The Forge - Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi
|Wagyu cow skin - yes, this is a steakhouse.|
|Pre-dinner appetizer of wagyu on a skewer and beef tartar.|
He sets out to make one of the gin based cocktails that is being promoted at The Forge at this time. He talks about a blow torch and cinnamon. I smile. He is serious. He pours some Grand Marnier over the cinnamon sticks and applies a flame. He covers it with a glass. Next, he adds Monin Caramel syrup, apple juice and of course, Tanqueray No. Ten gin to the cinnamon. Ice. All in a Bordeaux glass - it is all about the presentation and nose he says. I try it. I get the smokiness first. Wow. It gets even better. I feel I am 9, sucking on an ice lolly in Johannesburg. There is something in the flavour, the mild sweetness that takes me back. Disbelief. The tone is set for my evening.
|Heavy, stylish plates with a pinkish reflection from a light source.|
|Metal recalling the forge identity.|
The menu is simple in presentation. A large mounted A3 sized menu. This is always a good sign - a restaurant that is so confident in its offering that there is no need to have too many menu items. Less is more, my favourite restaurant concept. Having said this, the appetizers look so good. As Jimmy Smith's 'Apostrophe' plays in the background, Mouhssine, one of the gentlemen serving me for the night, makes his recommendations. Trust is established immediately as he recommends two of the least expensive starters. I wish more waiters would realise that the best way to upsell is not to sell. Well done. I end up ordering a tasting platter of starters: Burrata, seared Duck Foie Gras and his two recommendations - “The Forge” salad and Crab cakes. With such a varied starter selection, I give Cindy, the assistant sommelier based in the hotel's Chinese restaurant, Li Jiang, a challenge to come up with a wine suggestion. The foie gras is particularly a problem because it goes so well with red, but taking into account what I like at the beginning of a meal, she suggests the wonderfully enjoyable Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from New Zealand.
|Bread in a metal basket - the forge motif.|
|Chef Kopali's wonder creation.|
|Foie gras, crab cake, burrata and 'forge' salad.|
The crab cake is so simple with tomato fondue and a bit of lemon making this a dish that evokes , again, memories of an earlier time in my life. My mother. Food and emotion - once more. The burrata is undoubtedly the best I have had in Abu Dhabi. The creaminess has reached a whole new level. The caviar on top is just the right amount and does not overpower it. I then try the foie gras on chocolate brioche. Oh how well this works together. The brioche also has a really toasty smell about it, making it even more complex. Finally, the raspberry thyme jelly brings that bit of sweetness to the foie gras and appropriately I hear the big band sound in Dean Martin's 'Until the real thing comes along'. It just did. Marvelously.
|Selection of steak knives.|
|Australian Master Kobe rib eye.|
Cindy, meanwhile, comes over and opens up a Chateau Les Moines Medoc 2010. Strikes all the right Bordeaux notes. Cindy right on target again.
|Presented by Cindy, the very knowledgeable assistant sommelier.|
I return to The Forge to finish my tea. As I have a word with Anup, who looks at the training of the waiting staff, and I see how he and the manager, Enza, have before them a team to be envied. I am reminded of Wolfgang Puck's words when he says:
It's very important in a restaurant to really do the right hiring because there's no restaurant that you have one cook and one chef and nobody else in the kitchen. Generally you have five, ten, 15 people with you. So what's really important is to train them right, but first you have to hire the right people.
The bottom line
Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi
+971 2 818 8282
Appetisers 38-150 Dhs
Mains 150-700 Dhs
Desserts 15-70 Dhs