Showing posts from June, 2015

Cantonese and mainland Chinese Cuisine at Dai Pai Dong - Rosewood Hotel, Abu Dhabi

January 26, 2000. I boarded Flight SA286 and left Johannesburg bound for Hong Kong; my first international flight. It would be a period that would see me making several visits to Hong Kong, while spending time in Taiwan and China. It is funny how memories are evoked. It can be a smell,  a colour, a taste - My visit to Rosewood Hotel's Cantonese restaurant, Dai Pai Dong brought back these and a myriad of memories. 

It is a gorgeous restaurant. The usual iconography that one associates with Chinese restaurants, like red lanterns, are no where to be seen. In fact, apart from the menus, you will be hard pressed to find red in the restaurant. There are two dominating Chinese symbols that catch my eye as I am seated - the dragon and phoenix. These two icons, depicted in some engaging art work in blacks greys and whites, represent power and that which is regal and beautiful in Chinese culture. On being seated I look up to the ceiling and I cant help noticing a sculpture that offers a mode…

Iftar at Horizon - Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana - Abu Dhabi

If you have not been to Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana, you should. A glorious lobby with magnificent chandeliers will entice you to explore further. Outside, it really is quite an oasis with beautiful landscaping featuring lovely palm trees. So, coming for an iftar is something to look forward to. I tried their iftar last night, and a few talking points emerged. 

A celebration of Arabia

I for one attend quite a few iftars and after 3, they all start to feel the same. After all, hummus is hummus. They have a formula that hotels follow, and become quite predictable. on the other hand, I always look for an x factor. A trend among some restaurants this year is to place more emphasis on the international side of dishes. After all, how many falafels can you eat in one week if you are  a guest at a hotel. 

The iftar at Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan is actually pure Arabia, and therein is its supreme strength - it does it brilliantly with no half measures. It is quite a large iftar, and can cate…

Beach Rotana Iftar for Press 2015 - Beach Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi

I attended an Iftar at Beach Rotana in one of its banquet rooms, with memories of last year's iftar still quite fresh in my memory. On this ocassion, members of teh press were invited for an intimate iftar, a meet and greet and thank you if you will on the part of teh hotel. A nice gesture. Staff were out in force, with the newly appointed Director of Marketing Lisbeth Beneski playing a pivotal role in making guests feel the warmth that we all hope for at an iftar. I have long said that an iftar is not about food. It is much more than that. 

A few talking points from the iftar

Less is more

It is an intimate setting, despite the use of one of a banquet room. I find large iftars very intimidating, so this is a strength. It comes back to a  question I often ask about brunches for example, and that is how much food can one really eat at a buffet. Focus on a  few things and excel rather than producing quantity that is mediocre. The buffet area is in a  horse shoe shape, with Ramadan juice…

Asha's Contemporary Indian Cuisine - Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi

I walk through the mall looking for an Information kiosk, hoping to ask the directions to Asha's. But there is no kiosk in sight. Suddenly, I stop. I get the aroma is indefinable, but I know for sure it is good. That must be it, I think to myself. I follow the smell. There it is. Asha's. As I walk in, I reflect on how in a time where food courts have usurped the appreciation for food in a mall, this is indeed a refreshing experience. 

There is a distinctive song playing. Immediately I ask the manager who it is. Asha Bhosle, a leading light in the Indian entertainment industry  for decades and who is the inspiration behind Asha's. Now I write often about the power of first impressions. Well, between the spices and the music, I have had quite a first impression. 

I am always weary when I hear of celebrities owning restaurants, and I cynically think that they are simply cashing in on their stardom. But as I go through the menu, of course I see some dishes that I simp…

Casual Japanese at Inakaya - Venetian Village, Ritz Carlton, Abu Dhabi

Anyone who has been to Japan and had the opportunity to immerse him/herself in Japanese culture , will have experienced a Japanese cultural icon known as an izakaya. An izakaya is a casual Japanese pub or drinking place where food is served. Emphasis is on it being a  casual experience. Inakaya, located at the Venetian Village at The Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi, has taken that concept, but tweaked it to reflect its own brand which has three other Inakaya restaurants around the world: Tokyo, New York and Hong Kong. 

The twist at Inakaya is the robata grill concept in which fresh ingredients are theatrically prepared and served on large wooden paddles - high on theatre, but no where near as unJapanese and dare I say corny as Americanised teppanyaki performances. It offers more authenticity. Inakaya is, therefore, unlike any other Japanese experience in the city, and its one of a kind style makes it a very desirable venue. 

As we arrive, we walk under a large banner hanging outside announcin…

Relaxed Mexican at El Sombrero - Sheraton Hotel, Abu Dhabi

While it is only 7pm, there is already a distinctive energy at El Sombrero, the Mexican restaurant at the Sheraton in Abu Dhabi. It is strange considering there is a mere splattering of guests at this stage, but that says a lot about the restaurant already. 

It is a happy restaurant, with red and orange washed walls. Vibrant, lively. El Sombrero is also intimate, catering for around 70 people I estimate. In addition to the general seating area catering for smoking and non smoking diners, there are also semi-private rooms. 

Dinner kicks of one of the specialities at El Sombrero with a Blue Curacao Margarita. Looking around as the table start filling up, I see a couple of beer drinkers, but generally margaritas are all round. The restaurant starts filling up nicely, and this is a Tuesday night! I start off with a  selection of starters. Of course it has to be the Guacamole which smacks of freshness. Super crispy tortilla chips make this a classic dish. 

I also have the Empanadas, stuffed w…