“Food should be enjoyed rather than endured.” Steve Hamilton
This month we explore the very best of Asian cuisine in the capital. From high end fine dining to mall based restaurants Abu Dhabi has a plethora of pan-Asian choices to suit everyone’s palate and budget.
Cream of the Crop
Hakkasan – Located within the resplendent Emirates Palace, Hakkasan is the embodiment of sheer elegance and sophistication with its discreet dining area, trendy bar, stunning outdoor terrace and of course the magnificent modern Cantonese cuisine. This venue has set the benchmark for Asian cuisine and service here in the capital and won an abundance of well-deserved awards in its own right. While it may seem pretentious and pricey it’s not at all pompous, there are many affordable options such as the Taste of Hakkasan menu and Hakkatini Nights, an early evening cocktail and dim sum option.
Hakkasan, Emirates Palace, 02 690 7739
Zuma – Chic hotspot Zuma Abu Dhabi has carved out a niche as the place to see and be seen that regularly attracts the capital’s fashionble set. Located at the in vogue Al Maryah island Zuma guarantees diners an experience that has been successfully replicated around the globe. The drinks, the food, the service and the overall vibe are all delightful at this trendy Japanese fusion restaurant, it’s cool and relaxed yet elegant and stylish all at the same time. The Japanese inspired mixology is innovative, the food, which is served to share izakaya style, is memorable including delicious desserts and the atmosphere is legendary, always worth a visit.
Zuma, Al Maryah Island, 02 401 5900
KOI Restaurant and Lounge – Dining at KOI is as much about the experience as the contemporary Japanese cuisine. Signature dishes include miso-bronzed black cod, chilean sea bass and Kobe style filet mignon that will satisfy even the most discerning palate. KOI’s popular Friday table brunch offers diners a chance to try many of the restaurant’s dishes and the newly introduced Saturday ‘Gochiso’ early evening brunch offers guests another chance to dine in style at the weekend. Supper clubs run on Thursday and Friday evenings showcasing a hand-picked menu presented tapas style.
KOI Restaurant and Lounge, The Collection, St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, 02 678 3334
Kazu – For a true taste of Japan look no further than Kazu at the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi. The restaurant’s Teppan chefs have created a menu to give diners an authentic Japanese dining experience. There’s a dedicated sushi and sashimi bar, a sake bar, a tempura station, two teppan bars and a robatayaki grill so no shortage of choice for diners to sample the very best of Japanese cuisine. If you like your sushi and soba paired with sake and great views of the F1 track and Yas Marina, this is the place for you.
Kazu, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, 02 656 0600
Shang Palace – The Shang Palace is the Shangri-La’s signature restaurant worldwide, a global success story that serves authentic five-star Cantonese cuisine. Traditionally decorated this restaurant was once the capital’s top Asian establishment but nowadays the multi-award winning venue has much more competition. Affluent diners looking for an extensive choice of classic well cooked Chinese sharing dishes will be delighted with the selection and probably not phased by the final bill.
Shang Palace, Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, 02 509 8555
Hoi An – Traditional and modern Vietnamese cuisine is on the menu at Hoi An also located in the Shangri-La hotel. Diners can experience an authentic Vietnamese-style barbecue at the weekend with meat and seafood grilled to perfection on the outdoor terrace. The regular bill of fare offers plenty of choice with several set menus including one for vegetarians alongside the a la carte offerings, again like the Shang Palace this restaurant is perfect for a special occasion.
Hoi An, Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, 02 509 8555
Dine with a View
Li Jiang – If you are looking for an authentic, contemporary Southeast Asian restaurant Li Jiang may tick all your boxes. The open kitchen gives diners a front row seat to take in the aromas and watch the busy chefs create dim sum, dumplings, traditional spicy rice and noodle dishes and their signature dish, the whole Peking duck. Li Jiang meaning ‘beautiful river’ in Chinese, perfectly depicts the hotel’s location on the Grand Canal, the outdoor terrace offers spectacular views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Upmarket with stylish decor, well informed staff and a well stocked cellar in a five-star hotel means high end prices so ordering well from the large menu is key to get your money’s worth.
