Rangoli - a sumptuous Indian dining venue - Yas Isand Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi

It had been about a year since my last visit to Rangoli at the Yas Island Rotana Hotel and as I walked in it felt as if I had never left. The staff was pretty much the same as last time, and in a city like Abu Dhabi where the staff is very fluid, this is quite special. It means staff knows the restaurant, they can throw out the training manual and service becomes natural. Staff is quite special here. Secondly, on that visit, Rangoli Sous Chef Laxmi Kadiri had just arrived, so the dishes were not yet expressing him. This time would be different. 

Rangoli has a lovely 6 seater bar that I try before dinner. When a restaurant has a bar, I see no point in having an aperitif at the table! An excellent 30 by-the-glass options, unique among all Indian restaurants in the city, as well as some typical cocktails, might challenge you not to have more than one drink at the bar before moving to the dining area. 

Some chaat to enjoy at the bar
At our table, we are able to enjoy the sun going down, and our window table makes it even more enjoyable. Menus are passed around but I ignore these as the light is changing rapidly outside. I want to stare a sthe sun goes down.  Beautiful. 

We start with a selection from the tandoor. We  have  Tukda of Chicken, a chicken tikka in yogurt with red chillies and Indian spice which has just the right level of heat. The chicken is perfectly moist.  Then, we  try the Barra chaap, Australian lamb chops char-grilled in peshawan spice and caraway seeds. The lamb could not have been better cooked. 

 Our final starter is the Hare Nuimbu Ke jheenge, Prawns infused with kaffir lime and chili are richly flavoured and it is the lime especially that carries the dish, even though I find the shrimp slightly overcooked. Finally,  the small passion fruit and mango salad it sits on balances it nicely if you need some respite from the spice. Love the passion fruit. These are the subtle ways in which Chef Laxmi puts his mark on a dish without altering the tradition. Nice. 

The palate cleanser is both fun and enjoyable. Orange sorbet is served in a small coconut shell on top of  a recycled soda can. It is innovative and sustainable - two of my favourite buzz words nowadays. As for the sorbet - smooth, just the right amount of ice and the balanced sweetness ensures that it is refreshing!

For our main course, we head to the more secluded  dining part of the restaurant where comfortable booths and sofa style seats make it so relaxed. The lighting is a contrast to the brighter section where we had our starters. There is a gorgeous sensuality to this part of Rangoli. Because there are so few tables here, it almost feels like a restaurant within a  restaurant. 

The main courses do not disappoint - Classic Indian curries. Butter chicken, with boneless tender chicken, is faithful to the dish as you know it. There is that typical blend of sweet and spice, carried together in a decadent creamy sauce. Dal Makhani is even creamier thanks to the heavy butter and cream. Finally, and this is my dish of the night, the Smoked lamb, theatrically brought to the table with the top lifted so that smoke can rise up from the lamb. Succulent lamb with a smokiness brings something different to the table. It is a smokiness totally different from the tandoor. 

In anticipation of dessert and in the absence of a dessert wine, I order a glass of 2014 Prinz von Hessen, a Riesling.  The Riesling is a decent substitute for a dessert wine. The dessert portion for two is perfectly sized. Paan Kulfi, Cardamom ice cream  and a Chocolate brownie with some raspberry purée  and fresh fruit make up a plate that owes a lot to a  more contemporary style of plating. 

There is something strangely homely about Rangoli. It is hard to define because it is a high-end restaurant and yet there is so much warmth. The staff have a lot to with it. They are real and sincere and happily engage all guests.  It is also the design of the restaurant that creates that cosiness that endears me to it.The warm colours and dominating wood are inescapable. It is simply a beautiful restaurant. Then, there are the actual dishes which have that classic Indian taste to them. A must visit. 

The lowdown


Yas Isand Rotana Hotel ,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 656 4000

Average price meal for two 300AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer:  I had dinner at Rangoli as  a guest of the restaurant.