“A contemporary take on the classic American steakhouse.” JW Steakhouse
JW Steakhouse, the signature restaurant at the Marriott Downtown Abu Dhabi, has spiced up its offerings with an innovative 8-course culinary experience. I know what you are thinking, is it really innovative? Let me just say there was a palate cleansing red cabbage sorbet on the menu (more about that later).
As a vegetarian a steakhouse may not seem like an ideal option especially one so overtly masculine and meat orientated, steaks served on wooden platters with silver bulls heads, cowhide rugs and other cattle inspired paraphernalia set the scene. However, more and more chefs are beginning to fathom that carnivores who have veggie friends and family are more likely to visit if their dining companions can be accommodated too. Enter JW’s German third generation Chef de Cuisine Stephan Benkendorff, the man who devised the new multi course tasting menu and took up the vegetarian challenge, producing unique courses that cloned his original dishes.
The 8-course tasting menu is available every evening (24-hour advance booking required) offering guests the opportunity to sample some of the restaurant’s popular dishes, like the steaks and New York cheesecake, as well as those specially created for this culinary extravaganza. Designed to be memorable, it’s an all-round interactive experience with small plates of food perfectly presented, paired with either wines or cocktails. Four of the eight courses were suitable for both our dietary requirements, four were specially concocted vegetarian options that impressively mirrored the look of the other half’s meat and seafood dishes.
Fresh warm breads and flavoured butters started the experience, the warm onion bread with melting butter was definitely a winner. We both had the same first course, multi-coloured Heirloom Tomatoes with Creamy Burrata paired with a Tomato Gin Fizz with basil, the perfect extension of the food. This dish also had the first surprise of the evening, a strawberry that was in fact tomato paste shaped and textured like the summer fruit, the attention to detail had us fooled, it even had the green leaves atop.
Next up was a Lump Crab Cake for the other half and a Butternut Squash and Cottage Cheese Cake for me. Both dishes looked identical but tasted so different, I’m not a fan of cottage cheese in its raw form but it was well disguised with the butternut squash. Both dishes were topped with shaved cucumber and served with refreshing Cucumber and Lime Spritzers.
The third course featured an unusual Carrot and Ginger Beer, served by the very smiley mixologist, chosen to accompany the soup course of Seafood Bisque and Cream of Sweet Potato and Bourbon. Straight onto the fourth course of Slow Braised Beef Tortellini and the veggie option, Tortellini with Salt Baked Parsnip & Apple Explosion which was strangely tasty, I’m not a lover of pasta but ate it all. These two courses perfectly illustrated Chef Stephan and his team’s creative prowse with the dishes perfect mirror images of each other. The beef was tender and the parsnip with apple complemented one another so well. The pasta was also the first paired with wine, E & J Gallo Turning Leaf Zinfandel (USA), a rich and intense Californian red that was selected to go with the beef.
Another American wine featured in the fifth course, this time an aromatic white wine with floral notes; Columbia Crest Gewurztraminer (USA), that was well suited to the Loch Fine Salmon and my Peruvian Asparagus in Green, both topped with a pistachio crust. I particularly enjoyed this course as the asparagus was tasty and is one of my favourite vegetables.
The sixth course was the main course and time for the appearance of the restaurant’s renowned steak. The other half enjoyed his 28-day dry aged grass fed Aberdeen Angus fillet (reared by Kettyle’s, Northern Ireland) while I had Charred Leek with Hazelnut and Stilton. Both dishes were served with salt baked heritage potatoes that was cracked open at our table by Chef Stephan himself, filled with sour cream and topped with pearl onions and chives. A tasty course that was paired with a Cedar Wood Smoked Black Bramble, smoked and assembled at our table and served in cute copper cups.
Enter the aforementioned savoury palate cleanser. A brave flavour combination of Red Cabbage Sorbet with cranberry and purple shiso (also known as perilla, a member of the mint family used lots in Japanese cooking) served with a Purple Shiso Cosmo. A dramatic coloured sorbet served on a block of ice that for us was a little too strong on the cabbage flavour, I think I will stick to my red cabbage served hot with a traditional British roast. The cosmo was very good and I liked the cone glass served on ice.
For us courses seven and eight were in reverse order, us Brits have dessert followed by a slow appreciation of cheese and port, not vice versa. In this experience, the cheese preceded the dessert and it was quite the spectacle. A miniature wooden barrel of Warres Heritage Ruby Port (Portugal), a huge platter of nuts and preserves, crisp breads hanging on a washing line embedded in a log and a selection of Irish cheeses from Cooleeney Farm. I love cheese, particularly strong cheddars and soft cheeses so enjoyed this course but I don’t feel we did it justice as we were already pretty full.
The finale trumped the cheese course, a lone empty glass platter set out in front of us awaiting Chef Stephan who appeared armed with a large tray of goodies. He proceeded to decorate the platter with swirls of raspberry coulis, mousse, sorbet and hazelnut crumble before placing two mini cheesecakes either side, his piece de resistance, a sweet artwork.
It looked good and tasty devine (amazingly I suddenly found more room), the raspberry flavours, particularly the mousse, worked so well with the creamy New York Cheesecake. This masterpiece was accompanied by a sweet fruity dessert wine, Nederberg, Noble Late Harvest (South Africa). Just when we thought we couldn’t ever eat another morsel, we were given gift bags of homemade chocolate truffles and macaroons.
JW Steakhouse is a veteran on the Marriott dining scene worldwide, a safe bet if you are looking for a well cooked, good quality steak. Vegetarians however are limited in the regular a la carte menu but I did have a rather lovely burrata dish there on a previous visit and the hand cut fat fries were fab. Passionate Chef Stephan and his team have excelled themselves with this 8-course tasting menu, it’s adventurous and different. The courses are each an individual experience, explosions of bright colours that push the boundaries in both flavour, presentation and mixology.
We enjoyed the evening, our server Sukhil was enthusiastic and knowledgeable but a tad overly attentive, sometimes less is more and diners need to be able to appreciate the food without constant interruption. I really enjoyed meeting Chef Stephan and chatting to him about his concept, his creativity and imagination for his craft is oozing from his every pore. I recommend you try this culinary journey for yourself, my advice is to make sure you go with an empty stomach and a big appetite.
Location: First Floor, Marriott Downtown Abu Dhabi, Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 304 7777
The 8-course tasting menu is AED 250* per person for food only or AED 350* per person with beverage pairing (24 hour advance reservation is required). Available Daily from 6:00pm-10:00pm.
(*Prices are subject to 10% service charge, 6% tourism fee and 4% municipality fee)
I was invited to review the new menu at JW Steakhouse. All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved.