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?

Bread basket.

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 another ordered the crispy duck which was really  'Beijing' duck. Another dish ordered at the table was the vegetable noodles. Finally, we also ordered the artichoke salad. Drinks were ordered and we settled in as the band started up. They are very lively, energetic, but unfortunately too loud. As a bar band they work well, but not for dinner. Considering the restaurant has more dining than bar space, it is strange that they are so loud because you get the impression that dining should be privileged.

Vegetable noodles

Pad thai.

Incredibly sweet chicken salad.

The 'artichoke salad'.

The food? Thumbs down all round. That is the problem with a restaurant that is not sure what it wants to be. It is trying to do everything well, but failing in most. The service is rushed and impersonal because they are just so busy. Don't get me wrong. The waiters and waitresses work very hard, but they can only do so much. back to the food: chicken salad - terrible presentation, more appropriate for a children's party. Too sweet, and this is from someone who has a sweet tooth. The pad thai - overcooked. The duck - not crispy at all. Try chewy and dry. The artichoke salad - artichokes replaced with asparagus without any explanation. It then dawned on me that this is a place to visit for drinks in the bar area. The band really is good. In that context it could be an enjoyable experience. Adding to my pleasure was the smoke all around me! I could not wait to leave.

The verdict: If you want to visit a bar with a very good, entertaining band, this will hit the spot. Forget about dinner though. Overpriced, noisy, poor service and smokey. Very disappointed in the food.


  1. Hey dude! You know, I've been there a handful (literally, exactly) of times and I didn't even know they served food. Thanks for the forewarning!

    1. I think it works well as a place to get a few drinks. Although why anyone would want Chateaubriand in this atmosphere is beyond me.

  2. Trader Vics is a concept with more than 50 years and it serves dishes from the journeys that Victor Bergeron (Founder of Trader Vics) did around the world, that is the reason for the various dishes from different continents. Overpriced? You can get a Rotana Rewards Card and you will get great discounts. Smokey? Smoking is allowed in Abu Dhabi. Poor service? This is a personal perception but if the restaurant was so bad it wouldn't be opened for 20 Years. Trader Vics is not a gourmet or complicated restaurant, it is what it is and it has been faithful to its origins. Some people like it, some people don't.

    1. Anon thanks for your comments. Your comment about the Rewards card is something I will certainly explore as I am a fan of their Centro brand. Yes, Trader Vic's is immensely popular judging by the crowd that night and by what my friend who is a regular has said. If I had visited the bar only, I would have no qualms. With regards to smoking in the dining section, I need to point out that many restaurants now have smoking and non-smoking sections - yes, in Abu Dhabi. To sum up, it works well as a bar. As a restaurant, no. By the way, I will be posting a review of Centro Al Manhal next week. Keep an eye out for it. Thank you.


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