The relaunched Bar Menu at 55&5th, The Grill - St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

There is very little doubt that 55&5th, The Grill is an exceptional restaurant. There is even less doubt that it is much more than a steakhouse and that it should market itself accordingly - it is simply a great restaurant. However, whenever I have walked into the restaurant, passing the bar, I could never help but wonder how the bar relates to the restaurant. The relaunch of the menu, I understand, marks the beginning of the hotel looking at possibilities of making the bar a destination in its own right. It is with this in mind that I try the bar menu this evening. 

My guest and I have two seating options - the low tables with very relaxed leather chairs, or the higher chairs at the bar. We start off at the low tables. My fascination this evening, first and foremost though, is to see whether the bar and menu can serve as a vehicle for 55&5th, The Grill in which the dishes have a thematic, presentation and balance of flavours connection. In other words, will the bar menu make me want to go to the restaurant on another occasion for a fuller experience? 

First up we have the Rice crackers with cucumber & Hamachi. Make no mistake - you are unlikely to find  a better way to start a new bar menu. This dish is inventive, creatively plated and leaves one wondering what inspired Chef Kreaton to come up with this. I love hamachi or yellow tail, as it is known by its more common name, and while I have enjoyed it seared before, I have not had it this way: Hamachi sashimi served with yuzu sauce has such a characteristic taste, and incredibly, this seared version has the same core as the sashimi thanks to the yuzu. On this occasion, he uses yuzu kosho, fermented yuzu skin with green chilli; the bite from the chili adds another dimension.

Next up, the Smoked Salmon tartar is one of those dishes that plays a trick on the mind - looking at it, you will be forgiven for thinking it a dessert. Three types of caviar create an impression of fruit being on the plate. Accordingly, the brain registers it as a dessert, but after the first bite through the pastry to experience that silky smooth salmon tartar, I am startled. Added flavour comes through the Japanese mayo while, in the end, the avocado puree balances everything else on the plate. But the salmon. Oh the salmon. Did I use the words silky smooth to describe it? My dish of the night?

An old favourite from the main menu is the Mini wagyu crudo , and we try it next. As I bite into it, it is the cracker that commands my attention. Striploin, grade 4 or 5, lies between the sourdough crostini. The crackle is pronounced as I bite into it. Not even the marinated sardine paste or savora mustard mayonnaise can drown out that wonderful sound as I take another bite and hear the crostini break. A sensory dish indeed. 

For the final courses, we move to the bar itself and seat ourselves on the high chairs. Of course, no bar menu would be complete without a burger, but this being 55&5th, I am right to expect something left of centre; something arresting, and I am not disappointed. Not at all. We share the 55&5th Gourmet duck burger - a fine burger. Foie gras, perfectly proportioned to ensure it does not end up being a foie gras burger, and some surprising but welcome sweetness also on the hand chopped duck breast; the choice of fig chutney is a master stroke - not nauseatingly sweet and with texture from the seeds. Excellent!

At 120AED, it is competitive with gourmet burgers at any top tier hotel, but the choice of duck instead of the ubiquitous beef works very well, also making the foie gras topping very logical. Finally,  White truffle fries complete an ultra decadent dish. 

Finally, a homely touch is revealed when we have the Chicken & wild mushroom pie. It is hearty and reminds me of winters in my childhood home. Even the mash potato is something I would make in the kitchen - it is good, but so simple. So, again that word, homely. A very nice touch indeed. 

While dessert does not feature on the Bar bites menu, a night without dessert is, well, like a weeknight - just ordinary. The Porcini tiramisu is the most daring and bold dessert I have seen at 55&5th. By a mile. The centre piece, 'Porcini mushrooms' are created by a stem of mascarpone cream and topped with a meringue. Visually, something to behold. Then there is the textural contradiction of these two ingredients melting and crumbling in the mouth at the same time. Mushrooms need soil of course to grow and what excites me about the chocolate soil on this plate are the different shades of brown as well as textures when I eat it. All very believable. This dessert is fun, serious, simple and complex. Oh, and very delicious.  

The new bar menu is a definite winner. The dishes I had cannot be faulted. They offer a blend of imagination and functionality. The old cliched bar food that one expects will not be found here. Even in the more typical items like the burger and fries, Chef has created something very special. Is the bar a destination in itself? No, it feels too much tied to 55&5th, The Grill, robbing it of its own identity. With some tweaking to the space, music and possible rebranding, this bar could be a must visit thanks to the excellent menu it has. There are enough bars offering pub grub. What we need is a venue that raises the bar ( I could not resist!) and challenges peoples' conceptions of food that bars serve. The menu succeeds in doing this. I think it has something for everyone, from the traditional to the innovative. There is also an invigorated cocktail menu and with an excellent sommelier at the hotel, you can expect wine to match. 

Overall, an amazing menu that will definitely inspire curiosity as to what the full restaurant menu is like. It fills me with a desire to see what the Chef will do on a larger scale. It will allow you to appreciate the attention to detail and balance of flavours that I have mentioned on several occasions with regards to Chef Kreaton's restaurant dishes. However, for it to succeed as a bar in its own right, it needs to forge its own identity while keeping a connection to the menu of the restaurant. 

The Essentials

The Bar at 55&5th, The Grill
St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort,
Abu Dhabi
02 4988888

Selected menu items
Rice crackers with cucumber & Hamachi 65AED
Smoked Salmon tartar 60AED
Mini wagyu crudo 55AED
Chicken & wild mushroom pie 65AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer: I was invited to try the new menu courtesy of the hotel.