Torres Wine Dinner at 55&5th, The Grill - St Regis on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
1. 55&5th is more than a steakhouse
As I walked in to the restaurant, again it dawned on me what a non-obvious steakhouse it is. The fineness of it is inescapable. Embarrassingly I borrow from an earlier piece I did on the restaurant, but I think it succinctly captures what I want to say: "As I walk into 55&5th, I feel I am stepping into another world. It is breathtaking! While it is opulent, there is nothing ostentatious or gaudy about it. Simply elegant. A towering ceiling creates a surreal sense of space. Magnificent chandeliers create a truly gorgeous setting. As I stand there, I can picture Fitzgerald's Gatsby treating his friends to swanky dinners while jazz sounds blast through the speakers. Tastefully decadent. This is a restaurant, while part of a resort hotel, jumps at you and pleads 'Dress up' - a throwback to the days when people still did that."
18 months on, I still feel this. Where steakhouses are traditionally labeled masculine, 55&5th eschews this. However, it is more than the style on display that challenges the notion that it is a steakhouse. The Chef de Cuisine donning the white hat ensures that.
2. The Chef
Chef created a 4 course menu that, main excepted, you would be left in doubt as to the type of cuisine served at the restaurant. Herein lies one of the strengths of the restaurant. The dishes were created with a sensitivity that challenged its grill status. It is unfair, I feel, to label it a steakhouse based on the evidence of the dishes again put out tonight.
The starter, the Langoustine with apple, celeriac, turnip and dill could not be a fine example of what I am conveying. It is a dish of delicate antitheses. The mild sweetness of the langoustine and the bitterness of the dill, for example show this. Then of course there is the liquorice powder sprinkled playfully on the plate to also add a further hint of sweetness to the dish. However, it is his use of liquorice that I find most interesting, reminding me of his use of popcorn in another of his langoustine dishes - liquorice, like popcorn, is a throwback to one's childhood, isn't it? Innocence, simplicity and joy are all evoked. Finally, it is a dish of great maturity for it relies not so much on dazzling the eyes with its light tones, but in arresting the palate.
|The now familiar sensitive side of Chef Kreaton|
Wine dinners can be a bore for people who may not be wine aficionados but are keen on a decent glass of wine. It is important that there is a balance between satisfying the cerebral needs of some guests while not alienating those who simply enjoy a good glass of wine removed form the academic side of wine. Salim Isler from Torres and the new sommelier at St Regis Saadiyat, Steve Fernandes, managed to do exactly that. Salim Isler brought to the evening a genuineness - you could see that he really believes in their product and would order it in a restaurant. Then there was Steve Fernandes who showed so much soul when he had us all reaching for a pen and paper to capture some of his words. At one point he said something to the effect that when you have a glass of wine, you are having more than a glass of wine. Instead you are tasting the people and the culture that created that wine! Nice.
|A distributor, sommelier and a chef.|
4. The future of fine dining
I was devastated when my favourite restaurant closed its doors a few months ago. In many ways, it epitomised fine dining in the city. There has been a lot of talk about the efficacy of fine dining in the market that is Abu Dhabi. I envision fine dining restaurants (and there are not many) needing to adapt to the market, and I think flexibility is a big requirement. I do not see 'two for ones' on The Entertainer as the solution. It is not sustainable in the long term. Once an Entertainer user, always an Entertainer user. It is about the concept.
This is where fine dining restaurants will have to reinvent themselves, while still being true to their vision. We do not want all restaurants to allow flip flops and shorts! Gourmet burgers, 3 course meals for 3o0AED and collaborations with visiting chefs from within the same hotel group are all some of the creative ideas matched with good prices that residents might like.
55&5th, The Grill
St Regis Saadiyat Island,