Afya Italian Night - Traders Hotel

Theme nights are becoming the in-thing on the restaurant scene in high-end hotel restaurants as they try and jostle for customer's wallets. After extending Friday brunch to Saturday, this was the next obvious move as a marketing ploy. However, I saw a restaurant advertise a Thursday evening brunch! Do people actually fall for this type of exploitative marketing? I don't mind theme nights though, because they means there is an effort to take  a select cuisine up a notch for that night. But could we please leave brunch where it belongs?

Having tried Afya's Asian night, I went for their Italian night, which is held on Tuesdays. 'Winter' in Abu Dhabi means Al Fresco dining. Afya has the benefit of having that wonderful beach spot between the bridges. It affords obstructed views of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, unfortunately obscured by the monstrous Ritz Carlton. The only redeeming factor about the Ritz design is that it does look prettier at night than in the day time. But still, why would I want a  view of another hotel? Nonetheless, it is quite a stunning setting on the beach, and I felt that if I had only water and a dry piece of bread, it would still taste amazing thanks to the ambience .

The cornerstone of the evening is a live pasta cooking station just outside the indoor dining area. I counted 8-10 different pastas with various sources and vegetable combinations available. The inside dining area has the usual Afya salad bar ad desert stations, but there is also a pizza area. I saw about 8-10 (magic number)  different pizzas. Unfortunately there were no food labels, so after asking what the first three were, I kind of gave up and went back outside. Yes, it is not always possible to see what's on a pizza!

My pick was the egg plant!

The salad bar is worth a visit

Modest but nice selection of bread

On the night I thought I would try a few dishes from the Italian selection and then go a la carte for my entree. I started with a small portion of the cheese and spinach ravioli and grilled egg plant. The ravioli, in tomato sauce, was particularly tasty while the egg plant was also quite nice: grilled just right for it to retain some bite.

Still feeling a tad peckish before my main, I had some buffalo mozzarella and tomato in balsamic with leaves. Now I love this salad, and in particular I like it at Spaccanapoli. The problem with having this as part of a buffet is if no one eats of it, it just stands and the presentation ends up going awry, the cheese loses its pretty white appearance and the tomatoes go a bit soggy. And that is how mine was unfortunately.

Around 21.30 I figured I should probably order my main as I broke from just sucking up the atmosphere. I went with the beef fillet which was grain fed Australian beef with sautéed vegetables, and pepper sauce on the side.

Beef fillet: Sadly had to be sent back.

Second time around much better.
 I seldom send food back. I am not one of those eaters - you know the type you see in movies? But on this occasion I had to. My beef was not the medium rare I had requested. However, in that quintessential Shangri-la way(the parent company of Traders), the waiter was very gracious. In fact so, gracious that I started feeling guilty for sending it back!

So, the question ids did I have to send it back again? I am pleased to say it was cooked just right and I heartily cut through it, enjoying the new found tenderness that was missing the first time around. My vegetables, as they were the last time I visited Afya, were superb and was able to appreciate the crunchiness which showed me a nice balance in the cooking.

Regular readers of my posts know by now that creme brûlée is one of my favourite desserts, but I should have known better than to order it. When I say order, I mean that  a waiter was kind enough to bring it from the dessert station. I guess it suffered the same fate as the mozzarella salad. The caramelised top had morphed into a layer of syrup, and sadly, I could not finish it. However, I discovered a new pleasure. Tiramisu! Yes, it is really a classic, but I have never been partial to it, but thanks to Afya, I will now seek it out on future dining experiences. It had just the right consistency, and because it was freshly made, the bottom was not soggy. The only caveat was the size. I am a believer that less is actually more. Dessert should be in small portions. This was too large.

Surprisingly delicious. Well, surprising for me. 

So, what did I make of Afya this time?  One should bear in mind that the Red and White promotion, which was my option on the night despite dabbling with a bit of pasta, includes  a three course set menu with optional entrees and free flowing wine at DHS150 net. Afya certainly offers value for money. If you would like an easy evening without worrying too much about being dressed in your ultra cool clothes and still have an enjoyable meal, head to Afya. Add to this a gorgeous atmosphere, and you have a very nice, easy and inexpensive night out.