An American in Paris at Market Kitchen - Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Market Kitchen, in many ways a groundbreaking restaurant in the heart of Abu Dhabi, had an exceptional 2015. Its brunch, one of the first table brunches in the city, introduced diners to a set menu that emphasised freshness and simplicity of ingredients. It was a natural extension of its usual a la carte menu which brought mosern American cuisine to Abu Dhabi. However, towards the end of 2015, I did feel it lacked a bit of freshness after the initial wow factor. In fairness, it spoiled us with its Suzanne Husseini and Spice Market promotions. So, when I got an invitation to try its 'American in Paris ' menu, I was naturally thrilled. The concept was inspired by its sister restaurant, Brasserie Quartier at The St Regis in Dubai. 

Market Kitchen came up with a superb concept last year when they had a Spice Market promotion, in which they served dishes from its sister restaurant in London. The restaurant lends itself to this type of concept and any promotion fits seamlessly into the restaurant's own philosophy. The question as dinner started, was whether or not the brasserie dishes of its sister restaurant in Dubai could be convincing in Market Kitchen. 

1. Still Market Kitchen

The restaurant is beyond kitschy iconography, as was the case with previous promotions. There were no corny Eiffel Tower pictures, accordion music to reflect the brasserie theme. Market Kitchen is a restaurant that understands itself. It is comfortable, and even if numbers are not what they as is sometimes the case in a  city known for its fluctuating numbers, it retains its identity. Refreshing. Integrity of a concept does matter. 

2. Dishes

To get the evening started we have a Tarte Flambée Alsacienne, a thin crusted French style pizza. Simple presentation. Simple ingredients. It calls for you to use your hands, and I oblige. That is what I would do in brasserie, after all. Quite a striking start to the evening.

The next dish is the Salad Du Marche . It is a simple garden salad, with asparagus, radish, carrots, shitake mushrooms and rucola leaves conveying freshness and simplicity. It is such an un-Market Kitchen salad as Chef has very much kept the core values of this dish. 

Two wines accompany our dinner: The Colombelle White Coeur de Gascoigne 2014 and the red from the same label and year - two well-chosen wines that offer a nice balance between price and palate. palate.

My craving for something from the sea is answered as the Loup GrillĂ©, the Grilled Sea Bass is served. The picture, unfiltered, accurately reflects a wonderfully cooked piece of fish. Herbal, aromatic couscous sits beneath the sea bass, adding texture, while preserved tomato vinaigrette brings a deliciously sweet but mainly sour elements to the dish. The flavours from the tomato are even more vivid because the seabass is naturally flavoured. 

Completing a surf and turf experience is the Bavette steak, Frites. This grilled strip steak, from the less tender part of the cow, is chewy but has  a lot of flavour. It is a typical bistro or brasserie style steak. A tenderloin it is not, but then it comes in at probably half the price - ideal beef for a brasserie.  The dish is hearty from the first bite to the last, and I end up dipping every single French fry in the complementing bearnaise sauce. 

Finally, for dessert, we have the Moelleux au Chocolat. After some extensive debate at our table, I am really able to appreciate the dessert as an example of how Market Kitchen is able to marry its concept to that of Brasserie Quartier. If you have been to Market Kitchen before, you would have recognised the warm chocolate cake - it is very iconic. The meringue is beautifully crispy - one of the best I have had in a while. Raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream complete the dessert, which initially feels like two desserts. In a certain context, the chocolate cake would be the centre piece in a  brasserie, with maybe something to break its intense flavour. But this is Market Kitchen, an American concept, so there needs to be a sweetness, of course, hence, everything else that you see on the plate. On reflection,  it is a smart dessert in that brings to a  close an evening of two cultures by embracing both on the plate. 

Market Kitchen, in brief, has got back its mojo! It is one of my top 10 restaurants in the city, and this evening's dinner shows why. The restaurant is a very comfortable and cosy place with service that is unobtrusive. The waiting staff know their roles and add to the friendly, cheerful atmosphere. Add to this the kitchen staff who created dishes in which Chef walked a delicate line between the 'brasserie ness' of the dishes and adding a Market Kitchen touch to it. He has shown respect to both Brasserie Quartier and Market Kitchen. In the end, was it believable having the brasserie dishes in a modern restaurant like this? Absolutely. Now for the next promotion!

Market Kitchen
Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street,
Abu Dhabi
971 2 674 2552

An 'American in Paris' ran for a week
The 5-course tasting menu was priced at 245AED and 305AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp
instagram: @bmstoltenkamp