Li Jiang, Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, 02 818 8282
Barfly by Buddha Bar – The glamorous Barfly by Buddha Bar is a two-storey location where Parisian chic meets the Middle East, offering guests a supper club, bar and restaurant with a Far-Eastern inspired international menu. Dining here may not be too easy on the wallet but it does offer lots of choice including flaming sushi platters, tasty dim sum and creative mixology. Appetisers and desserts are served sharing style along with a good selection of al la carte main courses. The large waterside terrace is a picture-perfect place to dine alfresco, share shisha and take in the views across Khor Al Maqta.
Barfly by Buddha Bar, Venetian Village, 02 404 1951
Sho Cho – Trendy Japanese restaurant Sho Cho is located at Souk Qaryat Al Beri. Dine on first-rate oriental cuisine with a selection of traditional sushi and sashimi, main courses and sip delicious signature beverages. The terrace, which is perfect for outdoor dining has stunning views across the water, the marina and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque beyond. Give this hip dining and late night social venue a visit if you haven’t already, go for a nice fine dining experience, indulge in some fab mixology and dance into the wee small hours like no-one’s watching!
Sho Cho, Souk Qaryat Al Beri, 02 558 1117
Inakaya – This waterfront venue serves contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine in an upscale setting on the waterfront at the Venetian Village. Robatayaki or ‘fireside-cooking’ is a traditional Japanese barbecue where yakikata’s (grillmasters) cook skewers over hot charcoal on an open grill then serve them on paddles, it’s as much a theatrical performance as an unique dining experience. Expect a traditional warm Japanese welcome and lots of interaction between the staff and guests which culminates in a vocal and enthusiastic clapping ceremony known as sanbon jime to voice their thanks for your visit.
Inakaya, Venetian Village, 02 404 1921
Sontaya – The beautiful Sontaya (meaning sunset in Thai) is the Southeast Asian restaurant located at the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort. Designed as a series of stunning floating pavilions it offers views out across the beach and the Arabian Gulf beyond, the perfect spot for a romantic dinner. For those who like Thai and Chinese cuisine then Sontaya will cater for all your needs in a traditional setting complimented by authentic Thai artefacts. Stop by the bar for a pre-dinner drink and dine outside on the deck so you can fully appreciate the restaurant’s ambience and amazing location.
Sontaya, St Regis Saadiyat Island, 02 498 8888
Noodle Box – It may be located at the five-star Yas Viceroy hotel but Noodle Box is a more casual dining restaurant with prices set accordingly. If you are a fan of dim sum it’s definitely worth a visit to this modern Southeast Asian venue for that alone. A vast selection of steamed, pan-fried, deep-fried and freshly baked dumplings with meat, seafood and vegetables are all on offer along with the popular wok fried dishes and specialties. Thai curries, Nasi Goreng and a whole roast duck cooked to perfection ensure satisfied diners return time and time again.
Noodle Box, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Yas Island, 02 656 0600
Rouge – This modern, elegant restaurant located at the Hilton Capital Grand specialises in pan-Asian food offering diners signature dishes from China, Japan, Korea and Thailand. Spicy Tom Yum soup, dim sum, sushi platters, sashimi, pad Thai, Thai curries and even an Asian surf and turf are just some of the many dishes that diners can enjoy. Rouge is not the busiest establishment in the capital probably due to its location on the edge of the commercial district, but what it lacks in ambiance it makes up for in flavours.
Rouge, Hilton Capital Grand Abu Dhabi, 02 617 0000
Jade (formerly the Royal Orchid) – Authentic decor and Chinese food go hand-in-hand at Jade located on the first floor of the Hilton Abu Dhabi. The capital’s oldest hotel has recently benefitted from a makeover which included the renaming of this establishment. Traditional dishes from the Chef’s home town of Nanjing in China are lovingly recreated as part of chef specialties alongside the regular a la carte options. A large selection of various dim sum, soups and seafood dominate the menu, there’s a good choice for vegetarians too.
