“Optimism is the key element of success and an essential part of retaining it.” Raphael Berry
You only get one chance to make a first impression but things don’t always go to plan especially in that awkward soft-opening phase that happens frequently in the UAE. The calibre of a good restaurant is how they solve issues that arise to leave the customer with a good inkling of how things could and should be.
Last weekend LA hotspot Berri’s opened its first venue of a vast expansion plan outside of America right here in Abu Dhabi. I’m not going to lie I was surprised that this celebrity favourite from Los Angeles has been located at the Al Muneera residential community. There’s no swanky hotel address or city location but I’m not complaining as it’s in my neighbourhood, its whereabouts does suggest that it will not be licensed but I have no confirmation of this.
Berri’s founder Raphael Berry, his wife Tensha and some of the Californian team were in the capital to oversee the final pre-opening preparations and host the red carpet party last Friday. The second storey chic restaurant opened its doors to the public the following day and I dragged the other half along for some lunch. The interior is stylish, lots of exposed pipes, oversized light bulbs, knick-knacks and large dark green banquettes, the large open kitchen is home to a busy team of chefs and the expanse of glass affords fabulous beachfront views.
In LA, Berri’s is famous for its lobster pizza and here in Abu Dhabi the Italian inspired menu includes the crustacean topped pizza as well as eight other varieties along with starters, salads, pastas, soups and entrees. I, predictably, chose a Burrata Salad because if it’s on the menu I can’t help myself and I’m pleased to report the Berri’s version was good, creamy burrata and lots of fresh cherry tomatoes topped with a balsamic glaze.
The other half went for salmon which we were told came without an accompaniment so he ordered a side of sauteed spinach. Unfortunately although tasty it was undercooked, still raw and cold in the middle, it was taken back to the kitchen and cooked for longer by which time I had finished my dish. Personally I would have cooked a totally new piece but the head chef (who was brought to our table) explained this would be too time consuming, a new side of spinach was cooked to accompany the remaining fish.
As a gesture of goodwill, we were offered complimentary desserts and tea/coffees and selected a Tiramisu to share and a tea. The tiramisu was nice but we both had a coughing episode due to the chocolate powder topping (think cinnamon challenge if you have tried that or watched someone do it) and there was no tea in stock which our server should have known. It was at this point that visiting regional director Sergio paid a third or maybe even fourth apologetic visit to our table and declared the meal was on him, this proficient level of service was much appreciated, saved both the day and our opinions.
Self-titled ‘Home of the Best Pizza in Los Angeles’ Berri’s is the spot for after hours fine dining, in LA guests visit Berri’s for high quality food and great music in the early hours (it’s open until 4am) instead of gorging on fast food. That concept doesn’t seem like a fit with the culture here but if it’s a late night venue serving good food word will get around, it’s way out of town so will need to rely on a good reputation to bring in the diners. This restaurant is proud of its tinseltown celebrity popularity and that’s reflected on the framed photos on the wall in the Abu Dhabi venue.
We will return to Berri’s to give it a second chance because the burrata, the coffee and the dessert (minus coughing fit) were all good. I want to try the renowned pizza that has celebrities returning to the restaurant in LA, the other half is after a burger we spotted going to another table. Soft openings are tricky, restaurant’s open before they are completely ready and incidents do occur, the servers were not clued up but the management were efficient, long may this continue once they have returned to the US.
Location: Al Muneera Beach Plaza, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 643 9555