Taking steak and wine to your home in Abu Dhabi - with Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana, Gray Mackenzie & Partners, La Carne and Fulfilme.com

Steak is expensive in Abu Dhabi restaurants. Over the last few months, while compiling my second Abu Dhabi Steakhouse round up, this dawned on me once again. Did you know that at one of the restaurants that will feature in the round up, you can get a steak for around 750AED? This is an extreme case of how expensive steak is, but the average is around 300AED for a decently marbled sirloin. I met Joan at a Japanese wagyu steak dinner, and she became essential in bringing this dinner to life. It was with this in mind that I thought I would include in my round up a post on doing it yourself at home - picking up some great beef at a fraction of the cost and a bottle or two of wine and having a fun evening at home  while saving a lot of dirhams. The premise is not that it replaces the steakhouse experience because we all have to go out but it is an option when the money is a bit low or you are not in the mood to dress up.

Ideally, the evening would have been held at one of our homes but then we thought, wait a minute, none of us have a home that accommodates 8 people comfortably, so we checked into the Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana, (Al Maha Arjaan) the recently refurbished downtown residence that underwent a multi million dirham facelift. The residence is hardly recognisable from the last time I was there about 2 years ago. It is a genuine oasis in the heart of the hurly burly that is downtown Abu Dhabi. The Penthouse Suite, the venue for our dinner, is beautifully appointed, feels like home with soft soothing tones, ample space and importantly, a fully functional kitchen where Joan will work her magic. 

A staff member kindly setting up our table for dinner

The day starts with a visit to Gray Mackenzie & Partners (GMP Abu Dhabi) at the Hilton Capital Grand, where it has its flagship store. The store is a spacious one, with a decent selection of wines, with quite a few on special. It was my third visit to this store and on every occasion, there has been some special deals. They offer some niche wines and on the champagne front, the Perrier Joet Belle Epoque is exclusively theirs. 

Next, the side ingredients which we ordered online from Fulfilme.com (http://fulfilme.com/), arrive and Joan, who will be in charge of preparing the dishes tonight, goes through them to make sure everything we need is there. We live in a city here in Abu Dhabi where many items are bought is online, but the problem is there is no specialist store with essential items which makes navigating their site easy. There are some big stores online, but then it is a demanding task because sometimes too many options can be a waste of time. Fulfilme.com makes it easier. 

Of course this a steak night, so we need some decent beef. As the premier high end meat supplier in the city, La Carne Premium Meat Butchery Abu Dhabi is an obvious choice. LaCarne (https://lacarne.ae/) is a walk-in butchery in The Market in Mushriff Mall, a regular kind of place that belies the fine cuts of beef they provide. Did you know you can get genuine Japanese wagyu from Hokkaido at their store? That is a distinction shared by no other butchery in the city. For tonight's dinner, though, we will have Australian Jack's Creek Angus Ribeye. 

The menu for the evening, largely Joan's baby, looks good. She has created a menu that  conveys homeliness, the driving force behind this evening's concept. The truth though is that you can make whatever you want - the main dish is the steak. I do like the fact that it is an evening of live cooking as opposed to the the pot luck system that people often have. 

The drinks choices are very generous. We have a nice mix of wines, with no wine costing more than 170AED - that is a wine that sells for around 450AED in a hotel restaurant. With Mojitos getting the evening started, we move soon on to the Campo Viejo Cava Brut Reserva, a decent well priced cava that comes in at 76AED - a nice change from Proseccos that are quite ubiquitous in the city. 

Sandeep was in charge of the bar for the evening

At 7pm, when the guests arrive , Joan has already done most of the preparation. But when Ernesto arrives, he does not need much coaxing to help out in the kitchen and very importantly, mix us some mojitos! However, a rum emergency means  a threat to one of our aperitifs for the evening, but Vladimir steps in and gets us some. The energy in the kitchen is why home cooking, with the right mix of people, can be the best experience. 

For our starters, we have Tomato, mozzarella and basil salad, Halloumi bites and another salad, Pomegranate and rocket. Joan has given guests a variety of flavours here, from the saltiness of the halloumi to the sweet sour of the pomegranate salad and finally, the the mildly seasoned Tomato and mozzarella. The wine is a Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc 2015 - one of the nicest Sauvignon blancs I have had in this price range - it retails for 85AED. I actually ordered at a restaurant a month ago - sold for 225AED.

Ernesto brought so much beauty to the evening, A real person. 

For the main course, we have two reds - the Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon and the Al Pasion Malbec from Argentina, priced at 105AED and 170AED respectively. Having had the Malbec before and enjoyed its fullness, I am impressed by the Kenwood because at 105AED, it brings those typical full notes of cherries and blackberries to the palate. Great value. 

The steak, unbelievably with only a marbling of 1, is much more than that. It is flavourful even with a marbling score of 1 and thanks to Joan's beautiful cooking, it comes in at the right temperature. While we could have benefitted from a hot resting plate, I feel she has treated that piece of steak with utmost respect and I could taste the result. The cost of my steak at la carne? 60AED! This sells for about 200-230AED on menus in restaurants. 

Our final wine of the evening is a Perle de Muscat, sold for 130AED - I like sparkling wine. Rather, I love sparkling wine. I also enjoy dessert wines - so why not marry the two, right? This sparkling muscat, equally at home as an aperitif will serve as our dessert wine. Tonight we enjoy it with Joan's tiramisini - a wonderful way to end the evening. 

A much deserved glass of bubbly.
Bottom line

The cost of the meat, wine, and groceries came to about 2100AED, with the wine totaling around 1200AED. All in all , we had 10 bottles of wine and for the rum there was an additional 100AED. Were there a bill for each guest, it would have been 270AED! Now, that is comparative with a steak dinner in the city, except the wine flowed very freely here tonight, but over and above that, Joan cooked everything, in a controlled kitchen environment while we kept laughing and having fun. Priceless. It really is a viable alternative to eating out, especially taking into account the quality of what we had this evening. these are the raw facts of the evening.

The Verdict

What these facts do not reveal, though, is what an evening in a homely setting does for people. We came to dinner tonight as strangers and acquaintances and left as more than these. I loved watching the side conversations, the conversations within conversations.  This is what an evening like this brought; people getting together in the homely, albeit exquisite homely setting of the Penthouse Suite at Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana, having beautifully cooked food matched by good but affordable wine is something more people should be doing. And in these challenging financial times, shy not? For the 8 of us, one day when we find ourselves far away from here or maybe still here, we will forever remember this night, a night when a concept took second place to the flow of emotion, oh and wine.

Cost per person 270AED

Brandon Stoltenkamp