New menu at The Yacht Club - InterContinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi

I was excited about my recent visit to The Yacht Club at InterContinental Abu Dhabi on two fronts - firstly, it was an opportunity to try the new menu with its Nikkei concept of tapas reflecting Japanese and Peruvian flavours. Secondly, it also marked the first menu changes by new Sous Chef Sung Hyun Yoon, a Korean native - I was curious to see whether there would any Korean touches to the new menu. 

With a shift towards tapas, my guest and I ordered a  few starters to get the night underway. Sharing concepts make a lot more sense to me because you get to try many dishes without adding excessively to the bill. 

A number of dishes are therefore laid out in front of us. We start with one of the sushi rolls, the Kamikaze. The name suggests something brutally spicy, but it isn't. It is actually quite a balanced roll, with coconut sauce contrasting with the chilli garlic crab. The highlight, though, is the crispy potato which surprises with its texture.

Following this,  we have the Beef tataki - thinly sliced raw beef with ponzu sauce. The latter, by the way, is a soy sauce with a tangy, citrus element. If it sounds like beef carpaccio, you are right, they are similar, but not the same. The tataki has  a twist in that it is sat upon a piece of deep fried tofu with the most amazing surface texture. At the risk of exaggerating, this is the best tofu I have had, and that includes tofu I tried in Taiwan, China, Japan and Korea. It may not have been Chef's intentions, but the tofu outshone the rest of the dish. 

Also on the table is a very exciting dish - a Prawn-Dog. (not pictured). Those who follow American cuisine will be familiar with a chilli dog - this is a play on that. It is a dish that aims to bring the street to the table. I love the idea. This is one of the new ideas in the new menu - street food coming to the table. Served on a  stick, it is fun and engaging - a real conversation piece. It is the kind of dish you cannot help but like. Shrimp in tempura batter with furikake crisps attempt to bring texture to the dish, but I would like to see even more texture, mainly because the American corn dog has a bit of crunch when you put it in your mouth. But it is a clever dish that will be very popular on the new menu. 

Soon after, we try a dish that has that visual appeal you want in a  dish - the Salmon Poke. a dish very popular in Hawaii, but served here as a taco! This is a very creative new menu item. Bring on more street food! The nori tacos are just fantastic. Crispy and crunchy, but balanced by the filling of that salmon, shallots and chilli garlic sauce. Every bite and subsequent chew are like the loud rattling of hail on the roof followed by soft drizzle  and then the hail comes again and then the gentle rain drops ...I love it. 

People often ask what is the right wine when having this dish or that. When in doubt, champagne is always the safest bet because it is so versatile. Champagne is one life's joys and we should allow ourselves to indulge every now and then. It elevates the soul - you will never see a sad face around when people are drinking it. We have Louis Roederer NV Brut with my dishes, but while it can be expensive, it is very reasonably priced at The Yacht Club. I recommend starting your evening with a glass!

Our final dish before the main dish is the Miso Eggplant.  This dish almost works for me, except for the blue cheese topping that is used on top of the gratinated eggplant - too pungent and overbearing. A more subtle cheese like a Parmigiano would work in terms of taste, but then we are moving into Italian territory. I am torn over this dish. Conflicted. 

For our main courses, my guest and I share two dishes - again, the sharing concept  is an integral part of the menu. Ideal for sharing, we have the Soya-Anise Glazed Short-rib. The latter is beautifully cooked and just falls off the bone. It is accompanied, and these for me are the most thrilling aspects of this dish, kimchi and steamed Hirata buns.

A question I had in my mind when I met Chef Yoon regarding the Korean influences on his menu is answered. This bodes well for The Yacht Club. Despite a growing population of Koreas in Abu Dhabi, no high-end restaurant has really taken the lead in making Korean dishes. 

He guides us through the process of making our own short rib 'sandwiches'. It is fun watching him do it, and those who have never had Korean food or Cantonese food for that matter, will feel a bit uncertain initially, but will soon get into the swing of it. This is street food!

Next up, we try the Char Siu Chilean Sea Bass. Ever had barbequed sea bass? Chilean sea bass is a gorgeous fish any time of the day, but the thought of having it cooked this way has me salivating. It is a wonderfully textured dish thanks to barley risotto which textured as it is, is quite airy and fluffy. Water chestnuts, one of the most underused and under-appreciated ingredients, brings even more bite to the dish. At the centre of this dish, of course, is the seabass which has retained its flakiness, beautiful structure and moisture. 

The Yacht Club's new menu excites. It is not just what the menu is, but where I see the restaurant heading. I would like to see Chef Yoon really push the boundaries of what has always been perceived as a restaurant where a Japanese influence pervaded. Already there is a shift to making it more than just Japanese inspired dishes. Furthermore, the menu brings an element of fun to the table, in keeping with the nature of the Yacht Club - a place where you come for drinks, great music and now easy, good dishes. I can picture  a group of friends pitching up around 10, ordering a bottle of bubbly and sharing some dishes from the menu. With live DJs on selected nights, the Yacht Club has just upped the ante! 

The lowdown

The Essentials
The Yacht Club,Intercontinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi+971 666 6888

Menu: YachtClub

Selected prices

Kamikaze 55AED
Kamikaze 78AED
Prawn-Dog 55AED 
Char Siu Chilean Sea Bass 165AED
Soya-Anise Glazed Short-rib 138 AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I was invited to The Yacht Club as a guest of the restaurant.