An iftar that offers a Taste of India - Rangoli at Yas Island Rotana, Abu Dhbai

It has been a fascinating iftar season thus far. There is a clear pattern emerging. First, there are the more traditional iftars with a  large spread in which Arabic dishes, appropriately, are displayed and where the cultural journey and culinary journey are jointly taken. Second, there are the concept iftars in which restaurants stick to their own philosophy and try to come up with a concept that makes its own iftar somewhat unique. It was the latter that was foremost on my mind when I visited Rangoli, the gorgeous Indian restaurant at Yas Island Rotana, Abu Dhabi. Their iftar, labelled, A Taste of India, is through and through conceptual. A couple of thoughts emerged after my experience. 

1. Concept

The Taste of India takes the guest to different parts of India by offering a  selection of Rangoli's favourite dishes from their standard menu. It is not unlike a brunch concept in which you can order as many dishes as you want. This works on levels I have written about often - first, significantly less wasting and secondly, the freshness of food is a given. So, the spirit of abundance is there, which connects to the iftar idea, even if the dishes are not Arabic. Interestingly, meat eaters and vegetarians are equally well looked after with the menu able to offer something for everyone, all held together by Chef Laxmi's smart use of spices. 

For the starters, I chose to stay with the chaat, with Daal chat and Palak patta chaat spiced to my liking. All too often, Indian restaurants modify their spices for foreign palates - I specifically asked Chef to keep the spice real. And that is my recommendation if you can take the heat. The Daal chaat, pictured below, is especially my favourite. Cooked daal, but not overcooked ensuring nice texture, pomegranate seeds, coriander, spices and some radish come together nicely to make this simple but explosively flavoured dish.  I also tried the Lamb Gilafi kebab with its rich spiciness - fantastic. To balance the heat, as part of the premium package, Fantinel Prosecco is served. I have always believed that more than champagne, it is Prosseco that works best with Indian food. In addition, there are also 2 red and 2 white wines a selection of beers and even some signature cocktails. 

The main courses gives you everything and when spread out on the table, has that real iftar feeling to it. Chef got the size of the dishes just right. There is a choice of 4 vegetarian and 4 meat dishes. Make sure you have the Goan fish curry and the Kashmiri rogan josh (lamb)- a Taste of India would not be complete without these two. The best part, other than the taste, is that you can try quite a few dishes without worrying about too much wasting. With a guest, it is possible to actually finish the dishes you have ordered. 

2. Ambience

With no music allowed during Ramadan, restaurants often have very little atmosphere and ambience to speak of. t be truthful, it was not until 2 hours into my iftar experience here that I realised there was no music. The restaurant's lighting had a lot to with it. There is a remarkable sense of tranquillity. Secondly, the restaurant was very busy, with a large table of about 20 guests very jovial. What you also don't want is an austere atmosphere which happens when a restaurant is empty. With the concept here, you are likely to have busy nights more often than not. 

3. Pricing

For an iftar of high quality, you are not going spend less than 200AED. This is another aspect of the Iftar here at rangoli that impressed me. The standard iftar that includes soft drinks and water goes for 179AED net, while the drinks package costs 323AED net. For both packages, that represents excellent value. 

All in all, an excellent iftar that gives the guest tremendous value for money, a break from traditional iftars, natural service that is both knowledgeable and from the heart and Chef Laxmi's wonderfully spicy Indian dishes. His bold use of spice made the evening memorable for me. Rangoli's iftar has been one of my highlights so far this season. 

The lowdown

Yas Isand Rotana,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 656 4000

Soft Drinks Iftar 179AED net
Premium Drinks Iftar 323AED net

Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest of the hotel to try the iftar ar Rangoli.