“I like rice. Rice is great if you’re hungry and want two thousand of something.” Mitch Hedberg
Have we been magically transported to a Cantonese dim sum joint in Hong Kong or were we still in busy Hamdan Street in the heart of Abu Dhabi I asked myself as we were seated at our table in Cho Gao at the Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi earlier this week. The dimly-lit and spacious ground floor restaurant has embraced Asian culture in both its authentic decor and ambience, I was excited to go on a Far Eastern culinary journey with the pan-Asian menu choices.
While the service was slow to start it picked up pace once we had placed our order, my chosen Singapore Sling cocktail prompted me to reminisce about another travel adventure at Raffles in Singapore. The menu offers a glut of Asian options to tempt your taste buds that include signature and classic dishes such as stir fries, noodles, curries and satay from China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.
I ordered a basket of steamed vegetarian dim sum to start and while it looked promising arriving in the traditional wooden basket it was not looking too impressive inside, the term less is more sprang to mind. When your dim sum benchmark is the fine dining favourite Hakkasan you are always at risk from high expectations, in this instance there were too many pieces crammed into the small basket that had all stuck to one another. All the pieces were the same shape and flavour, bland too unless heavily double dipped in either of the two sauces. A smaller selection of different shapes, colours and flavours are more my preference, quality over quantity is something to be taken on board unless you have a bigger appetite of course.
The other half was equally underwhelmed with his starter, the bbq beef skewers were minced meat balls on a stick and not the grilled tender beef strips he prefers, edible but again no wow factor in taste or presentation although the chilli coriander sauce spiced things up a little. The mains were a lot more promising, the new Cho Gao promotion is the pillow, a sizzling foil parcel delivered to the table with a choice of either beef, chicken, seafood or vegetables. The pillow arrived and was torn open by our server to reveal a steaming packet of tender chicken with ginger and vegetables, fragrant and apparently quite delicious. My crunchy vegetable green curry was another tangy success that was served with egg fried rice, the selection of curries can be adjusted to your desired levels of spiciness.
While the starters failed to impress the main course made up for it but unfortunately the dessert selection was disappointing, the choice was limited and nothing really appealed to me. I settled on a lime cheesecake that was at best underwhelming, it was stodgy as was the coconut base, we finished our meal in traditional dim sum venue style with hot tea.
Diners can choose from high centralised tables, darker alcoves or the low seating near the bar area. Cho Gao which means ‘Rice Market’ in Vietnamese has authentic ornaments and trinkets lining the walls, gongs of all shapes and sizes, coloured panels, dramatic hanging lanterns and artwork, buddha statues and dark wood that all add to the essence of an ancient Far Eastern den meets traditional dim sum house.
I really liked the venue and the overall oriental vibe, the Cho Gao pillow is a great asset to the menu as its dramatic presentation creates an air of excitement for the diner and with guests at surrounding tables. This previously award winning venue has all the potential to climb back up to greater days with tweaks to its oversized pan-Asian menu. I know it has a loyal following for its popular ladies Cho Gal nights and daily happy hours, I’m sure the late night weekend Cho Chill with its chilled vibe and tunes will continue to pull in the punters.
Cho Gao Restaurant and Lounge
Location: Ground Floor, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Hamden Street, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 616 6149
Opening Hours: 12:00 noon – 1:00am
Happy Hour – 50% discount on selected beverages (excluding bottles of water and wine) Daily 2:00pm – 7:00pm
Cho Chill – Smooth tunes, chilled drinks and exotic bites Thursdays and Fridays 10:00pm – 03:00am
Cho Gal Ladies Nights – Free selected cocktails for the ladies Saturdays and Sundays 7:00pm – 11:00pm
Read more about the Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi in my previous post Review: Cheese & Wine Night, Spaccanapoli Ristorante and Thai Massage, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi
Thank you Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi for the opportunity to review Cho Gao Restaurant. The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. Additional photo used with courtesy of Cho Gao Abu Dhabi.