiyah, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed 11am to 11pm, Thur and Fri 11am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6587863. Taxi: Abu Dhabi Mall.

19. The Yellow Chilli By Sanjeev Kapoor

The celebrity chef from India recently opened his second outlet in Abu Dhabi and you’ll find many of his signature dishes on the menu, including lalla mussa dal (black lentils) and sham savera (spinach koftas filled with creamy cottage cheese in tomato butter gravy).
Dalma Mall, Mussafah, Abu Dhabi, Sun to Thur 11am to 11pm, Fri and Sat 11am to midnight. Tel: (02) 6221115. Taxi: Dalma Mall.

20. Signature By Sanjeev Kapoor

Sanjeev Kapoor is no stranger to the UAE – as well as Yellow Chilli he has a restaurant in Dubai, plus a second, Signature, in the capital. Kapoor is a big deal in India and his TV show Khana Khazana has been broadcast in more than 120 countries to an estimated audience of 500 million. Signature does the classics well, such as butter chicken and tikka makhani.
Nation Galleria, Al Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 6664343. Taxi: Nation Galleria.

21. Nusr-Et

The Abu Dhabi outlet of this Turkish steakhouse at The Galleria is as much about the food as it is about trying to get a glimpse or tableside carving (and obligatory salt sprinkling) from Instagram sensation Salt Bae, who incredibly now has 7.5 million followers on the social media platform.
The Galleria, Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to midnight. Tel: (02) 6799949. Taxi: Galleria, Al Maryah Island.

Mighty fine dining

Posh grub a million miles away from a Big Mac

22. Bentley Bistro & Bar

French and European dishes are served here and the food is generally of a high standard, especially when it comes to classic dishes such as beef bourguignon and steak tartare. It’s an upscale venue and the prices reflect this – mains start at around Dhs160, rising to Dhs320,
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Wed noon to 1am, Thur and Fri noon to 2am. Tel: (02) 6262131. Taxi: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island.

23. Loca

An upmarket Mexican, Loca’s urban décor of grey walls with exposed brick and pipes is married with a huge menu of classic South American dishes. It has a guacamole section (try the crab) and all the usual suspects such as chimichangas and fajitas.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 2am. Tel: (02) 5823639. Taxi: The Galleria.

24. Coya

South American flavours from Peru reign at this award-winning chain (the Abu Dhabi branch only opened a couple of months ago). The ceviches here are out of this world and the mains, such as the spicy beef fillet, are also of a high quality. Slick service finishes off a high-end package.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, Mon to Sat 12.30pm to 11pm. Tel: (04) 3169600. Taxi: The Galleria.

25. Roberto’s

Another fine-dining outlet on Al Maryah Island, Roberto’s Italian food is all about traditional family recipes and the restaurant imports many of the ingredients it uses from Italy. Try the pan-fried breaded Canadian veal chop and the dover sole in lemon and butter sauce.
The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi, daily noon to 1am. Tel: (02) 6279009. Taxi: The Galleria on Al Maryah Island.

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