Literally high end dinning at Ray's Grill - Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. Abu Dhabi

When My 10-year-old, Mitsuki,  found out I was doing a round up of steakhouses in Abu Dhabi, she said 'Please take me to a  high-end one when you go'. So, when I told her she would go with me to Ray's Grill at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, she had no idea it was, as I put in my title, literally high end - the restaurant sits on the 63rd floor of the hotel. However, on my last visit, this evening was born - I noticed then how family friendly the restaurant was and I remember saying to myself that I would bring her back when I did my next round up. 

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is opulent the moment you walk in. The magnificent lobby will certainly result in a few oohs and aaahs for first-time visitors. But that is a story for another occasion.

We make our way to the elevator and manage to get the elevator to the far left which affords views of the Presidential Palace as it moves to the 63rd floor. 

After our arrival, we are greeted by the hostess and promptly seated. Interestingly, I see a few kids tapping away on their electronic babysitters. Ray's has a Gin Trolley like a couple other steakhouses, but what is unique about it, is that it offers champagne too - at 99AED it has the cheapest Veuve Cliquot Rosé Brut in the city! I start my evening with a glass. However, it is worth noting that it offers 6 by the glass champagnes, unprecedented at a  steakhouse in the city. Wow. A shame though that the champagne glasses do not match the ocassion. 

We are sat at the window. The layout of the restaurant means all tables have views of the city. Opposite us is a generously sized open kitchen allowing us to have a first-hand view of the drama that unfolds in the kitchen. 

While I sip on a glass of champagne and Mitsuki puts the finishing touches to her homework, I study the menu. It has to be the most succinct I have encountered this far as I have a look at Abu Dhabi's steakhouses. There is a choice of 10 steaks, ranging from 165AED to 550AED for the Master Kobe. However, my waiter for the night, Mahesh, tells me they will be introducing Argentinian grass fed sirloins really soon and that I can try it if I would like. At 165AED, I am intrigued and because it is grass fed, even more so. Mitsuki, meanwhile, also goes the grass fed route and has the Irish John Stone Beef. 

To start, Mitsuki has the Caesar salad, prepared tableside. Mahesh is really good. He talks about the ingredients ever so naturally and is able to vary his language accordingly between adult and child. It is a classic salad, so no real surprises. Fresh and crunchy. It is a big, hearty salad that we both enjoy, but I find the lettuce sliced a bit too fine for me, so I have to work really hard with my fork. 

For my own starter, I order the Pan Seared Foie Gras with one of the most exciting ingredients I have had as part of a foie gras dish in a  while - caramelised kumquat. The foie gras is stunning. It has a nicely browned surface, giving a bit of bite. Crumble with a hint of sweetness on the plate brings perfect texture do the dish, while the kumquat has a mild sweet but more profound sourness that really excites the palate. Finally, fresh orange segments add freshness to the dish, without clashing with the kumquat. 

For my drink, I feel like a cliche, but I choose a  sweet dessert wine, Chateau d'Armajan des Ormes, Sauternes. It is one of 18 by the glass wines and I like that they have dessert wine included. Highly recommended, especially considering it comes at a very reasonable by the glass price. 

As often as I have seen the Laguiole steak knives presented at a restaurant, it evokes something in me every time - a warm smile. I appreciate the respect it is afforded as our waiter opens the case. Mitsuki and I choose our knives and get ready for our beef.

However, there is more excitement as the mustard trolley is brought around. I like it. Unlike my last visit, my waiter is able to go through every mustard, highlighting its quintessential qualities. Knowledge. Mahesh also introduces the salt options, with much aplomb. Finally, I learn that there are so many pepper choices. What a pleasure this experience turns out to be. The thing is, and this I have said often - with such limited steak choices in the city from a handful of suppliers, the x-factor lies in the staff. 

For my wine, I turn to one of their other by the glass options - their Coravin selection. I experienced Coravin the first time in Abu Dhabi about 18 months ago. Then, however, it was not commercially available. Quoting myself from an earlier blog post: "Without getting into the science of it and bombarding you with technical jargon, this technology allows you to open a bottle of wine and enjoy it over time as if you had never ever opened it. A needle penetrates the cork, while argon gas is released into the bottle of wine, ensuring that no oxidation takes place. It is the oxidation which usually ruins the wine for storage. The pressure created by the gas allows the wine to be poured out through that tiny medical-like needle. Magically, as you remove the needle, the cork naturally closes. That cork is good for another 100 insertions, something that will never happen. It is full proof." 

To go with my steak, I have one of the by the glass Coravin choices available. Each glass is available as a 75ml or 150ml serving. Again, I am taken in by the this. This is Abu Dhabi and we are not used to such choices. I end up having a Dehesa la Granja de Tierra Castilla y Leon from Spain. Medium to full, nicely structured, with a long finish. Excellent. 

Finally, after all the theatre and drama, I focus on my beef. Served medium rare, I realise it lacks the fullness of flavour, the beefiness if you will, of a John Stone or of course a Master Kobe, but at 165AED, I am glad it is on the menu. This is why an extra feature like a mustard trolley is so useful. You are unlikely to use it when you order the top tier steaks, but the entry level ones yes. And I think this is fine. I have some mustard and salt. Now I am happy. Mitsuki, however, sensing my ambivalence, proudly announces that she is so happy with her choice of John Stone and with it cooked medium rare, she is again vindicated. 

As we wind up the evening, we order a dessert to share - the Vanilla Parfait. It turns out to be a delightful surprise. Strawberries and berries seemingly dominate this dessert, but that serves only to highlight the purity of the parfait. In addition to crumble, more texture is brought by dehydrated fruit. With chocolate becoming such an obvious option for me at a steakhouse, I am so pleased with this walk down another road. This is a sensuous dessert, yet so simple. 

Overall, I was impressed by my overall experience at Ray's Grill. It moved well beyond the meat offerings to offer what guests are looking for - an experience. 'Gimmicks' like a gin and mustard trolley proved more than just side shows and are actually integral to the Ray's Grill experience. Chef de Cuisine Daniel Irvine has a menu that while precise and guest friendly, still offers great variety. Secondly, Coravin gives them a real advantage by making it possible to have a really good glass of wine for a little extra. Moreover, the value of a place like this, perched on the 63rd floor that can make children feel at home, is immeasurable. Of course, the onus remains on parents to be mindful of other guests - they know best about their children's behaviour. Finally, a waiter like Mahesh is one of those rare waiters you meet. If Ray's Grill is able to replicate in other staff what he has, then all guests can be assured of a warm, relaxed and satisfying evening underpinned by sound knowledge, from a service point of view. 

Ray's Grill,
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 81115666

Sample prices
Caesar salad 45 AED
Pan Seared Foie Gras 90 AED
John Stone Irish Beef 205 AED
Australian Master Kobe 550AED
Brandon Stoltenkamp