Showing posts from January, 2014

Pearls & Caviar - Ode to the green pea.

An evening out at the trendy Pearls & Caviar the other night brought something interesting to my mind's attention. The pea is a bit of an anomaly. For years it has taken a back seat to so many other vegetables for numerous reasons: It can't come close to broccoli when it comes to health benefits. The French bean trumps it in crunchiness. The potato is much more versatile. The tomato, finally, is so good that both the fruit and the vegetable are trying to claim it. And of course who has the patience to scoop them up with a fork?

I was, therefore,  surprised when my entree arrived in the usual sleek manner that is so Pearls & Caviar. For my main I had ordered the Mediterranean sea bass "a la plancha" (pan fried) with creamy seafood risotto. While the pea is certainly a most welcome ingredient in risotto, I have seldom seen it take centre stage the way it did in this beautiful display. Chef de Cuisine Simon Attridge, who has been with Pearls & Caviar for 6 m…

An established favourite - Hoi An, Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

How do you write about something that you've written about twice before? Is there anything new to add? Hoi An, as you know, is my favourite restaurant in Abu Dhabi. I referred to it as the jewel in the crown of Shangri-la. See While it is Bord Eau that has picked up all the awards and gets all the kudos, Hoi An, like the no less-worthy bridesmaid who wonders when her time will come, goes about quietly, staying in the background. However, I have a feeling that she will be a bridesmaid no longer.

We arrived at Hoi An as a party of 5 for a belated birthday celebration for a friend. It was double excitement because we had with us the editor, creator and photographer of a travel magazine based in Monaco, Jean-Emmanuel. There is always nervous excitement when one recommends a restaurant. I was afraid that I may have built it up too much, and it was hard to relax initially.

We were shown to our table by Rashida, who in h…

The Lounge Breakfast - The Westin, Abu Dhabi.

"Breakfast. Who goes out for breakfast?" a friend asked when I told her our Saturday morning plan. The truth is I like The Westin's Lounge.  It is is beautifully appointed, with  a variety of seating options, including a terrace area, perfect for this time of year. No matter where you choose to sit indoors, floor to ceiling windows ensure that natural light is always there.

The casual dining menu is quite extensive, and breakfast has all the favourites. I opted for the SuperfoodsRx breakfast. No idea why it is called this. I didn't care. It looked pretty good:

SuperFoodsRx breakfast 70
Black orange renewal juice Orange, blackcurrant, blackberry juice
All natural granola Low fat yogurt and berries enhanced with flax seeds and almonds & Scrambled egg, turkey and cheddar wrap Rolled with avocado in soft tortilla with chipotle salsa & Westin blend coffee or Jing Tea

The breakfast  set is fantastic, and I challenge readers to beat this at 70Dhs.  And of course…

Trader Vic's - Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi

I had heard so much about Trader Vic's that when a friend invited me I thought I would try it. Having said that, I have my safety zone, so this was something of an adventure for me. Little did I know it would be a rather disappointing evening.

Trader Vic's is in the Beach Rotana in Abu Dhabi. As you walk in it feels like a big pub with seating. It was packed, and after asking a  friend about it, he said whenever he is there it is usually full. We were seated and offered the oversized menus. Absolutely annoying. They are cumbersome and inconvenient. Getting past that, a study of the menu revealed a lot of Asian dishes mixed with other international dishes. I am always wary of restaurants trying to be everything to everyone. For instance , on the same page they offer Sichuan mixed vegetables and Chateaubriand. Seriously?

Anyway, having had an early dinner, I thought I would go with the Maui chicken salad with mango, pineapple and plum sauce. A friend ordered the pad thai and ano…

Being neighbourly - dinner with a Pakistani family

While I enjoy eating at a restaurant, nothing beats a home cooked meal. I had the good fortune of being invited for dinner by my neighbour and his family. After casual encounters in which we discussed Jaguars (cars not animals), cricket ( of course ) and jobs in the U.A.E. we took it to the next level.