Jade, Hilton Abu Dhabi, 02 681 1900
Cho Gao – Our very own Hong Kong style dim sum joint right in the heart of Abu Dhabi, located at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Hamdan Street. Cho Gao takes diners on a far Eastern culinary journey with a menu filled with a glut of Asian options to tempt your taste buds. Signature and classic dishes such as stir fries, noodles, curries and satay from China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The recently launched Sushi bar offers diners a ‘Taste of Japan’ that includes a selection of colourful, well presented and authentic sashimi, nigiri, sushi, maki rolls and salads.
Cho Gao, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, 02 616 6166
Benjarong – Award winning Benjarong located at the Dusit Thani offers an authentic Thai experience with not just the food but also the warm hospitality and professional service, the ambiance and its decor. Bringing the traditional tastes and exotic flavours of Thailand to Abu Dhabi, Benjarong’s menu is packed with age old recipes that have been given a modern twist. Dishes made with fresh ingredients from recipes handed down through generations, each one beautifully presented with carved vegetables, rich in colour and bursting with Thai spices.
Benjarong, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi, 02 698 8888
The Noodle House – A popular casual dining spot that’s souk based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Noodle House is a homegrown UAE business that also delivers to your doorstep and has been so successful it’s now ventured outside the Emirates. Bench style seating, authentic regional cuisine and friendly staff are replicated at any venue you visit, a consistency that has earned the concept a loyal following. If you fancy a spring roll, some crispy szechuan beef, an Indonesian Nasi Goreng or a bowl of Singapore Noodles pop into The Noodle House.
The Noodle House, various locations – check the website www.thenoodlehouse.com/ for more details
Smoking Doll – A mall based chain of Southeast Asian restaurants that have brought a taste of the Orient to the capital. Smoking Doll offers a menu of traditional Asian fusion cuisine with a focus on Thai food it offers guests a vast (some may say overwhelming) selection with over a hundred dishes to choose from. Appetisers, to sushi, curries, noodles, rice and everything in-between, Smoking Doll and has become famous for its use of intense flavours and striking decor. Taste combinations from sweet, sour, salty to spicy and even smoky are designed to tantalise the taste buds.
Smoking Doll, various locations – check the website www.smokingdoll.com for more details
Desert Lotus Thai Bistro & Sushi – Once you know about Desert Lotus, you know, it’s one of those places that’s popularity has soared by word of mouth. The restaurant serves authentic Thai and Japanese cuisine in a cosy setting at the One to One Hotel in the Al Nayhan camp area. If you are looking for authentic Thai food in Abu Dhabi look no further than this restaurant for taste, presentation and a warm Thai welcome from chef and owner Bua and her team. The pad thai is legendary, the sushi platters fresh and colourful and the prices reasonable.
Desert Lotus, Level 2, cluster 14 at One To One hotel the village, 056 583 5591
Dai Pai Dong – Named after the open-air food stalls in Hong Kong, Dai Pai Dong is a chic restaurant which is part of the Rosewood Hotel that’s tucked away on The Galleria concourse. Inspired by its street food name it offers reinvented Cantonese dishes served by traditionally clad waitresses in a dimly lit authentic space. The menu is varied and the food is delicious, especially the dim sum selection, the noodles and the signature roast duck cooked in a traditional clay pot. The All You Can Eat Dim Sum Lunch and the Weekdays Business Lunch are an absolute steal at just AED 75* per person. Finish your experience in the hidden bar, a small mysterious speakeasy style establishment at the back of the venue, keep it to yourself though as it’s a secret ….
Dai Pai Dong, Rosewood Abu Dhabi, 02 813 5550
(An additional 10% service charge, 6% tourism fee & 4% municipality fee may be added)
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Featured images used with courtesy of selected venues, anexpatabroad and Dining & Nightlife Abu Dhabi
An edited version of this article first appeared in Dining and Nightlife Abu Dhabi magazine – April 2017