Teatro - Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi

My first impression of Teatro at Park Rotana  is a powerful one. Various masks in a theatrical tradition are encased in the outside wall of the restaurant. As you enter, the dimly lit space hits you and you cannot help but think about romance. The candle-like lighting fixtures in places, the music and the warm bordeaux colour theme all contribute to a feeling that you are in for an evening of refined enjoyment.

Very dramatic, very theatrical.

Part of the bar seating.

Certainly not short on a deliciously sensuous atmosphere.
I am shown to my table and I lap up the atmosphere.  I am greeted by my waiter for the night and offered an aperitif to start the night - nice indeed. I am handed the menu and  a false note is struck. As you peruse the menu, you might sigh as you are overwhelmed by the choices of cuisines. They seem very strong on Far Eastern dishes, but oddly they also offer Indian, a few Italian dishes and even a Russian dish. There is nothing holding all these dishes together. Nonetheless, I decide on my dishes and wait and see.

The evening kicks of with the waiter offering some edamame; a lovely light snack to get the evening going. For my starter I order the mozzarella salad and for my main I go  with the wagyu beef tenderloin. The thing about the menu is that it is so diverse and varied that it is hard to decide what you want.

I am really taken in by the wine list. The first thing I notice is how reasonably priced everything is. The next thing that catches my attention is the Meerlust Rubicon 2008, a very fine South African wine. The Meerlust, a gorgeous Bordeaux blend dominated by cabernet sauvignon grapes, is smooth and spicy with plum notes and a very deep colour. A glorious wine.

A romantic evening here  would not be out of place. 

The mozzarella salad surprises me  - it is just too good. While the mozzarella is as expected (rich and creamy), it is  everything else around it that makes the dish memorable. There is a generous use of beetroot wedges, and with the beetroot dressing slowly moving across the plate, it is only a matter of time before the mozzarella picked up some of the dressing. This does it. Delicious. The basil seems extra fragrant. The yellow cherry tomatoes are an interesting choice, but work perfectly considering the colours on the plate. Finally, the croutons bring an extra dimension to the dish. A bit of crunch to a normally quiet dish.

The mozzarella richly presented with pesto, basil, crutons and beetroot. 

One of my all time favourite wines.
My wagyu beef lived up to its reputation. It is wonderfully complemented by asparagus and carrots. There are also some mashed potatoes on the plate. Furthermore, the caramelized onions were devilishly sweet, and I must say I finished them. Yum. I have to mention the carrots. They are really lightly sautéed, to the extent that they retain all their natural taste. Usually you try the carrots and the butter is the first thing that tickles your palate. In this case, it is the actual carrot! I love it. I also love the line of black pepper on the plate. Very nice touch. As for the beef, well, it is so superbly cooked that the rich red colour inside really arrests the senses.

Simple but stylish presentation of the wagyu beef.

A lovely red reveals a perfect medium rare.
The highlight of my dessert is not the dessert, the peanut parfait with a brownie base, which proved too rich for my palate. Rather, it is my dessert wine, a Piedemonte Moscatel Navarra 2008,  which provides a fitting end to the evening. It has an intense aroma and also fruitiness in the mouth that leaves me thanking my waiter for his suggestion.

Finally, the service, thanks to being waited on by the head waiter, is an absolute highlight. Hari has a charm and confidence that is both endearing and reassuring. You know you are in capable hands when you meet him. He proves to be familiar with his product and entered into the theatre of introducing and pouring the wine with great mastery. I watch transfixed as he pours my wine and swirls it generously  to bring out the nose. Lovely.

In conclusion, Teatro proved to be  a wonderful experience, rich in ambience. What it now needs is to add a distinctive quality. It is trying to be everything to everyone. A culling of the menu resulting in fewer options will in fact strengthen and not weaken Teatro. This could create an identity in which East can still meet West, but with more focus.

Theatre is something enjoyed in the East as well as the West. Teatro can indeed become, with some tweaking, a theatre that showcases these dishes, and with the open kitchen, it can really come to life. A genuine theatrical experience of cuisine from two hemispheres can be celebrated!

The lowdown

Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi
02 657 3333

Starters 46-82 Dhs
Mains 68-275 Dhs
Dessert 35-45 Dhs