BOA Steakhouse revisited- Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Abu Dhabi

BOA steakhouse has made an impression on me. A big impression. I am wary when I hear that restaurants are visited by high profilers and gain a trendy label as a result. So, when I learned that Tony Blair and the American Ambassador had recently been to BOA, I realized that the restaurant was in danger of becoming trendy because of this, and not because of more intrinsic reasons like menu, ambience and service. So, after my second visit, how does BOA stack up? Is it worthy of the growing hype? Is it more than a shell, imbued with  rich substance?

I am greeted at the door by the slick hostess who, like Lana Turner stepping onto the set of one of her films,  gracefully leads my guest and me to the bar for a pre-dinner drink. The bar intimate. Warm. I am seated at the bar and I meet Jenya, the bar man - a native of Moldova. Charismatic, humble, flamboyant, knowledgeable. That is Jenya. He mixes me a medium to dry Martini, with a  bit of zest as per my request.  It is a pleasure watching him and interacting with him. He brings such life to bear on the bar. As I leave for my table, the value of people in F&B is again driven home. He could have served me water, and I would have enjoyed it.

Jenya preparing a  pre-dinner drink
A light snack to accompany my martini
Already I feel an energy that was missing on my last visit to BOA. The last time was a more muted affair. Understandably, it was during Ramadan, but the staff that waited on me that time, did not quite engage in the way that patrons are expecting these days. Tonight just feels different. The eclectic music mix and the jump in the step of the staff go a long way in infusing the evening with so much life.

The welcoming and friendly but professional tone set by Jenya continues when I meet my waiter for the night, Adin. He goes through the menu as if he has been doing this for years - there is a relaxed comfort in his whole demeanor. He illustrates the obvious benefit of a knowledgeable waiter. When a waiter, for example, knows his product, he can focus on sincerely engaging the guest. Unfortunately it happens too often where I meet a nice waiter, but he focuses so much on the words of the menu, that the whole experience is cerebral.

Heirloom tomatoes and burrata

Our appetizers start with the Heirloom Tomato. The burrata and heirloom tomatoes find themselves in a shallow lake of pesto. I love Chef's spirit in elevating pesto from a mere sprinkling to thisAn absolutely beautiful dish. The burrata cheese is the side attraction here, hence the name of the dish, but anyone trying the burrata will argue against that. But anyone looking at the dish will see why it is all about the tomatoes. They are a sight to behold. Different shapes and a burst of  colours with obvious variations. How does one compare them to regular tomatoes? It is like going from Ravel's Bolero to Rimsky-Korsakov' Flight of the Bumblebee - Immediately arresting. Sweet, but not unnaturally or nauseatingly so. Simply wow.

Beef carpaccio
This is followed by the Pepper crusted beef carpaccio. A very strong dish I must say. There are two cheese tastes; the mild pepato cheese and the saltier parmesan, served as a wafer. The dish, though, is made for me by the tarragon vinaigrette. We don't get enough tarragon on tables these days.
The Wedge
The delectable Goat cheese baklava 
We also try  The Wedge, a salad that can only be described as iceberg lettuce and tomato in a blue cheese festival. It is bathed in gorgeously indulgent  blue cheese sauce.  The Jumbo lump crab cake too with a perfectly firm texture, is also served with a an outstanding side salad. We then try, finally, the Goat cheese baklava. This is such a clever dish, with layer after layer of pastry. Clever because it connects BOA to  a local context. Those layers of pastry offer a sweet and salty dynamic of  a different scale to anything we have had so far. The honey also brings  a beautiful golden colour to the dish.

The service continues to please me, contrasting again with  my previous visit to BOA when I wrote "The matter of service that is efficient and incredibly professional but is lacking in soul, is something I am sure will be addressed. I am excited about my next visit in September." Adin recommends one of 13 by- the-glass wines and while he admits he will be attending an upcoming wine course to improve his knowledge, he does fine on the night. To accompany my starters I have a  Founder's Estate, Beringer Sauvignon Blanc. 

Simple and understated
Glorious and symphonic
BOA is part of a small select group of restaurants that serves Australian Master Kobe. I order the sirloin Grade 9+ marbled beef. BOA,  an American restaurant, has some side dishes that reflect its heritage, so to speak, so I request a side order of their  Truffle cheese fries, amongst others. Adin again confidently but modestly recommends a red, and I end up having the Founder’s Estate, Beringer, Old Vine Zinfandel

My dish is served, and while BOA has a fine range of sauces, including its signature J-1 sauce, I go with just the beef. The presentation is simple. It is all about the beef of course. I expect to see a rich and generous proportion of fat owing to the high marbling grade - I am not disappointed. My choice of temperature of around 48 degrees works well for me as the thin outer layer is well cooked, but as I cut into it, the gorgeous contrast of colour jumps out at me. Cutting into it is so effortless, and I reflect that were my 8 year old here, she would have been able to cut it for me. 

The signature Truffle cheese fries
Mashed potato with garlic and truffles and Grilled asparagus.
I am tempted to forego dessert after that exceptional cut of meat, but Adin's evocative description of one of the desserts makes it an easy decision. I order the S'mores 5.0, described on the menu as rich flourless chocolate cake, milk chocolate ice cream, toasted vanilla “fluff” and gluten free BOA graham crackers. Just how soft are the s'mores? They are very soft and do not get hard suddenly.  Also, the chocolate cake has a remarkable richness. Very chocolatey. The addition of raspberry puffs recall my childhood and bring both that happy feeling and also a sour element to the dessert.  Brilliant. 

My evening at BOA Steakhouse was a clear indication, if ever there was any doubt in my mind, that dishes, while an important aspect of a restaurant because they showcase the chef's skill, cannot elevate a restaurant to greatness in isolation. The same restaurant separated by 3 months between visits, with some similar dishes to the first visit, but different service. That was the key element. On my first visit, Chef Marco's team did as good a job on this night as they did then. However, between the hostess's more prominent role this time, the infectious vibrancy of Jenya and then the all round skill on all levels of Adin, justice was done to Chef Marco's dishes.

BOA Steakhouse is a must-visit. It offers a blend of a passionate French manager with an eye for excellence, ably supported by Geeva and Antogin -  a Chef de Cuisine and a team of chefs able to execute his vision and backed up by outstanding ingredients - and finally, a different ethos among the floor staff as symbolized by Ainura, the hostess, Jenya and Adin. It is this combination that has attracted some of  these high profile visitors, and will attract ordinary visitors like me in the future. Trendy, but for the right reasons. A place to be, but for the right reasons. BOA Steakhouse.

The lowdown 

BOA Steakhouse
Eastern Mangroves Promenade
02 641 1500

Appetisers 50-200 Dhs

Salads 40-80 Dhs
Turf (meat) 125-495 Dhs
Surf (sea) 130-165 Dhs
Desserts 45-60 Dhs

                                                                                                                              Pictures thanks to Nokia Creative Studio on my Nokia 1520
Brandon Stoltenkamp