If you are bored with the usual iftars - Market Kitchen, Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Market Kitchen iftar last year ended up being my second favourite iftar in Abu Dhabi. This was for two reasons. Firstly, it was a table iftar, breaking the formula at most iftars. Secondly, the iftar followed Market Kitchen's concept of a set menu based on a sharing dinner. In going this year, I needed to know to what extent they would continue to innovate. 

1. Recalling 2015

Expect four courses again, as is common at a Market Kitchen affair. But if you are not familiar with the concept here, each course has 3-4 dishes - the food is substantial, so do not think that one of the key facets of an iftar, abundance, is lost. On the contrary, there is a lot of food and with each dish made to order, you have freshness and a touch of individuality.  For those concerned that their old favourites may not be here this year, oh you might get lucky as there are a few dishes which have kept their place in this year's menu.

2. Dishes

I am glad to see some of my old favourites. The 'Market Kitchen' Fattoush salad is a simple dish that is all about colour and subtle flavours. In a normal menu, it would be called 'Spring' for that is what it evokes in me. While I feel a more generous use of their lemon based vinaigrette would elevate this simple salad to another level while retaining its simplicity, it is  a wonderful salad. Other returning dishes include Jumbo Shrimp, Lime-Yogurt, Mint and Basil, Lamb Kofta pizza and of course, the Tuna sashimi. The latter, in fairness, will appear on any set menu. It is to Market Kitchen what bubbles are to champagne. 

Saute├ęd jumbo shrimp
The new additions, though, are not without challenges for my palate. The Slow cooked Scottish salmon is beautifully cooked, but the topping of tahini nut crust and cinnamon is a very unusual combination, making me yearn for the salmon on its own. It is the cinnamon, moreover, that overpowers the salmon for me. A real shame because the salmon has so much moisture. Then, the Zaatar and parmesan fries, a lovely idea, is not as finely executed with the fries tasting like normal fries - a bit more zaatar please and you have a really nice side dish. 

Roasted corn fed chicken breast and freekeh risotto
For my dish of the night, look out for the Grass-fed cutlets of lamb with smoked eggplant - an unequivocally good dish; cooked at the right temperature with some unexpected texture in the form of pistachios, Nice! Also, I had two dishes follow each other, and it worked brilliantly because they were so contrasting - the light freshness of the Homemade ricotta and rhubarb compote vs the dense hummus which is part of the Glazed short rib dish; the latter is so richly and intensely flavoured. 

Lamb cutlets
Dessert features a trio of treats, highlighted by two offerings. First, the Halawa ice cream sundae with caramel sauce and candied pistachio which is  Second, the Kanefeh is probably the most traditional item on the entire menu. It is as good a piece of kanefeh as I have had in most places in Abu Dhabi. Very good. 

3. And... a drinks menu.

This is significant. Market Kitchen understands its guest demographic and has come up with this innovation that I think will become more common in future iftars around the city. Respect around this time is particularly important because of the significance of Ramadan. Because Market Kitchen is not a huge all day dining restaurant hosting an iftar, it is also easy to implement drinks with an iftar without appearing disrespectful.

If. however,  you prefer a softer drink with your iftar, there are some Middle Eastern inspired  mocktails like Zaatar lemonade, Pomegranate muddle and a Rosewater virgin mojito. A great selction of drinks overall. 

Incidentally, I had I had Grass fed cutlets of lamb  with a  glass of the 2014 Villard Pinot Noir - and this illustrated the value of having  a drinks list available to guests. I cannot imagine having a piece of lamb with something other than a glass of wine, but that is me!

Whether you go for a glass of Prosecco, a glass of wine or a mocktail, you can be assured that the usual that the usual Qamar edin, karkade, jeleb and thamar hindi will not be here. Innovative again. 

Market Kitchen continues to be true to its concept and it has come to understand what its regulars want. Accordingly, it has created an iftar that builds on the wow factor of last year by making available their drinks menu - a landmark innovation. Despite a couple dishes that missed the mark, this is undoubtedly one of the best iftars in the city. It is sophisticated and clever, using ingredients to convey the occasion. The addition of drinks makes a special iftar even more so. 

Market Kitchen
Le Royal Meridien, Khalifa Street,
Abu Dhabi
02 674 2552

Iftar is priced at 200 AED net per person

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I visit Market Kitchen's Iftar as  a guest of the hotel.