“Too many people just eat to consume calories. Try dining for a change.” John Walters
Mid-2014 I received an invitation to do my first ever official restaurant review at Caramel Abu Dhabi. That invite caused great excitement followed by a period of self-doubt and deliberation that said e-mail must be spam or just a big fat mistake. If you follow this blog regularly you will know that was the start of many fabulous invitations to review some of the finest restaurants here in the capital. It was exciting to be invited back to Caramel Abu Dhabi, located at The Collection on Saadiyat Island, again last week to a bloggers gathering for a taste testing of the new a la carte menu.
So what’s changed at Caramel? Well nothing in terms of decor or concept, it still offers its well-presented, tasty American cuisine with a fine-dining twist in a chic and contemporary setting with separate lounge, bar and dining areas as well as an outdoor terrace for alfresco dining at this time of year. The menu however has been redesigned offering a combination of old favourites alongside fourteen mouth-watering new additions. Lighter healthier options such as a divine kale and quinoa salad with almond flakes, Kenya beans, red grapes, raisins and a buttermilk pepper dressing are now available, just perfect for the more nutrition conscious amongst us and a definite favourite at our end of the table.
The extensive menu offers so many options for meat and fish lovers as well as vegetarians. We started our food journey with a selection of starters to share that included a lentil and cilantro (coriander) salad with celery and red wine vinaigrette dressing, marinated Kobe beef tacos, a really nice fresh spinach and avocado salad with mushrooms, cherry tomato and basil mustard dressing which went really well with the aforementioned kale and quinoa salad. My first impression was the new menu has many more wholesome options containing superfoods that we read so much about these days, a welcome addition to the existing calorie rich comfort food style dishes.
The mains were also served sharing style so we could all sample a range of dishes. A well cooked pan roasted Scottish salmon with veal bacon, white bean salad and asparagus, perfectly cooked tenderloin steak with pommel frites which the other half throughly enjoyed, the renowned Caramel Kobe pulled beef sliders (mini burgers) with hickory smoked BBQ sauce, rack of lamb with potato dauphinoise and dried cherry tomato jus, chicken marsala with sautéd mushrooms and broccolini, a tender crusted veal picante with brown butter caper sauce and arugula (rocket) and the vegetarian option of mushroom and peppery arugula risotto with pesto and thyme. Is your mouth-watering yet?
Next up was my favourite course, dessert and guess what all the dishes were amazing! Butterscotch bomb with caramel and pine nut cookies, a dark chocolate fondant with cappuccino ice cream, Caramel’s signature Baked Alaska, a stunning creation that always looks too good to cut but when you do you discover sponge cake and strawberry flavoured ice-cream and jus topped off with meringue. My favourite sweet treat of the night was the vanilla bean crème brûlée with caramelized bananas.
Corporate Chef Sunil Vaz, who worked under celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay at Maze in London and then at Verre in Dubai, is the inspiration behind the new menu. He has been with the Caramel Group since its conception in Dubai back in 2009 and although the revamped menu offers lots of new dishes it still features the Caramel ‘Greatest Hits’, which we sampled previously, including their signature chicken lollipops served with a creamy buffalo style blue cheese sauce, chicken lettuce bites with shiitake mushrooms and hoisin sauce and the legendary lightly battered TNT shrimp served with a spicy Japanese mayo sauce (this dish was so popular at the Caramel Abu Dhabi stand at this weekend’s Taste of Abu Dhabi food festival).
Caramel Abu Dhabi is a low-lit sumptuous affair with a long central marble table ideal for socialising in front of the DJ booth and bar area, which is synonymous with its Dubai counterpart. Alongside the new menu Caramel Abu Dhabi welcomes a new DJ, Jaye Walker who is in charge of keeping the party alive and kicking into the wee small hours. If you like good food served in a sophisticated setting with impeccable yet unobtrusive service then Caramel Abu Dhabi will be right up your street. This restaurant offers something for everyone whether it’s date night, a meal with friends or after work drinks with colleagues also the perfect spot to enjoy a cocktail or two. Caramel also has a strict ‘No Smoking’ rule, a welcome change compared to most UAE smoke-filled venues, I throughly recommend you check it out for yourself, enjoy a fantastic dinner paired with an impressive selection of grape based beverages to accompany the wide-ranging flavoursome dishes on the menu. Bon Appetite.
Caramel Restaurant and Lounge
Location: The Collection within the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 678 3344
See the full Caramel Abu Dhabi menu here
For more information about Caramel, Dubai click here.
I was invited to attend this event but the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. Read my previous Caramel Abu Dhabi post here