Seafood at Finz - Beach Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Beach Rotana has a wide selection of Food & Beverage outlets. But none of them intrigued me more than Finz, the highly rated seafood restaurant. Having heard quite a lot about Finz, it was only logical that I would succumb to the allure and visit it.

I have read much about its pretty location on the seafront, with the restaurant hanging over the sea, much like a boat house would. As I get closer to Finz, I see Plumeria trees. I can't help thinking of the symbolism of the Plumeria trees. As I pass the name Finz, I notice the clever way in which it is written - rope used to tie a boat that has been docked spells the name. Yes, this is a restaurant that specializes in seafood.

Plumeria, lights and the view of the facade of Finz make the walk special. 

I enter Finz and one of the deeper meanings of the Plumeria is illustrated. According to an ancient Indian science based on the principles of Ayurveda, the flower has the power to calm those in the throes of anxiety and fear and restore them to peace. (source: As I am shown to my table, I sense tremendous tranquility in the restaurant. I guess the Pluemeria does have that ability. The hostess, incidentally, is clad in a white pants and matching shirt with a blue blue blazer cum jacket, reinforcing the concept of the sea, seafood.

It is an exquisite restaurant. Beautiful New Zealand wood create a feeling of  a boat house with a  stunning view of the sea, even with the development across the the waters of two hotels and a hospital. The magnificent floor to ceiling windows give a glorious view of Abu Dhabi then and now. To one side, the sea dominates. To the other, lights, progress. Depending on your perspective, there is still a  romantic charm about what you see. I am tempted to sit outside, but the thought of being surrounded by couples out on a  romantic evening deters me - inside I feel less of an intruder dining alone amidst a restaurant ideal for couples. It is intimate, with indoor seating for around 70. Carefully thought out-out lighting adds to the ambience. Finally, old fishing baskets and traps in a lofted area contribute to the seafood feel of the restaurant.

A trio of amuse bouches.
The sea, moonlight and bubbles.
My evening starts with a tastefully sized serving plate with 3 amuse bouches. Seared scallops on parsnip puree, Crab salad and Shrimp with mango papaya salsa. a bit of saltiness is offered by some salmon caviar. The scallops are cooked just right, having been seared for the right amount of time. They are not dry at all and go so well with the parsnip puree that has a hint of sweetness about it. The only problem with the crab salad is again the dilemma of the amuse bouche - you wish it could be a meal. Delicious. Served at the right temperature. Perfect. Finally, the shrimp is surprisingly, not drowned  by the anticipated sweetness of the mango and papaya salsa. All of this is enjoyed with a glass of Veuve Cliquot Brut Yellow Label, definitely one of the best all round NV Champagnes.

My waiter, Mohan, boldly makes recommendations. He is clearly a seasoned member of the staff here and it is not long before our conversation goes from his origins to IPL and Suresh Raina. Relaxed. Comfortable with his product knowledge. Engaging. He takes my order for my starters, and while I wait, I look outside to the couples in the half moon terrace. There is seating for around 8 people in that space. Could that be one of the most romantic spots in a  restaurant in Abu Dhabi? A nice thought.

Memorable oysters.
My first starter is served - Fine de Claire Oysters in the half shell. The oysters are presented in a silver dish resembling a shell. Ice, the shallot vinaigrette and oyster fork all have their place in the platter. At the risk of overstating, these are probably the most perfect oysters I have had in Abu Dhabi. I try the first one - without lemon or vinaigrette. I smell it for just a  moment before I eat it. The sea. Sublime. I try it. Large and fleshy and the the taste of the sea. At the risk of overstating, probably the most perfect oysters I have had in Abu Dhabi. They evoke a childhood poem, Sea Fever by John Masefield.
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

All of this from an oyster. Yes, that is true. Isn't that one of the salient features of a dish?  To stir memories? To transport us to another place and time, either in the past or where we imagine us to be in the future? I make a point of going to the kitchen to express my appreciation to the chef who did the shucking. I guess some oysters are more equal than others, a humorous take on Orwell enters my mind!
Saku tuna
Next up, I have the Sako tuna. (saku) It too proves to be exceptional. It is as exciting as it is delicious. Tuna mixed with sesame oil and sesame seeds, topped with avocado, is placed on a thinly sliced grilled piece of watermelon. I love it. The ponzu sauce and bell peppers bring a sweet and tart flavour to the dish, but again, does not suffocate it. Finally, the cress brings a  different flavour to the dish. You can imagine my delight when I bit into some cress and am surprised by shiso leaf. Quite a complex dish in terms of flavours. Very good indeed.

Up to this point the music has already provided an eclectic mix of songs from Dire Strais, The Carpenters, some instrumental music and even  Tevin Campbell. While the songs are connetced lyrically to create romance, the music is just too varied. A bit disconcerting.

This night will make my return to salmon as a main dish fo the first time in a while. I tend to avoid it because it is invariably over done. But after a  conversation with the executive chef who recently joined Rotana after working in Asia's big cities - Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai and Singapore - I am sold on the salmon. It will not be Norwegian salmon this evening. I am roused by the thought of having salmon from the Faroe Islands! It makes sense if you consider the North Atlantic current that flows steadily around these islands creating a steady temperature for the salmon.

The salmon is brought out and I am not disappointed. It is served with Green asparagus, crushed ratte potatoes and lobster béarnaise. For once I don't need a salty skin to add flavour to my salmon. The inside is just so full of natural flavour. Moisture permeates the salmon so I find no need for the accompanying bearnaise sauce. Of course I cannot resist that lightly crispy skin. I think they have spoiled salmon for me now - how can I try grilled salmon elsewhere having had this? Oh cruel beauty!

Highly recommended salmon.
Mohad suggests a Californian Panamera 2011Chardonnay with my salmon. Apple and a bit of pear dominate this fairly complex wine. Thoroughly enjoyable.

I decide to forego dessert, but Mohan encourages me to have the Chocolate and cheese which comprises three mini desserts of Maracaibo fondant, Chocolate almond pudding and  Cheesecake ice-cream. The portions are spot on. Individually I like each dessert, but it feels like I am having three desserts with  nothing holding these three together. Of course there is the mandarin sauce and confit on the plate, so it could be argued that it serves as the connection. Nonetheless, that cheese cake ice cream with hazelnut turns out to be my favourite because of that combination of smooth and crispy. 

Perfectly sized dessert portions. 
My evening ends with a glass of Remy Martin VSOP Cognac. Sipping on it, I look across the waters to the flicking lights. No one else is in the restaurant. Peaceful. The moonlight glistens off the water. I think of the plumeria again. How appropriate.

Finz is one of the top seafood destinations in the city. Their menu, which offers a choice of faithful interpretations of dishes as well as a more contemporary approach to others, presents guests with  a wide variety of choices.  Interestingly, they generously offer a few dishes for those who prefer the land.  (My thoughts are if you don't like seafood, stay at home).) A nice touch.

Finz is a destination in itself with an enviable location, but I see so much more potential for the restaurant. Finz does not proclaim to be a romantic restaurant, but it can be with some tweaking. However, as it is, it is highly recommended because the food and view are simply outstanding.

The Essentials

Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi
02 697 9000

Starters 40-205
Main 78-385 Dhs
Desserts 38-58 Dhs

                             Pictures thanks to Nokia Creative Studio on my Nokia 1520
Brandon Stoltenkamp