Seafood at gorgeous Finz - Beach Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi

I liked the old Finz restaurant. There was something quaint and pure about it. It was romantic. I remember a couple of the dishes I had, but it is still the element of romance that has stayed with me. It is never easy trying something new, when the memory of its predecessor is so strong and positive. Nonetheless, I did try the new Finz, and here are some thoughts.

Four reasons I am in love with the new Finz

1. Joining a new trend in restaurants

The new Finz is a completely new restaurant. The old building remains, but not much else. The open kitchen is still there, but even that has been put to better use. I have been a big proponent of restaurants that offer guests a 3-in-one concept which includes a lounge, bar and dining area. Finz can now join that list of restaurants. While there was a little bar/lounging area in the old restaurant, it did not work well. I think a  bar has to offer a restaurant more than just a place to seat guests while they wait for a table. The new Finz, with its bar in a prime spot in the restaurant, will make guests want to have their aperitifs or even just a  drink at the bar which has stunning floor to ceiling views of the sea and Maryah island. 

2. Staffing 

I like to look at restaurants in the context of  a hotel's other offerings. This is where it is easy to notice another outstanding feature of the new Finz - it is very feminine. While its flagship restaurant, Rodeo Grill, is so obviously masculine from the decor to its staffing, Finz is the opposite. Although there certainly are male staff, this restaurant is about women creating the mood and indeed taking charge. From the moment I walked in, I could feel it. Two hostesses, embodying femininity, welcome guests. But just when you think it is all about appearances, you actually engage staff and you see how beauty meets brains. 

The restaurant manager ended up being my guide throughout the night as she made all the recommendations and introduced the wine to me, filling me with a sense of confidence to let her run the proceedings. Then of course there was the female bar tender, breaking down stereotypes in more ways than one. Overall, I applaud the more progressive staffing in the restaurant, which transcends gender issues. I like seeing an  eclectic group of staff with different stories to tell, different cultural experiences -  a major strength at the new Finz restaurant. 

3. White decor is very cool

Then of course it is the restaurant's theme, white, that dominates. Gone is the wood of the old restaurant, instead you have white in different guises ensconcing the restaurant, from the seating to the staff's exquisite uniforms. But it is in their choice of house champagne, and I prefer to use the word 'signature' champagne, that the hotel's white theme manifests itself - the Moet & Chandon Ice Imperial. No, fear not, NV Veuve Cliquot is still offered by the glass, but I think it clever that they saw an opportunity to use a cutting edge champagne to symbolise what they are doing at Finz. It is youthful and vibrant, not your classic champagne, joyful, much like the restaurant. 

4. And the dishes...

The menu sums up the relaxed but ultra cool feel of the restaurant. It is quite compact and easy to follow, with white a key element in the design.  A strength on first reading is the Mediterranean and North African touches in some of the dishes. Look out for Grilled calamari with Merguez sausage and harissa yoghurt, Roasted Mediterranean seabass, a Moroccan-inspired Char grilled shell-on prawns dish and some  other main dishes, all served with Tunisian couscous. 

The open kitchen allows more than just a theatrical element to the evening. The freshness of the seafood for the day can be appreciated as it is on display. 

My guest and I opted for a few starters to share. The oysters were superb. It is not a  given that because they are Fine de Claire number 2 oysters they will be good. However, it was the shucking that made these exceptional oysters even more so - they were served without a trace of sediment. We also tried the Yellowtail hamachi. Chef Christian's adventurous spirit is no more evident than in this dish with his generous use of chilli which is nicely balanced by orange. The lovely touch of coriander added extra flavour to the dish. We also had the Baby spinach and chopped kale salad which taps into one of everyone's favourite ingredients right now - kale. It is a simple salad brimming with flavour and texture - feta, dates and lemon provide a balance of flavour while chickpeas add texture. This dish showed the possibilities that exist when it comes to thought being put into how simple ingredients can best be used to create something tasty. 

Finally, for my main, I had one of their signature dishes, the Pan Seared "Glacier 51" toothfish with slow cooked chickpeas. Patagonian toothfish, if you go by its full name, or Chilean seabass if you follow the way it is often marketed, is a deep water fish living in sub Antarctic temperatures. It is quite a miracle that we have it here in Abu Dhabi. Chef cooked it perfectly. This fish has a natural moist texture, a melt-in your mouth quality. Over do it ever so slightly, and forget about serving it. You might get a way with slightly overcooking some kinds of fish, but not this. The accompanying chick peas cooked two ways - as a mash and as whole chickpeas, rich with texture - were an unusual but welcome addition. Finally, I enjoyed this with a delightful Louis Jardot Chablis that was very affordable, part of an equally succinct wine list. 

Overall, a restaurant you have to visit, even if only for a  drink, but stay for a bite. Patrons of the old Finz will either love it or hate it, but there will be no half measures. Has it lost its old charm and romance? Yes, it has, but an overhaul has been overdue. Finz in its present incarnation can now compete with any modern restaurant in the city.  Its contemporary feel will now appeal to a younger crowd, out on the town for an elegant night out while tucking back on some inspired dishes. Chic. Trendy. Cool. It is the kind of place I could see Carrie Bradshaw and her friends hanging out in, sipping champagne cocktails and eating oysters. It will now have a different romantic feel to it, one that millennials will respond to. Having said that, the terrace very much remains romantic even old school style, so it is bound to attract a wider range of guests. 

The new Finz is simply stunning. Having the perspective of the old restaurant, I can really appreciate the new restaurant. Every element has been thoughtfully put together, from the staff, uniforms, signature champagne, the menu design, the placement of the bar, etc. 

The nature of life is progress, and when we stagnate, we need to reinvent ourselves - exactly what has happened here at Finz. 

The Essentials

Finz Restaurant, Bar & Lounge
Beach Rotana, Abu Dhabi
971 2 697 9000

Disclaimer: I consult at restaurants and hotels in an attempt to look at the entire product to take service levels to where they should be. I visited Finz courtesy of the hotel.
Brandon Stoltenkamp