I love South Asian food very much. The almost careless abandonment of rules when it comes to spices is something I enjoy. 'Spicy' does not simply mean 'hot'. That would be an injustice to cuisine from this part of the world. There are many subtle variations as one scoops a bit of curry and eats it. Over my years in the Middle East I have eaten at numerous Indian and Pakistani restaurants, but for the life of me I cannot remember the names. As my education with food continues, I hope to be able to write in my next post when I have a meal with them, the exact names!

The highlight for me whenever I have a meal with a family from Pakistan or India, is the warmth of the whole…

Pearls & Caviar, Shangri-La, Abu Dhabi

Pearls. Caviar. Separately these two evoke opulence, indulgence, beauty and at times, excess. Together, they form the name of an Übercool and chic restaurant at Shangri-la. Yes, you have never seen it on your visits to the hotel. To get there you need a 3 minute buggy ride from the entrance of the hotel. Having been there twice, I wondered each time why they could not just create a pathway from the main building to the restaurant. First time diners kitted out in their finest but coolest , with their favourite Bvlgari perfume will be disappointed that they need a golf buggy to get there.

However, once you get to the restaurant, you can't help feeling you are stepping into a different world. The restaurant is situated on the bank of the canal and offers fantastic night time views. Outside seating views are unparalleled. Note though that there is also a second level, and while I did not try it, I can only imagine that the views there are even more scenic. The soft lighting adds to th…

Bord Eau - Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi

There is arguably no restaurant in Abu Dhabi that has received the amount of accolades in such a short existence as Shangri-la Abu Dhabi's flagship restaurant, Bord Eau. It serves French Nouvelle cuisine. Rather than spend time listing them here (you can google this), let us explore the questions: Is it worthy of the hype? Is it over-rated? Did it meet expectations?

When one visits such a restaurant where its reputation precedes itself to the extent that Bord Eau's does, there is a risk that one is either too tough to prove the many who rave about it wrong or to mythologise it too because of what one has heard. It was with this in mind that I went for dinner.

I was greeted at the door by a hostess that personified grace and elegance. The first thing that hits you as you walk in is the tranquility and peace. This has nothing to with the number of diners at the restaurant. It runs deeper than that. The colours are earthy and the bit of colour that is provided by two beautiful De…

Le Cafe Afternoon tea revisited - Sofitel, Abu Dhabi

There are exciting things happening at Sofitel. They are aware of the power of marketing and competition, and have realised that to survive in a tough market with new top end properties opening all the time, they need to be open to trying different things. They have been prominent in recent months on Groupon, a website that offers discounts on dining, hotels and leisure. What this does is create brand awareness. I think it a smart ploy.

In continuing their trend of being open to new things, I  revisited them yesterday as they were planning on introducing two new afternoon tea sets. I think there is something exciting when one is able to make a difference to a restaurant's menu by offering constructive feedback. It was this in mind, that I headed back.

Briefly, they are revamping their Afternoon tea by serving it in a new dedicated area. I commented last time that I thought the tables were far too low,  and more ideal for drinks a very light snacks. Afternoon tea or especially High…

Pool Bar - Shangri-la, Abu Dhabi.

When one hears of a pool bar, the food that pops into one's head is usually potato wedges, burgers and pizza. Food is often incidental and drinks and atmosphere the  big attraction. Well, last night was an education for me. Pool bar food can actually be fantastic. Now I know that.

The Pool Bar at Shangri-la has a beautiful setting. The symmetry is worth noting, with the pool in the middle of the Shangri-la facade. There is really an elegant simplicity about the Shangri-la, and it is no where more evident than here. If you look across the canal, you have a wonderful view of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Not a bad way to spend the evening. Add to this a chilling 20º C outside, and it really is quite an exquisite evening in the making.

I found the menu fairly extensive for a pool bar, with the highlight being a  barbecue selection that bridged land and sea. The waiter recommended I have the Australian Rib Eye Angus-certified beef. He warned me that that is more fatty than the Tenderloin, …