Shopping mall food in Abu Dhabi
Shopping malls. Purveyors of bad food and over crowded food courts. As I have grown in my understanding of healthy eating, and healthy eating without being boring and fanatical, shouting out the virtues of tofu burgers and water, so too has my dislike for malls when it comes to food. I honestly don’t understand how people can spend money on food in a mall when if they applied themselves, they could spend a little extra and eat somewhere outside where the quality is better and the atmosphere is matched. However, when one has a child, it is very hard to avoid a mall and invariably, one has to eat in the mall.
It is interesting for me when I look at how I have changed in my dining habits. When my daughter, Mitsuki, was younger and I could live with her having a Happy meal once a month, I was excited about the prospect of spending $20 on food for a family of 3. That is what food courts offer – quick and cheap food. Now a bit wiser, I can amend that: food court = cheap, quick and unhealthy food.
As a parent you need to find good alternatives when you have to eat in a mall, and I am pleased that Abu Dhabi has some very nice options when it comes to mall food. Not up there with Dubai yet, but it is getting better. A very nice recent addition to the mall food scene in the last year has been the little Thai gem, Lemongrass.
Lemongrass serves authentic Thai cuisine and shatters the idea of mall food in Abu Dhabi living up to the stereotype of mall food being urghhhhh. With immaculately simple but stylish decor, a value-for-money menu and wonderful service, this is a nice place for a family. Kids will certainly enjoy the noodles, so forget about those Happy meals. But I think it is also about educating our kids about what to eat. It is possible to unteach bad eating habits. It just has to start with parents. I made a commitment never to eat Macdonalds again if it can be avoided. I will stick to it. It makes it much easier justifying to Mitsuki why we are not getting chicken nuggets from the golden M or why happy meals are not so happy in reality. Expect to pay around Dhs 100-130 for 3.
Another favourite when it comes to mall dining would have to be Paul. Of course those of you living in Dubai or frequent the malls there will be all too familiar with this fine French Bakery and Restaurant.
This is without a doubt one of the nicest bakeries in the city. I recommend though that you visit the one in Bawabat Al Sharq Mall where the seating is spacious and the service unrushed. I found the one in Al Wahda Mall to be underwhelming and they seemed intent on trying to squeeze in as many tables and chairs as possible. An added bonus at Paul is that they have a special kids menu. On our last visit, Mitsuki had a pasta dish which was served with fresh orange juice and ice cream for dessert. While Paul is not cheap ( our bill for 3 came to about Dhs 200), it is certainly a good option if you are in a mall and would like the freshest ingredients in your sandwich along with great coffee and service to match. Oh, I should mention that I love the bread samples they give you while you wait for your meal.
This brings me to my most recent mall visit which was to Al Wahda. For some time now Mitsuki has wanted Teppanyaki, but it has never worked out where we ended up at a restaurant that did a good Teppanyaki. Oh wait a minute. I know why - too expensive! Tori No Su at Jumeirah Etihad Towers apparently does the best Teppanyaki in the city, but that comes at a price!
Anyway, we walked past a Chili's-TGI's-Applebees type restaurant called RedStar Bistro (website coming soon - never a good sign) and we thought we would give it a try. Great call. Any 7 year old would love it. Teppanyaki is like theatre. and our chef did not disappoint as he tossed eggs and dishes in the air! A pleasant experience all round. The cost including soup, a drink, rice, salad and beef? 100 Dhs! Tori no Su it certainly was not, but beats Burger King hands down. More importantly though, kids will enjoy the spectacle.
So, with a bit of thought and effort, we can ensure that our kids do not grow up with a fast food court mentality. It is always possible to change habits. Remember, we are parents, not kids.