The steak are high…

The number of quality Abu Dhabi steakhouses had been on the decline until recently, and because a comeback story amid that trend is a ‘rare’ find indeed, it truly heartens us when we get to experience one.

With its 63rd floor views across the city and hazy Corniche blues; low lighting; and gout-teasingly top-end wine and beef collection all set to a vintage jazz and swing soundtrack — Ray’s Grill has long been one of the front runners in the great title race for the capital’s favourite steakhouse.

And now, after a brief steak-ation, it’s back — relaunched, refreshed and facing some fierce new competition in this high steaks ‘game of T-bones.’

Currently open for evening dining only, we’ve plonked ourselves into one of the panoramic aperitif suites. These semi-private lounges are set up as glass-fronted portals to a romantic overlook of a city painted in a pointillist candle glow. A smokey negroni sets the tone and then we’re off to another window table on the restaurant floor.

Ray of light

In terms of layout and look, it’s a close cousin to Ray’s Bar on the floor below. Whoever Ray is, he clearly has an aesthetic he enjoys and he’s stuck with it, and why not? The lofty Manhattan mood fits both venues — though this level features a bit more timber and stone, softer lighting and a series of display cases teasing vintage sips and marbly cuts.

We’ve ordered Angus beef tartare (Dhs95) to start — the meaty melange is prepared tableside, with the added perk of being able to make bespoke your haché composition. Easy on the Dijon? Skip the shallots? You’re able to tinker with the recipe and tailor it to your own taste (although we’d advise against eschewing all condiments, it just looks a bit ‘true crimey’). It’s worth noting that the raw tenderloin component of Ray’s tartare enjoys a rougher cut than traditional European blends, which we’d argue adds an exciting, enjoyable new dimension to the dish. It’s served with melba toast and amounts to a very fine mouthful indeed.

When in Rome

Doubling down on the steak, our main course comes from the restaurant’s prime cuts collection — a USDA 8oz tenderloin, seared to a tidy medium rare on the kitchen’s charcoal chargrill (Dsh205). As an act of open rebellion, we’ve opted for chimichurri sauce on the side — along with chips and creamy spinach (Dhs30 each).

The steak is of undeniably strong stock and has been prepared to within a whispered breath of perfection. There’s goldilocks charring (not too much, or too little) on this big buttery well-seasoned fillet of beef, and the chimichurri salsa adds a subtle Latin lilt to the affair. The chips are bold and crispy, triple fried as they are in flavourful beef dripping.

We’re about halfway through these plates and musing on where exactly the restuarant sits in the Abu Dhabi steakhouse hierarchy.

Verdict: It’s an achingly difficult task, certainly to choose between the top few, and not a decision that should be based upon one seating alone — but it suffices to say, Ray’s Grill is up there amongst the best.

Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi Corniche, Mon to Sat (closed Sun) 6.30pm to 11pm. @conradetihadtowers

Images: Provided