Ushna - Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
|The art adds to the warmth at Ushna.|
|Integral to the contemporary feel is the bar.|
|Part of the orange and red motif in Ushna - all about warmth again.|
The evening starts of with the usual papadums and a lovely selection of mint chutney, beautifully hot mixed vegetables, chickpeas and sweet tomato chutney. Small portions, just enough to stimulate the palate. Next, my amuse bouche arrives. It is onion baji, an onion fritter. Mint, tamarind, sweet yogurt and coriander all explode in the mouth - the kind of amuse bouche that makes you want to have 2, 3 or even 4, but the night is young, so I resist.
As I wait for my starters, I peruse the wine list. The contemporary nature of Ushna is again revealed through the wine list. It is as comprehensive a wine list as one could want, and let's not forget that Ushna is a stand-alone restaurant. The choice of Champagnes available too is impressive, including the fabulous Louis Roederer "Cristal" 2005. I also spot another favourite of mine, the South African Meerlust Rubicon, an exceptional wine. I go over to the bar and discover that there are more than 70 different types of Vodka. Contemporary yes. Just before the starters arrive, I have a quick look at the family section. I fall in love with the swing style seating options available. My daughter will love this, I reflect to myself.
|The amuse bouche - onion fritter.|
Ryan, meanwhile, is a waiter who moves around with a humble kind of swagger, while effortlessly talking about the menu. And while I decide not to have anything from the excellent wine selection, Ryan is on top of his art and is able to talk extensively about the wine on offer. Nice indeed.
|Shrimp in coconut sauce.|
|As diverse in colour as in taste.|
I am just about ready for my mains, and I opt to go for some classics. While it is contemporary, I also want to see how Chef interprets more traditional dishes. Chef prepares small portions of some truly classic dishes. I am presented with Daab Chingri, Gosht Khada Masala, Dal Makhani and Murgh Makhani. The daab chingri, shrimp cooked in coconut milk and presented in a hollowed out coconut, is marvelous. The coconut milk stands out for its distinctive taste and creaminess. The Gosht or lamb, is cooked with a classic Indian spice, garam masala and with vegetables including cherry tomatoes and button onions. The garlic and ginger complete this dish. I ordered it spicy, so there is quite a bit of bite. I love it. Next, the dal is very simple but tasty. Creamy and lightly peppery, I enjoy this with the naan. Then I enjoy it again. And again. Finally, it has to be the Murgh Makhani or butter chicken. It is as good as it gets, and I am surprised by how much I like the subtle cardamon in the butter chicken. It is mildly spicy, so I can really appreciate the chicken.
The night ends as I walk to the window to look across the canal to take in the picturesque Sheikh Zayed Mosque. The remaining question has been answered. I believe that integral to Ushna's success as a restaurant is the fact that it does stand alone. When I left for dinner that night I was thrilled that I was not going to a hotel. Don't get me wrong. From my posts you will know that I love hotel dining, but this was a pleasant change for me. Its elegantly relaxed approach to contemporary Indian dining works so well. As I say my goodbyes, I turn around and look at the bar, the kitchen, the staff and the colours again, and my final thought is captured in one word: outstanding.
The low down
The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri,
Starters 45-75 Dhs
Mains 50-160 Dhs
Desserts 36-42 Dhs