Urban Kitchen - Dusit Thani, Abu Dhabi

Brunch is one of those must-do activities  in Abu Dhabi. Every hotel is getting in on it. At some point you start to feel though that there are so many brunches offering the same thing; there are few distinguishing features with many of these brunches: many of them have live cooking stations, the seafood station with the lobster, the cold mezze station, the roast beef, the kids chicken nuggets - all becoming standard fair.  However, there are some brunches offering something different. I had the pleasure of going to Urban Kitchen at Dusit Thani and discovered a very special touch to their brunch - Thai.

The question in my mind before the brunch was whether this would be an Asian brunch or if it would have only a few Asian dishes and then be overwhelmed by the usual international dishes that are so ubiquitous in the city. This is a tough one for the hotel because in calling it an Asian brunch, they are creating a niche product. If they fill the brunch with international dishes, they lose what makes them special. So, a question of damed if they do and damned if they don't...For me it is straightforward. This is the Dusit Thani. It has  to be true to its essence. About 100 years ago in Thailand, King Rama VI came up with his ideal society concept and called it Dusit Thani,  or 'town in heaven' and the main feature was a blending of Thai and Western influence. Urban Kitchen, after my experience today, is true to that. I am pleased that the 'Thainess' has not been sacrificed in order to put bums on seats.

Spacious but intimate layout accentuated by open kitchens.
The design is such that you never have more than 8-10 tables in your immediate area. The restaurant has been cleverly laid out to create that sense of spaciousness, yet connectedness to the people around you. The area behind the seafood station, where we sat, had around 9 tables. In a recent visit to Capital Grill I noted how truly open the kitchen was. This is even more noticeable here at Urban Kiitchen.

Thoroughly enjoyed the seafood station
Firstly, you have the seafood station where you are able to see the chef making sushi, preparing sashimi and de-shelling the Omani lobster. There is the Indian and Arabic area where you can freshly made naan at your finger tips. Finally, the main kitchen area allows you to see a number of chefs working on various dishes, making sure stations are well supplied.

Freshly baked naan.
The seafood station is impressive, with Omani lobster, crab, mussels, sushi and sashimi complemented by a wide array of salads. The sashimi was my favourite. Why?  One word - fresh. Moreover, it was kept at the right temperature. A nice touch with the lobster was that people intimidated by eating it from the shell need not worry - it is removed and placed on a plate  as you look on.

Lobster minus the shell makes it more accessible to less adventurous eaters. 
There were some tasty  Thai or Asian-inspired dishes. The Thai red and green curry, made at a  dedicated station with the option of shrimp or chicken was outstanding. The tom yam gai had a beautiful spicy tang to it. I also enjoyed the live noodle station which allowed you to customize your noodle dish. There was also a selection of dim sum.

The superb red curry.
As for dessert, there were the usual offerings with mousses, chocolate cake variations, ice cream  and panacotta on offer. However, the Asian side was well represented with the ginger spice cake, sago and deep fried banana particularly good.

Is there anything special for the kids? There is a dedicated kids station that had my daughter entertained for three hours. Pure beef sliders, chicken pieces (these were not processed nuggets) and potato wedges were some of the treats on offer for them. There were also movies to keep them from boredom. The highlight for them though, was being invited by the restaurant manager to make their own mocktails - virgin mojitos. Memorable!

Kids area, very much part of the brunch and not stuck in a corner in the back. 

Mocktails making had this little guest thrilled. 
The strongest Thai influence on the brunch was the service.  Mr Adil takes special care of his guests and this has filtered down to his waiting staff too. Our waiter, Yasar, was clearly a cut above the ordinary. He possessed the quality I value so much in a waiter, an ability to make small talk and exit at the right time. By now you will know that one of the annoying things for me at a brunch is that when my cutlery is cleared I more often than not have to ask for a new set. Not on this occasion. Replaced immediately. It was also a pleasure watching him pour the champagne  the  gorgeous G.H. Mumm brand by the way - he understood the theatre that is this moment. Perfect. Also, champagne and water were topped up periodically, but not obsequiously so. He just anticipated everything so well, a skill that often eludes many serving staff.

My waiter appreciated the pomp and ceremony of Champagne pouring.

Chocolate fountain - always popular. Orange-flavored on this day. 
Beautiful presentation of fruit.
I always like it when I find areas that cam be improved because it makes my next visit more interesting so see how these things have improved. Firstly, I thought the sushi rice was a bit undercooked and sweet. Secondly, the dumplings were not fluffy and rather doughy. Finally, it would be nice to have lemon slices right next to the lobster and crab area. The lemons that are part of the presentation would have lost their shape and zing.

Finally, while some brunches profess to be Asian, this one was truly Asian, but with  enough options for those who need a break from an all Asian affair. The Arabic and Indian station which featured a fantastic serving of ouzi (baked lamb) offered  a lot of options. In addition, the talented resident pianist ensures that the usual elements of a brunch are there - vibrancy and life.  But it is the Thai inspiration that makes this a special brunch. It is a brunch that offers more than the usual choices. It is a brunch where the different tastes can take you to the streets of Bangkok, the city of angels.

The brunch concluded for me a memorable experience of The Dusit Thani in recent weeks in which I was able to be transported back to Thailand. Between Benjarong, its exquisite signature Thai restaurant, Capital Grill, its chic steakhouse and now Urban Kitchen, you have options that bring with it an added experience that many hotels cannot offer - a place where three cultures are brought under one roof; a place where Thai and  Western cultures blend effortlessly with a third culture - But while King Rama's vision was of a place where Thai and Western influence would co-exist, it is a tribute to his vision that Arabian culture has added to the cultural mix in  this hotel. The Dusit Thani, or 'town in heaven' now sees three cultures overlapping!

The bottom line

Urban Kitchen
Dusit Thani, Abu Dhabi
02 698 8888
AED 220++ – Buffet including soft beverages and juices
AED 320++ – Buffet including selected hops and grape beverages
AED 420++ – Buffet including selected hops, grape and sparkling beverages
AED 85++ – Buffet for kids between 7 – 12 years of age
Kids under six years of age dine complimentary