Barfly by Buddha Bar - The Venetian Village, Abu Dhabi

Dramatic. That is the word that best describes my feeling as I step into Barfly by Buddha Bar. The lighting, dark and broody. Dramatic. My guest remarks that he has not seen anything like this in Abu Dhabi. The steps to the second floor where I see a more private dining area, catch my eyes. Dramatic. A headless sculpture arrests my attention for  a few seconds. Staff - well spoken and eclectic, but with a strong Eastern European presence. Music. Be transported somewhere else with music that is just so suited for this venue. I soon find myself at the bar -  a key feature of Barfly by BuddhaBar. Ah, that word again comes to mind as a  dramatic picture greets me as I sit down at the bar. Drama indeed.
We take a couple pictures. My guest wants to use a flash. I stop him - the light, the low light, I tell him, is an essential part of the Barfly by Buddha Bar experience. He acquiesces reluctantly. I start off with a cocktail - the Rock 'n sweet, a rum-based drink that features elderflower, rose syrup, grapefruit, cinnamon and ... well, some things are best not written about and need to be experienced, don't they? Finally, dry rose petals kiss the side of the glass. And for drama, it is all smoked - totally in-keeping with an evening of theatre I have already experienced in my first twenty minutes!
My second cocktail  is a vodka based drink, the Purple Mound, in which vodka meets dehydrated beetroot! When you visit the bar, just allow the excellent team behind the bar to take control  - forget your usual safety and comfort drinks. Barfly by Buddha Bar is about a whole new world, where the undiscovered and uncharted await you. 

I am shown my table, but not before I notice the marriage of wooden floors, metal bolts and high ceilings. At this moment, it dawns on me that even if one were to come here only for the aesthetic pleasure of this restaurant, it would make for a beautiful evening in its own right. However, we are also here to try the food, so we are seated. 
I kick off my evening with the Burrata with cherry tomatoes. The first thing that makes a marked impression on me is the oversized serving plate which allows Chef to play around with his plating and side ingredients like pesto and pine nuts. It is the aforementioned that excites in the dish. No need for toast or a parmesan crisp for texture. Pine nuts. Very nice.
As great as the cocktails, my drink to accompany dinner could not be more thrilling. Followers of my posts will know how passionate I am about bubbly, be it champagne, cava or prosecco. My excitement almost reaches hysterical levels when I learn that the house champagne is by Billecart-Salmon, both the Brut and Rosé. These represent, I would say, the finest choice of house champagnes in Abu Dhabi, and what is even more remarkable, is the pricing of these two beautiful champagnes. In a city where champagnes are generally priced out of reach of a lot of people, here is a champagne, that offers of the best quality at that price!
Soon after, we have a selection of Maki rolls, which turn out to be fun and all round enjoyable. I am not into the craze with sushi that involves blow torches and non-traditional ingredients, but for this venue, these are just perfect - casual and relaxed, and with many of the dishes served leaning towards Asia, this dish is right at home here. I am not going to spoil it for you by talking about the presentation - you must order this to experience it!
In-keeping with the fun-dining behind a  couple dishes, we have the Deep fried prawns. Served on skewers, the fun element is obvious. The aioli dipping sauce adds wonderful flavour and moisture of course. Texture? If you have had kunafa you will enjoy the wrap around the prawns. Enough said. 
Just before my main course, I go outside. The terrace seating is another reason this is such a gorgeous venue. I see a shisha menu that is superbly priced and while I don't smoke shisha, I can see people enjoying these marvellous cocktails while smoking shisha. Barfly by Buddha Bar  is more than just about dining, making it a complete venue with so many choices for guests - dining, cocktailing, wining and shisha-ing! 
Meanwhile, returning to my table,for my main course, I have the Grilled Wagyu Ribeye, a grade 7 Australian piece of beef. It is served with three signature sauces. Needless to say, it is cooked medium rare, to my desired temperature. The three sauces, yuzu, black pepper and yakiniku provide for an interesting conversation piece with regards to which sauce works best, but for me the ribeye is so beautifully cooked that I find myself not needing the sauce!
We also order the Steamed line-caught Chilean Sea Bass - a thing of beauty. All the goodness that is Chilean seabass - texture, mild sweetness and perfect flaking are in front of me. As much as there are other ingredients on the plate, they do not detract from the seabass - baby spinach, clams, clam chowder and my favourite side ingredient on the plate, lotus root. The clam chowder brings to the dish a gorgeous fragrant quality, but this also serves to highlight the purity and innocence of the seabass. By the way, the hint of ginger is such a pleasure! Highly recommended.

Finally, and this was a tough call. To dessert or not to dessert? I succumb to the sweet tooth in me, and when my Chocolate fondant is served, I am not sorry. I joked earlier with my incredible waitress, Sanya, part of a well-trained group of waitresses and hostesses, that I was not expecting much because I know where my favourite chocolate fondant is in the city. She was adamant that I would like what was served to me. She was right. 

I break it with my spoon and chocolate...oozes out. Sensuously. Yes, it is true that  I love the edible flowers and the delightful pears served two ways, but it is the chocolate fondant that does it for me. Classic, despite the plate that has so much else going on. Recommended! 

Overall, Barfly by Buddha Bar is simply a stunning venue that offers some exceptional evening out options for guests. A very strong bar offering with killer cocktails creatively put together by a stellar team meets dishes beautifully put together by Executive Chef Tofik whose own kitchen staff do some really creative plating with their deliciously Asian-inspired dishes. 

Fact: There is no other venue like this in the city. Fact: It is not cheap, but you will find it worth it as an experience that will celebrate the aesthete in you. Fact: Barfly by Buddha Bar is a must visit. 

The Essentials
Barfly by BuddhaBar,
Venetian Village
At the Ritz Carlton, 
Abu Dhabi
Barfly by Buddha Bar
+971 2 4041951

Average price for 2 - AED500

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I tried Barfly by Buddha Bar courtesy of the restaurant.