Rodeo Grill - Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi

As you walk passed Rodeo Grill, you cannot help but peer through the curtains. It looks inviting. There is a natural curiosity that is sparked. The windows make you want to be a voyeur and just watch what is going inside. It all looks so exclusive. So enjoyable. Fortunately, I did not have to be a voyeur. After getting some outside pics, I went inside and was shown to my table. It is a steakhouse. Dark woods permeate, from the tables and chairs to the wood-paneled walls. Chandeliers are strong and dominant, very masculine, as is the rest of the restaurant. The new Rodeo Grill has left behind its retro old style and become a modern steakhouse next to some of the big players in the city.

The evening starts with a glass of NV Veuve Cliquot Brut 'Yellow label'. As I savour one of teh ebst NV Champagnes, I admire the staff in their new uniforms - very professional,  reflecting the attempt to elevate Rodeo Grill to a serious contender for best steakhouse in Abu Dhabi. My order is taken. With an evening of meat ahead, I forego the temptation to have the steak tartare, and instead choose the Trio of Duck with Spicy mango and the Creamy Burrata Cheese - Grilled artichokes and olives

Decanting is more than just ceremony. 
I meet the restaurant's sommelier, Matija, and order the Meerlust Rubicon 2009, a South African wine comprising four varietals,  Cabernet Sauvignon,  Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Having enjoyed this wine before, this time I am curious to see how it will fare decanted, so I request it accordingly. Then, just before my starters are brought, the Meat Master comes to my table and introduces some of the cuts of meat available. A very nice idea for the guest. I make my choice - the Maruya full blooded Wagyu from Australia. 

The Meat Master takes me though the different cuts. 
With these formalities out of the way, the starters are served. Oddly, they are both brought at the same time. I naturally assumed they would be brought in stages. Nonetheless, I start with the Duck trio. On my plate is terrine with balsamic reduced, seared foie gras on brioche with burnt orange and finally, duck confit. The chef has got the balance with the balasmic just right. I think it is so easy to reduce too much, leaving it a bit burned. However, as I taste the dark, gooey and intense reduction, I see that it is just perfect. Together with the terrine,  I realize it could be a dish on its own. The second part of my trio is the seared foie gras. The accompanying orange thankfully is not too sweet. Finally, the duck confit on chutney has  adeliciously crispy exterior, while the confit is what you want it to be. The added chutney brings the expected sweetness to bear on the confit. The verdict - a highly recommended starter. 

The Meerlust, meanwhile, is robust, full and intense. It has an unbelievably deep colour. It is fruity, woody and spicy. A great wine at a great price - an excellent wine to keep on the wine list. 

Next up, I have the burrata. It has an unusual presentation which breaks from the traditional white on red contrast that you see when it is served with tomatoes. While something is lost in the presentation (lettuce and artichokes do not exactly scream 'colour'!),  I enjoy the taste, especially the sourness from the artichokes contrasting with the balsamic. 

Having requested my Wagyu beef to be cooked to chef's recommendation, I wait with eager anticipation. The arrival of my Laguiole steak knife is a good sign. It cannot be long now. As usual, despite a great selection of sauce options, I choose too have the beef on its own. On the side though, I cannot resist mashed potatoes with truffle oil. 

My wagyu is cooked medium well, which allows me to get a  real beefy taste, but of course an appreciation of the marbling is compromised because of the cooking temperature, something Autralian Chef Wong explains to me as he comes to my table. I find him fascinating. There are those chefs you meet and you simply want to have a drink with them immediately. He is one of those and I listen with piqued interest as he explains his preferred cooking temperature. 

As I finish my evening, which is is my usual routine, I reflect on the addition of Rodeo Grill to the high-end steakhouse market, and I see enough evidence to suggest it will do well and even compete with a few key players. It is very much a work in progress though - nothing unusual when a restaurant has just opened or relaunched. In having a meat master and sommelier on the floor, they are offering something that diners will enjoy. And the Meat master offers more than  just a theatrical performance. It is a genuinely brilliant idea. There is also a chef who checks on guests - this is also a  growing trend that should continue. An element that deserves special mention is the range of beef cuts - really something for everyone. However, if waiting staff are able to perfect a few minor issues (which I have brought to their attention), I see no reason why Rodeo Grill will not become a favourite in the city. After all, the little things all add up. It is perfection one is seeking. Or at least as close to it as possible.

The low down

Rodeo Grill,
Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi
02  697 9000

Starters 50-95 Dhs 
Cuts of beef 200-560 Dhs
Desserts 45-70 Dhs

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