A gastronomic journey if we’ve ever seen one…

The UAE summer is here in all its fury, and for those that aren’t flying off to cooler destinations, What’s On is bringing the world to you on a silver platter. Dine around the globe with signature dishes from Abu Dhabi’s finest, all for under Dhs50 each.


Restaurant: José by Pizzaro

José by Pizzaro

Dish: Croquetas de pollo rustido y allioli de ajo asado

Price: Dhs45

A regional first from culinary superstar José Pizzaro, this bijoux tapas bar and restaurant is passionate about showcasing a somewhat underrepresented cuisine in the capital, Spanish. With just 46 seats, it’s an intimate space, but packed with personality thanks to monochrome family photos and clashing prints. Dishes are tapas-style sharing plates, which is reflected in the impressive pricing, so there are several dishes on this menu that firmly sit under the Dhs50 mark. Our pick are the perfect parcels of piping hot chicken croquettes, served alongside a creamy roasted garlic aioli they simply must be dunked in.

Jose by Pizzaro, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, Corniche, Tues to Sun 5pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (0)2 811 5666. @josebypizzaro


Restaurant: Din Tai Fung

Din Tai Fung

Dish: Kung pao chicken

Price: Dhs44

This one is a must-visit spot for dim-sum lovers, and Chinese food enthusiasts in general. There are branches across the UAE, but you’ll want to arrive early (and hungry) to The Galleria on Al Maryah to get your fix in Abu Dhabi. The menu is filled with plenty of budget options, including steamed soup dumplings and lip-smacking wontons. Where this restaurant really impresses for those that are budget conscious, is with its trio of main dishes all under Dhs50. Among them, the kung pao chicken is a great place to start. With its origins in the southwestern Sichuan region, each bite of tender chicken is coated in spicy, peanut-infused stir fry.

Din Tai Fung, The Galleria, Abu Dhabi, 11am to 10.30pm daily. Tel: (0)2 446 7273. @dintaifungae


Restaurant: Zeera by Buddha Bar


Dish: Watermelon palak patta chaat

Price: Dhs50

A staple on the Yas Bay dining scene, Zeera by Buddha Bar is one of three excellent restaurants that make up Trilogy by Buddha Bar. It’s a modern interpretation of Indian dining, both in terms of style and cuisine, and pairs a soundtrack of exceptional flavours with wonderful Pier 71 views. In a restaurant adorned in regal shades of gold and ruby, guests dine on a modern Indian menu that consistently hits the high notes. Its setting and upscale offering mean you won’t find much in the Dhs50 and below bracket, but several flavourful chaats fit the bill. Order the watermelon palak patta chaat for a flavour explosion of sweet and spice salad, crispy spinach and fresh watermelon.

Zeera by Buddha Bar, Pier71, Yas Bay Waterfront, Yas Island, daily 1pm to 2am. Tel: (0)50 601 1193. thetrilogybybuddhabar.com


Restaurant: Otoro


Dish: Chicken wing kushiyaki

Price: Dhs42

While we are specifically enthusiastic about the kushiyaki at Otoro, this spot is a real saver’s delight, serving up wallet-friendly dishes without the need to compromise on quality. There’s no messing about as you kick your evening off with a sushi selection that boasts a total of 15 nigiri and maki rolls, including three salmon-centred bites under Dhs50. If you plan to arrive with a bigger appetite, however, Indomie (Dhs42), is a veal chorizo main course that will satiate your desire for Japanese flavours without testing the depths of your pocket. And to round things off, go for the green tea tiramisu (Dhs48) with azuki beans. With its exceptional plates and excellent service, we’re sure you will be saying ‘Itadakimasu’ before you can reach for your chopsticks.

Otoro, Al Maqta’ St, Rabdan, Al Qana, 12pm to 11pm daily Tel: (0)2 886 9995. @otoro.ad


Restaurant: Mercury Cafeteria

Dish: Uzbek plov with salad

Price: Dhs38

Rice, meats and veggies simmer in this quintessential Uzbek delight. You know a restaurant needs to be on your radar when it’s frequented by those that know the food, and regulars of the no-frills Mercury can attest to it being a hidden gem on the Eastern European dining scene. The restaurant has a cute, cozy interior with hues of peach, pink and white, making it feel welcoming and authentic. On the menu, expect an impressive variety of salads, traditional soups like shorva, okroshka and mastava, and even elaborate mains like lagman and rolled kebabs that are well under our Dhs50 ceiling. For authentic Uzbek flavours, order the Uzbek plov with salad. Often considered Uzbekistan’s national dish, this dish is prepared with long-grain rice, lamb chunks and veggies in a single pot and is a well-known feature at Uzbek celebrations.

