BU! about to shake things up in a big way - World Trade Centre Mall, Abu Dhabi

In the last 3 years, there have been restaurants launched which have transformed the dining landscape in Abu Dhabi. They were Zuma, Asia de Cuba and Catch. It has been a while since, but there is a new restaurant that is about to do the same. BU! has enjoyed a soft opening and is now about to officially open its doors. The grand opening is the 28th of April, but I had the pleasure of trying their menu in advance of its opening. 

Are we still in Abu Dhabi?

One of the reasons we go to restaurants is that we have a need to escape the pressures of life or to be transported away to another time. BU! is able to do this on numerous levels. Set on the 4th-floor terrace of the World Trade Centre Mall in Abu Dhabi, you can't help feeling you are in another place. Downtown is a hive of activity and can be a noisy place, but to have that replaced by Latin tunes, the clip-clop of high heels and roaring laughter of happy guests is a nice change. Sat cosily between two skyscrapers, BU! provides an oasis of calm. But do not mistake this for a dead atmosphere. On the contrary. I tried the restaurant on a  Sunday night and it was happening. 


There are two other restaurants' staff in Abu Dhabi, and I could stretch this to maybe 4, that are able to take me to that metaphorical other place because their approach to service is what many expats would expect when they visited Europe or progressive Asian cities like Tokyo and Singapore. The philosophy in this handful of restaurants' service ethic is 'less service is more service' - you know what I mean; where no one hovers or grabs your plate the moment the fork is put down. Having waiting staff who are able to connect with guests on a natural level, where there is no need for a service manual - that is what these restaurants have in common. BU! is on that level, but with much scope for growth as they seek to have a staff that speaks with one voice if you will.


With Dubai awash with pan-Latin restaurants, it has taken Abu Dhabi a while to get its own. And it is quite a debut. BU! is not about fusion. The dishes on its menu, originating from Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, brazil and Mexico, amongst others, offer something genuine, real. When you have a floor management staff that includes a number of South Americans, you know tat dishes will be kept honest. Head Chef Canales sets out to bring South America to Abu Dhabi in a  very casual yet elegantly presented manner - Street food meets sophisticated ingredients meets Latin spices meets theatre - the restaurant boasts one of the largest, if not largest, open kitchens I have seen in the city. And this touches on what will prove an undeniable strength of a restaurant that also has a big terrace set up - in Summer when the terrace is closed, guests will not feel cheated as they are forced to move inside. The interior is all chic and style, with wide open spaces. In total, 420 guests can be entertained across both dining areas as well as indoor and terrace bars. Don't fret - the space is huge, so it will be festive without making you feel overwhelmed. 


Dishes were compiled in a special Preview menu - a great idea considering the usual menu has about 110 dishes from which to choose. The Atun Ceviche starts the evening off with a bang. Smart balancing of wasabi, green aji and red onion in sesame oil, topped off with generous orange makes this a delicious start to the evening. The dish has the perfect amount of zip to leave an impression on the palate. We then try the Pulpo Tiradito, a stunningly presented octopus dish that will change your idea of the texture that octopus is supposed to have. There is no rubberiness in this dish. It is again also about balance as paprika, garlic and coriander form a delicate but flavoursome mix with olive oil. 

We also try the Huitlacoche Envuelto, a mushroom-based dish that may convince a meat eater of the virtues of a vegetarian lifestyle. This wonton-like dish is an early front runner for my dish of the night. The wonton wrapper is key because it is so thin yet able to hold everything together. Finally, for some aroma and deep flavour, Chef uses truffle oil, but with great subtlety. allowing the dish not to be overwhelmed. A must-have!

My dalliance with thoughts of vegetarianism last a moment, thanks to two dishes in particular - the Costillas - Black Angus ribs are served and are a bit of a conversation piece as the meat is served next to a clean bone. That is how easily the meat has fallen off the bone. Think of all the cliches you have read about meat being tender and succulent and apply it to this. Equally satisfying is Black Angus tenderloin. While I am more of a striploin person myself, I can see how this will appeal to the masses. It is done medium rare and has that gorgeous pinkish red colour you look for in a piece of meat of this quality. 

Finally, some phenomenal desserts are on offer. Pastry Chef Gonzalez has a stellar line up of treats. The Alfajor, an Argentinian dessert is highly recommended from a trio of desserts which are all exceptional. Cheesecake flanked on either side by a biscuit is the centrepiece, but for me because of the emotional intensity, is the tapioca powder with pop rocks. The tapioca powder reminds me of popcorn. It is so uncanny. The flavour just takes me to the movies and happy childhood moments. Then, of course, the pop rock candy does the same.


These are as much a part of BU! as the dishes. It is so gratifying to see a restaurant paying equal attention to not only the restaurant part of its brand but also the bar aspect. The bar space is ample, both indoors and outdoors and I can see this being the place to be as people sign out from the office. There is only one other venue in the city that has that 'let's fo straight for a drink after work' in an outdoor terrace setting feel. With more than 100 choices of rum and a similar selection of whiskies, you are in for something special here. It also helps you as a restaurant when you have an independent supplier over and above the usual suppliers in Abu Dhabi. It is about staying ahead of the pack!

The restaurant's house champagne, the Devaux Cuvee D Brut Aged 5 years is symbolic of its approach to drinks. Where all restaurants have a predictable house champagne, Bu! Trinity has gone with this boutique champagne that is full of character and also comes in at a very good price. Eat differently. Lounge differently. Drink differently - the mantras here. 

Game changer indeed! Progressive staffing, a kitchen staff that offers unmatched authenticity, a bold location in the heart of the city removed from a hotel, a bar scene that will dwarf the rest in the city...if they can deliver a consistently good product, this will become a venue that people in Dubai will drive out to try. 
BU! is the most significant addition to the dining scene in the capital in the last 12 months!

The Essentials

4th floor,
The Hub at World Trade Centre Mall,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 666 8066
Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I was invited to a special preview of the menu courtesy of the restaurant