A journal, inspired by my love for my daughter, that embraces quality food, service and experiences which make life worth living. In the words of Tennyson's Ulysses, " I cannot rest from travel. I will drink life to the lees." Seeking that incredible dining or hotel experience and writing about it. Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Teatro shows its bubbly side - Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi
Teatro, as the name suggests, is all about theatre. Drama. Life on a stage. Housed in the Park Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi, this award-winning international concept restaurant, has gained a loyal following. Despite its international approach to cuisine, it is its Asian dishes that always speak to me. Tonight the drama will unfold again, but in the company of Nicolas Feuilatte Champagnes. After all, life is more worthy of being written about when there are bubbles!
In the Abu Dhabi context, Nicolas Feuilatte is a bit of an unknown choice, in a market where there is a handful of very obvious labels that people relate to. I, though, am excited about this evening’s bubbly. It is a chance to share with readers here a little about a champagne that according to The Telegraph, is now France’s biggest selling brand and the third in the world, behind Moet Chandon and Veuve Cliquot. That will be a surprise to them! Tonight my experience will include the Nicolas Feuilatte 2000 Millesime Blanc de Blancs and the Nicolas Feuilatte Brut Rosé NV.
The cosy bar at Teatro, with seating for no more than around 8 people, is the setting for this evening’s overture. Teatro’s Barman, Manish Parate, will get the evening started by serving a specially created cocktail. But first, I have a glass of the 2000 Millesime Blanc de Blancs. As I expected, it is not as bubbly, even though at 16 years, it is not that old. The bubbles, however tiny, nonetheless have a refinement about them. As for the colour, it is a gorgeous light gold. A taste shows typical chardonnay characteristics. Initial white fruits and honey give way to a bread. The pleasure I find in a blanc de blancs is how even when I feel it has lost a bit of its fizz, I can enjoy it as a wine.
It is such a thrill watching him work behind the bar, directing every element as he creates his cocktails. In his first cocktail this evening, he uses Hibiscus as his principle accompaniment to the Blanc de Blancs – hibiscus in tea and syrup form. It brings to the Hibiscus Fizz a sweet-sour element. It is a pretty drink and looks like a deep rosé in the end!
In the second part of the overture, and really stretching the
analogy I know, we have an amuse bouche of two parts – a Fried oyster with wasabi may on the one end and on the other, Mango lasi, an Indian yoghurt drink. The cocktail goes really well with the oyster and I forego having it with the lasi, choosing instead to enjoy the lasi on its own.
Moving onto dining proper, The First Act in this evening’s theatrical piece is the Seared scallops. If the adage that we eat with our eyes is true, then it is evident here as I look at the dish – golden brown seared scallops are flanked by nori sponge, with a few dashes of pea puree. Salmon roe, with a delicious orange colour, really adds drama to the dish. Finally, and this is crucial to the dish, miso-ponzu sauce also finds itself on the plate. A bite of the scallop reveals a generous saltiness, accentuated further by the roe. However, the pea puree and asparagus go a long way toward balancing the dish.
I have a glass of the Nicolas Feuilatte Brut Rosé NV. Even in the low light, I can discern a salmon pink colour. Medium to fine bubbles rise hypnotically to the top, and as I sip, I can appreciate a mild creaminess and fruitiness moves from red berries to blueberries. The mousse is fine and I am left with a long finish. It is elegant, refined and well structured. The beauty of this very well priced rosé will immensely surprise you.
I think it a great choice for the scallops because, notwithstanding the bit of balance brought about by the other elements in the dish, I think the mild fruitiness serves as the perfect foil for the saltiness of the roe especially.
For the Second Act, we are served the Corn fed duck. Living up to the name Teatro, a dramatic brush of squid ink crosses the plate. It’s a spectacular dish. The duck looks beautifully cooked and is accompanied by carrots prepared 7 different ways, the highlights being carrot yuzu puree, roasted carrot, steamed baby carrots and carrot fondant. It is a happy dish, and with carrot so prominent, it is easy to connect to one’s childhood because carrots are so relatable, aren’t they? I try the duck, and it is juicy and tender, having benefitted from not being rested too long. Seeking the Pinot Noir quality in the Nicolas Feuilatte Rosé NV to come through, I have the duck with it. A sensible choice, and gives hope to anyone who has wanted to have champagne with duck!