Mercury Cafeteria, beside Russian Embassy, Al Danah, Abu Dhabi. 9.30am to 11.30pm daily. Tel: (0)2 676 7834. @uzmercury.rest


Restaurant: Coya


Dish: Wild mushroom ceviche

Price: Dhs50

Restaurants in Abu Dhabi don’t come much swankier than Coya, but even at this elegant Peruvian eatery at Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, we’ve managed to find a dish that will fit in the Dhs50 budget. An internationally renowned restaurant inspired by vibrant Latin American culture, the focus is on serving up memorable and inventive flavours that caters to the senses beyond just taste. You can enjoy a famed Peruvian appetiser, the wild mushroom ceviche: a medley of crispy enoki mushrooms, shallots and jumbo corn – as well as the portobello mushroom skewers and the cucumber and apple salad – for under Dhs50 and still get an unforgettable taste of Peru. Just without the hassle of hopping on a transatlantic flight.

Coya, Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, Mon to Thurs 12pm to 4.30pm and 6.30pm to 1am Fri and Sat 12pm to 4.30pm and6.30pm to 2am, Sun 12pm to 12am. Tel: (0)2 306 7000. coyarestaurant.com


Restaurant: Stouff Beirut

Stouff Beirut

Dish: Beetroot moutabbal

Price: Dhs32

Stouff Beirut, a Lebanese- Mediterranean open-fire kitchen on Level 4 of the WTC Mall, is all business when it comes to serving authentic Lebanese food, a palate this region is oh-so-familiar with. Stouff Beirut puts out an inspired selection of dishes that extend from Lebanon to the Mediterranean, and there’s a strong focus on charcoal-fired dishes that are cooked right in front of you in the expansive kitchen. The setting is just as authentic, with bright colours, vibrant tiles and verdant plants creating an inviting setting. One dish you won’t want to miss is their smoked eggplant moutabbal with pureed beetroot, a superfood in its own right. With a generous blend of yoghurt and tahini, this is the ideal summer delight for you and your crew.

Stouff Beirut, World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi, Sat to Tues 12pm to 12:30am, Thurs and Fri 12pm to 1am. Tel: (0)50 774 5834. stouffbeirut.com


Restaurant: West to West Kitchen

West to West Kitchen

Dish: Curry goat wrap

Price: Dhs42

A cuisine that is enjoyed in many regions of the world, and that’s gained popularity with classics like
jerk chicken and sweet plantain, we know from experience that Jamaican food rarely disappoints. And West to West Kitchen on Salam Street’s great reviews for its authentic Caribbean and Sierra Leonean cuisine add more proof to the claim. All sections of the menu are pleasantly peppered with
affordable offerings, although we encourage you all to order the curry goat wrap, conveniently priced at well below the Dhs50 mark. This Caribbean classic is marinated and slow- cooked to melt-in-the-mouth perfection, with the signature Jamaican seasoning providing a lasting kick.

West to West Kitchen, Salam Street, Abu Dhabi, 12pm to 10pm Tues to Sun. Tel: (0)2 671 9119. @westtowestkitchen


Restaurant: La Serre

La Serre

Dish: Soupe à l’oignon

Price: Dhs49

Dubai-born La Serre is an oh-so-chic iteration of Parisienne dining. In Abu Dhabi, it’s located in Yas Mall, where guests are invited to dine, weather permitting, either on the beautiful alfresco terrace that centres around an ornate water feature, or inside a pretty restaurant, where sparkling chandeliers, ruby red furnishings and monochrome photographs add to the authentic French feel. There are plenty of homemade pastries and breads, all neatly displayed in a glass cabinet, that fall under the Dhs50 mark, which diners can either enjoy by dining in or picking up to go. But if you’re after a more extensive dining experience, you’ll want to kick things of with a dish the French are famed for in the way they are escargot or coq au vin: the French onion soup.

