Dinner with a revolving view at Stratos - Le Royal Meridien, Abu Dhabi

Having been to Stratos a couple weeks ago to experience the John Stone Dinner ( read here http://bit.ly/1xbgCr1 ) in which the virtues of Irish dry aged and grass fed beef were rightfully expounded, I decided to try Stratos again, this time to sample the rest of the menu. 

The moment I take the elevator up to Stratos on the 26th floor, there is already a feeling of exclusivity - there is one elevator dedicated  to taking you up all the way. As I exit the elevator, I see stylish lockers displaying some high end single malt whiskies and cognacs. Briefly, if you and some friends do not manage to finish one of those bottles, Stratos will keep it for on your next and subsequent visits. Sensible and practical, but also making you feel a sense of homeliness. 

 I am offered a pre-dinner drink after being seated in the lounging area, with Abu Dhabi's skyline in front of me. A lot has been said about Abu Dhabi's ever changing skyline, well this is a place that gives me that from another perspective. After my dinner I would have seen the skyline change because Stratos is a revolving Bar and Grill.  

The power of first impressions. We are met by the restaurant manager, Brian Webster, a self assured and super slick individual  who has the art of hospitality fine tuned. We are also met by our waiter for the night, Pradeep, who immediately shows a willingness to connect with the guest without 'hanging around'. Nice. I choose  a glass of their house Champagne, NV Louis Roederer Brut, while my guest has a Hemingway Daiquiri. After about 45 minutes, I am already able to appreciate the light changing as Stratos moves around from the night lights of some of the sky scrapers to the more natural light of areas like the Corniche...Soon after we are shown to our table. 

For starters we choose the Yellow Fin Tuna and the Torchon of Foie Gras. Brian offers to pair my starter with a wine. His recommendation,the Australian  Nottage Hill Riesling 2013 is drier than expected but the hint of sweetness excites me because I know it will go well with the foie gras. 
The foie gras
The foie gras is served and I am taken in my what is happening on the plate. The condensed milk and pineapple chutney balance the foie gras beautifully. But more than the tastes, this is a dish of textures. The longer the foie gras sits on my plate, the more the texture changes. There is the bite from the brioche served on the side and the more subtle but still crunchy bread crumbs. Executive Chef Justin has his trademark evocation of childhood memories in the form of bite sized cinnamon donuts to provide added diversity to the foie gras but also to create that mood that brings back childhood.Now, I am a self confessed lover of pan seared foie gras, but this dish converts me to the other possibilities. Meanwhile, I cannot help but try the yellow fin tuna. Also, exceptional. Heirloom tomatoes provide intense colour to that dish, and  is juxtaposed with the salt and pepper. The tuna, well it is yellow fin. Cannot go wrong with that!
Yellow fin tuna
The service continues to hit all the right notes. Drinks are topped up periodically and I am so aware of how the staff tonight bide their time before approaching us. I like this. I am often frustrated when staff interrupt a conversation just to ask if everything is ok. No such concerns here tonight.

The recommended main course will be intriguing. We go for a Master Kobe vs John Stone. We order the Master Kobe Full blood 9+ Wagyu sirloin and the John Stone Grass Fed Rib eye. The side dishes look enticing, but I ask for very small portions. We have Paris mash, Spinach Rockefeller and Salad of baby spinach, red onion, Tomato, olive & roquefort.

The Master Kobe
The verdict? I think they are both outstanding cuts of beef. The sirloin has that familiar tight texture and obvious marbling. The lack of tenderness should not be confused with toughness. On the contrary, the sirloin is not known for being the most tender owing to its texture. But it cuts beautifully. So structured. The rib eye is very tender, on the other hand. Cutting into it allows one to appreciate the marbling that it too has, just not as profound as in the Master Kobe. I do love the rich pink colour though. The wine pairing, Ch√Ęteau Puy-Razac, St Emilion, Bordeaux pleases me and really complements the beef. I love the intensity and fullness of  a Bordeaux and for me there can be no other pairing with beef. On the night, Master Kobe 1 vs John Stone 1. 

The John Stone
Dessert is a tough call, because the beef was such a high point, but the wine pairing intrigues, so we order the Strawberry Posset and Meyer Lemon Curd tart. The ginger soda sorbet that accompanies the tart wows. I am excited more and more when I see chefs move away from the traditional notion that ice cream needs to be traditionally sweet. As for the strawberry posset, as was the case the last time, I enjoy it. It is very texturally thrilling dessert. I love the strawberry granola! Finally, the dessert wine is divine. The Donnafugata Kabir Moscato, Pantelleria from Sicily is rich in aroma, possessed with fresh elements and significantly, is not overly sweet. Who needs a sommelier when your manager is able to make such strong pairings? 

Dinner ended as the lights dimmed on the Abu Dhabi skyline. As I wrapped up my thoughts, I reflected on what a stunning venue this is, but while some venues offering a  glorious view of a city will trade on that and compromise on food because they feel the view will compensate, Stratos seeks to deliver the complete product. Here, I believe food is first and foremost. The view is a an added pleasure. 

Expensive? I think this is one of the misleading things I have heard about Stratos. I find the prices very competitive with leading steakhouses in the city, and in some cases are even lower. The wine list offers some really good wines at an affordable price. Just because you do not see a house wine at 30AED a glass does not make a place expensive. It just means it believes in encouraging guests to pay a little more for a more rewarding experience. It offers a balance between an exclusive but accessible Grill & Bar evening. 

Stratos joins  a select number of venues in the city where you feel you can, for 4 hours, escape the hustle and bustle of urban life, sit back and appreciate beauty. 

The lowdown

Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street,
Abu Dhabi
800 101 101 


Starters 70 - 295 AED
Grill 130-425 AED
Desserts 40-50 AED
Wine by the glass 50-216 AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp