Spice Market at Market Kitchen - Le Royal Meridien, Abu Dhabi
It is Thursday night, and while I missed out Peter Lloyd's visit where he spent quite a bit of time at Market Kitchen from 16-19 February, I am glad to be here. There is a buzz in the restaurant. The evening starts off with a glass of NV Veuve Cliquot Brut - still one of my favourite NV champagnes in the city.
The sharing concept tonight is one that is not only in name here. The concept of 4 starters followed by a selection of mains brings this home very clearly. The appetisers are served. The first element of south east Asian food is immediately evident - it is colourful and aromatic; the latter even more so because of the spicy component. I try each in turn.
The Shaved yellowfin tuna recalls the tuna that is served on Market Kitchen's own menu, but that is where the comparison ends. Tonight's dish has that hint of spice brought to the dish by chili tapioca pearls does not overwhelm the tuna. Jicama, often referred to as Mexican yam, is cut up into small pieces. Finally, the coconut lime broth adds a bit of tang to the dish, bringing together the chili and mild sweetness of the jicama. The yellow fin, amazingly, still tastes like yellow fin!
The Chili rubbed beef satay is a winner. Simple in presentation, but rich in flavour, this skewer, made from 100% tenderloin is beautifully cooked. This dish brings together the streets of south east Asia and Market Kitchen's emphasis on using the best ingredients available, perfectly. My skewer is moist and still beefy. The dip sauce, a gorgeous green coloured lime and basil mix, balances that chili just right.
Next up, the Mango salad is both sweet, sour and spicy. With mangoes of varying ripeness providing the sweet sour elements and further delicate sweetness coming from the candied tamarind, another marvellous rendering of a variation of a dish I would have had on the streets of Bangkok.
The final appetiser, Black Pepper shrimps, is my favourite on the night. Being more accustomed to having had black pepper on my steaks in my earlier years, it is a delight to find it on the shrimps. It is a happy food association for me. It is quite peppery, but my mantra for the appetisers, a celebration of balance, rears its head again. This time jicama again and sun dried pineapple. Because the latter is sundried, there is not the usual acidity - just sweetness. Nice. On the service front, it is an interactive start to the dinner, as highlighted by the restaurant's assistant manager guiding my guest and I to the recommended way of enjoying some of the dishes even more. In this case it is biting into the shrimp and following it with the pineapple.
Meanwhile, my wine for the evening, specially chosen to counter the spiciness of my dishes, is the Trimbach Riesling which is dry and marginally sweet. A good choice.
Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street,
02 674 2552