Pan Asian cuisine in the heart of the city - Cho Gao at Crowne Plaza, Abu Dhabi

There is something very alluring about Cho Gao the moment I walk in. It is the lighting. The mood is set the moment the door is opened to welcome me. The lanterns strategically placed around the restaurant. Bamboo light fixtures. The clever pockets of space. The wood. There is an earthiness about the restaurant, leaving you in no doubt that the Asianness of the restaurant goes beyond iconography. It is in the air. Tonight I am dining at Cho Goa, the Pan-Asian restaurant at Crowne Plaza, conveniently located in the city centre.

My daughter and I start off with three dishes. Incidentally, it is her second visit to Cho Gao and while her background is Asian and she, therefore, has a connection to the cuisine, I think children will generally find enough on the menu to keep them interested. She orders the Beef and chicken Balinese satay, while I order the Tempura, more out of curiosity to see how it is served in the absence of dashi, the quintessential pairing with tempura. Finally, I also order the Mango salad. Our starters will take us to Indonesia, Japan and Thailand.

For my drink, I order a glass of draft Kirin beer, one of two Asian draft beer options. While I have dabbled with bubbly, wine and Asian cuisine, I still think beer is the best pairing. What I like about the Kirin is that there are not many places in Abu Dhabi where I can get this Japanese beer on tap

We try the satay first. Both the chicken and beef are nicely cooked, with very little seasoning, except for the hint of herbs. The flavour comes from mainly the complementing peanut sauce. Next, I have the Mango salad, which will remind you of the green papaya salad. The dish is characterised by sharp flavours. The delicate sweetness of the shrimp is nicely balanced by generous lemon.  Finally, it is a dish abundant in texture with vegetables cut in live, chunky pieces. 

Finally, we both try the Tempura - light and fluffy with bite - just cooked the way you want it to be cooked. However, the sauce does not quite work for me, but then I have found myself to be quite traditional in my appreciation for Japanese food. So, dashi with a bit of horseradish is usually what I would have with tempura. I find the chili plum sauce and wasabi and lime ponzu sauce too robust for the subtlety of the tempura. 

The crowd, meanwhile gathers momentum and by 9, the restaurant is 90% full. There is a genuine vibe - it feels like a real Thursday night! The service, on another note, is quick and no fuss, with staff very active in the restaurant. I glance to the lounge area and I see that it is quite busy too. I have actually tried the lounge before - a decent bar bites selection and an option of seating on the comfy lounge chairs and sofas make this a desirable option too. 

For our main course, my daughter and I share the Kang ped pad yang and the Mie goreng. The former is a roasted duck in red curry dish that offers a lot of sweetness thanks to pineapple, cherry tomatoes and grapes. A bit more balance is restored by the addition of basil leaves.

The Mie goreng, my daughter's favourite, is basically stir fried yaki noodles with egg - while the menu option has chilli, we ask chef not to add it - my girl is only 10! This is a homely Asian dish - the kind of dish you can make in the kitchen at home. 

As my daughter and I are finishing up, DJ Hysteria, the new resident DJ  who takes Cho Gao into its weekend evening concept, Cho Chill. You will enjoy his beats - The music goes up tempo, the volume picks up and the ambiance becomes even cooler. New branding, a new menu and you are in for a different evening it seems.

Overall, I really liked my Cho Gao experience. In offering a  variety of Asian dishes, there is something for everyone, but it is more than a place where you come for food - you come here for the setting, atmosphere and ambiance. It is festive and lively. A very good night out. 

Cho Gao
Crowne Plaza Hotel,
Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi
Crowne Plaza Dining
+971 2 6166166

Average 3-course meal for two including a drink each 300-300AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer: I was invited as a  guest of the hotel. All views are my own.