Sofra Bld Dinner buffet - Shangri-la, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi

Sofra Bld has been one of my most frequented all-day dining restaurants in the city since I arrived in Abu Dhabi 3 1/2 years ago. Suffice to say it has been one of my favourites because in this time I have come to meet some wonderful staff. However, I have also come to know the menu quite well, so when I found out that they were scrapping their theme nights in what looks like an attempt to reinvent themselves, I thought it both a  bold move and possibly a winning one. Their theme nights were more international for me than faithful to a theme anyway. What would they have in its place I wondered? 

Probably the most famous dessert station in the city.
A few interesting mmms and aahhhs. 

1. Sushi and sashimi station

This has elevated Sofra's sushi to among the best at all-day dining restaurants in Abu Dhabi. Not only do they offer a wider range of sashimi that includes cuttle fish, it is the quality of the sushi that stands out. I have mentioned this ad nauseum, but rice is crucial. It can either be too soggy, causing the nori to lose its crispiness, or parboiled, causing indigestion. Sofra's was just right. Good sashimi and good sushi. It is that simple. Worthy of  a few servings.

2. Teppanyaki

On my last visit, this was a  station I felt was a lovely innovation, but was falling short on the delivery. Then, there was just a mixing of fish with beef on the teppanyaki plate. It had more to do with a lack of experience on the part of the chef. On this visit, there was a noticeable improvement, and I could confidently order salmon, without fear that it would be cooked to closely to the beef. Finally, while I could care less for the Americanised theatre behind this style of cooking, it is very popular with kids, and chef treated my daughter to a fantastic fire show. She loved it!

They finally got it right. When you offer a buffet at a very low price and you add free drinks, it sends negative message to more discerning diners - our food is all about quantity and not quality. However, at 238 AED net excluding drinks, I felt that they were backing their product alot more than in the past. You have to believe that people will spend money on your product because it is good enough. 

My favourites on the night

I have to start with the oysters. I have often been disappointed by the oysters at Sofra. On this occasion, they were perfect. How chef managed to shuck 8 oysters (I had two helpings) without leaving any sediment boggles my mind. Absolutely brilliant. I also enjoyed the Butternut, walnut and caper salad. A myriad of textures and tastes that surprised. Finally, an old favourite of mine prepared by the same chef over and over, is the grilled calamari. Order it once and he will not forget. I had mine mildly spicy. Delicious. 


With the end of theme nights, it will now propel wine to the forefront. This is rather fitting since the hotel has finally appointed a sommelier who has been with the hotel for around 4 months now. I will not be surprised if that wine list is overhauled to match the demand that will now come from guests who will no longer be drinking that Australian Wolfblass that we all know so well and loathe.  I had a delightful Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, the Matua Marlborough 2013 from a  well priced by-the-glass section. . 

The Verdict

It is still not the buffet that will set tastebuds racing, but there is a new enegry that I have not felt in a  while at Sofra (except at breakfast).  The dropping of the theme nights for now, giving them time to come up with something fresh no doubt, is a good idea. This time  will allow them to focus on quality again. I am already excited about what next they will be offering. Well actually, I have some information already, but I am not telling. I am just pleased that one of my homes away from home is making efforts to return to its earlier glory days. 

The low down

Sofra Bld,
Shangri-la Hotel, Abu Dhbai
02 509 8555

Evening Buffet 238 AED net

Brandon Stoltenkamp