The Third Act is a real delight – a Tomato consommé that again reflects the strength of the Asian influences in Teatro. Served cold, it is a clear consommé which is nothing in itself but hints of ginger and cucumber jelly add that little something that takes a fairly typical soup and makes it into a real dish. Basil and mozzarella remind me that this consommé is almost like a deconstructed caprese salad, though. Brilliant. Oh, Chef has served it cold too, making it an even more worthy of finishing. Surprisingly, there are not many chefs dabbling with cold soups in Abu Dhabi – the weather calls for it really, but it is an indication of how conservative diners are here compared to Dubai.
Needing a break before the fish course, champagne in hand, I walk around the restaurant. It is sensuously lit – there is a real sexiness and provocative feel to Teatro. Is it because it is a place that allows you to unmask yourself and express yourself freely? This is certainly something that a glass of bubbly does for the soul. It calls on you to express yourself and sing your love song. However, an empty glass soon sends me back to my table where on sitting, we enter Act Four.
Our waitress for the night, a very honest, alert and engaging server, Cristanta, brings the second bottle of 2000 Millesime Blanc de Blancs. It is so fascinating as she pours it. It is visually so different in character to the first bottle that was opened. This one has vibrant and lively bubbles which last long in the glass, moving energetically from the base of the glass. It is a story of two bottles!
If the previous 2 Acts had hints of Asian influences, this Act is overtly Asian. The Chilean Sea bass is served with a Thai-inspired green curry sauce and edamame, leeks and snow peas. In looking at the dish, I am curious about two things: First, will the sea bass flake easily when I apply a fork or will it be dry? Secondly, will the green curry sauce overpower the bubbly because a Thai green curry can be hot and spicy.
I break a piece of the sea bass and see steam rise up, revealing wonderful moisture. I try it with the green curry sauce and realize it is mildly-flavoured, so in the same way that it does not drown the sea bass with intense spices, I imagine it will be alright with the Blanc de Blancs – indeed it is. The sea bass, especially, goes very well with the 2000 Millesime Blanc de Blancs, and don’t forget there is that hint of sweetness in the sea bass, however small.
This would be a fitting place to have the denouement for this evening’s drama, but there is twist in the tale – the final Act is presented soon after – Lamb loin served with wild mushrooms, sweet onions , zucchini and cherry tomato. It turns out to be a fine piece of Australian lamb, with all the clichés you associate with a nicely cooked lamb loin springing to mind. Again, as I did with the duck, I go back to the Rosé and for similar reasons.
For the Finale - dessert, we have the Chocolate hazelnut crunch. Passion fruit is a big part of the dessert in the form of a gel but also the way it has been used to infuse other parts of the dessert. But the high point for me is the texture – decadent crunch! We end our evening where we started – the bar. Manish serves another crafted cocktail that reflects the Asian influences we have had this evening. He brings together some cornerstones of Asian flavours – lemongrass, ginger and cardamom to create his Enigmatic Asia cocktail. To hold them all together, he adds the 2000 Millesime Blanc de Blancs again. The remarkable balance he achieves amazes me. The drink looks pretty, bubbles keep moving around and the chardonnay element in the champagne is very much in the taste.
The curtain closes on what has been an evening of drama in the presence of some fine Nicolas Feuilatte Champagnes. Executive Sous Chef Antonio Lopez has created a menu that paired quite well with the champagne this evening, while at the same time highlighting the strengths of the restaurant. Then, Chef Ashish did a stirring job executing that menu, with the Seared scallops and Corn fed duck in particular, standing out.
I have often heard people say that wine makes us tell the truth, but this is even more so with bubbly. Staring into that glass can make you forget everything, make you lose all inhibitions and almost transfixed, pour out your soul. That is beautiful, isn’t it. Tonight, in a restaurant synonymous, through its name Teatro, with creating theatre, that is exactly what happened. But it was on a stage conjured by a barman, a waitress and a kitchen team, while champagne was the inspiration once again. When next you are seeking to express the truth, to be yourself, open a bottle of bubbly and watch the truth flow like those bubbles.
Park Rotana Hotel,
Abu Dhabi +971 2 657 3333
The article appears in the January/February edition of Glass of Bubbly.