La Serre, Yas Mall, Yas Island, 8am to 10pm Sun to Thurs, 8am to 12am Sat and Sun. Tel: (0)2 658 5835. laserre.com


Restaurant: Momos by S3J

Momos by S3J

Dish: Chicken chaat momos

Price: Dhs18

Often mistaken for its Cantonese counterpart (albeit understandably), the dim sum, momos are just a tiny bit different as they’re made exclusively with wheat flour. These little steamed wonders are a classic at social gatherings as an appetiser, enjoyed in the comfort of your home as a snack, or even just the main course for those looking to enjoy great taste while hanging out, coming in vegetarian, chicken and a slew of other variants. A portion is traditionally served as five pieces in a bamboo basket, with spicy sauce to taste. That’s exactly what you can expect at Momos by S3J, a dainty momo joint in the Al Zahiyah area that serves up over thirty different momo dishes for the hungry and the restless. While these are priced very reasonably with most under Dhs20, we must warn you, you could end up ordering a second plate. Or a third.

Momos by S3J, Tourist Club Area, Abu Dhabi, 10am to 12am daily. Tel: (0)58 851 7375. @momosbys3j


Restaurant: La Carnita

La Carnita

Dish: Smoked chorizo quesadilla

Price: Dhs45

La Carnita, which literally translates to ‘Little Meats’, is a lively Mexican spot overlooking Yas Bay’s Pier 71, headlining the emirate’s assortment of Mexican cuisine. Rolling out several traditional attractions, including nachos and Mexican street corn, they do keep the budget- conscious diner in mind and have both the smoked chorizo and achiote chicken quesadilla (both Dhs45) to help kick your appetite into gear. The smoked chorizo quesadilla is a light flour tortilla packed with a flavour flight of chorizo sausage, rich smoked cheese, punchy roast habanero, soft caramelised onions and a topping of chilli crema. Fill up at La Carnita for a memorable food fiesta, then go take a well- deserved siesta. Andale, ladies and gents.

La Carnita, Yas Bay Waterfront, Abu Dhabi, 12pm to 1am daily, Tel: (0)50 185 8068. @lacarnita_au

South East Asia

Restaurant: Mamafri


Dish: Hoisin crispy chicken bao

Price: Dhs46

While the cuisine at Mamafri in Sheikha Fatima Park transcends several countries, it deserves a mention for its excellent mastery of South East Asian flavours. Since opening just over a year ago, the Abu Dhabi outpost of Mamafri has hit the high notes thanks to its minimalistic, Instagram- friendly décor, and plentiful portion sizes. Order the hoisin crispy chicken bao (Dhs46), which is packed with chicken, kale and hoisin mayo. Beloved Mamafri’s bite-sized buns, a la White Castle sliders, are a must try for those that lean towards fast food chains.

Mamafri, Sheikha Fatima Park, Abu Dhabi, 8am to 12am daily. Tel: (0)2 666 3312. @lovemamafri


Restaurant: Antonia


Dish: Focaccia al rosmarino

Price: Dhs40

We try not to have favourites at What’s On HQ, but if we did, Antonia, perched on the pretty promenande at Mamsha Al Saadiyat, would certainly be among them. This expert iteration of a traditional Italian pizzeria is a consistent What’s On Award-winner, and the restaurant prides itself on being built out with proprietary fifty-year old sour dough, rustic Italian flour and olive oil to name a couple of their core ingredients. What really pushes your dining experience to memorable heights at this gorgeous Italian trattoria, however, is their picturesque placement, overlooking the azure waters at Mamsha Al Saadiyat. Generous glass panels allow you to enjoy natural lighting at lunchtime as you tuck into a selection of pizzas, pastas and focaccias by the sea. The simple flavours sing with the focaccia al rosmarino (Dhs40), which is simply seasoned with rock salt and olive oil.

Antonia, Mamsha Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, 12:00pm to 11pm daily. Tel: (0)2 667 2554. @antonia.uae

The Balkans

Restaurant: Kuzina 22

Kuzina 22

Dish: Burek

Price: Dhs 38

If Balkan gastronomy is what you fancy, this is the place to be in Abu Dhabi. Airy, well-lit and spacey, Kuzina 22 is a must-visit if you plan to take a walk along the emirate’s Mina Zayed development. Their menu rolls out numerous Balkan specialities like butter-fried gnocchi, cevapi (mincemeat kebabs), goulash and our dish of focus this month, the Burek, which is priced at under Dhs50 like most of their breakfast options, including lepinja and beef prosciutto. This traditional Balkan pastry comes with a flaky dough outer and an assortment of fillings, which here include spinach and cheese and mince meat.

Kuzina 22, Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi, daily 12pm to 12am. Tel: (0)55 145 6663. @kuzina22restaurant

Images: Supplied