Experiencing an Arabic evening at the seaside tent: Khaymetna - Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana , Abu Dhabi

Three years ago I visited Kamoon at Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana in Abu Dhabi. I have fond memories of then Arabic Head Chef Abu Halab Al Daikh creating some original dishes while respecting the Arabic tradition. I also have memories of him making some very traditional dishes and doing them well. Over the next couple years, I had the pleasure of trying his dishes 4 or 5 times. His influence on me was immense because I learned what little I know about Arabic dishes from his creations. When he moved on from the restaurant, I felt his absence keenly. His replacement, Chef Mohammed Farouk, did not quite hit that level I was accustomed to. Maybe it was his youthfulness, but something was missing. Maybe he needed time. 6 months on, Chef had time to settle in, so I visited again in the relaxed setting of the Kamoon seaside tent - Khaymetna, complete with entertainment and shisha. I was intrigued to try Chef's new dishes which would feature on the new menu. 

The salads show Chef's hand, but in a smart and subtle way. The Fatoush has walnuts that do not clash with the rest of the salad and instead will the dish with harmony. He does not over do the use of pomegranate seeds, allowing an easy balance in the dish. If you like avocado, make sure you have the Kamoon salad - trust me. 

The entertainment is stellar. Syrian singer, Fadi strikes the right chord with the guests with his casual and approachable style as he bets out some home favourites as well as Arabic classics. He has a great rapport with the guests. Good food and music - nice. While I do not smoke shisha, every single table has it. It seems like one of those moments of happiness for guests. 

Next, we have the meter long kebab, a novelty which allows chef to come up with something fun and quirky. A surprise greets me  as I bite into it - he has stuffed the kebab with mixed nuts. Highly recommended. 

Another dish with  a creative presentation is the Arabic pizza, without cheese. It is basically Arabic bread  topped with tomato, coriander, pomegranate sauce and pine nuts. It is crispy, key to its success. In the centre is a candle. Nice. 

One of my all time favourites at Kamoon is the Quinoa and avocado salad. It is as good as the first time I had it about two years ago. Chef Farouk has not changed it too much - a good idea because you do not try and fix something that is not broken. 

Chef goes through a series of dishes which really show how he has stepped out of the shadow of the magical Chef Abu Halab Al Daikh. His take on a traditional Levantine dish Fatteh is brilliant. He uses shrimp and adds spinach, rich tahini and pine nuts. Of course, there is added texture with crunchy flatbread pieces. 

However, it is his lamb shank, fittingly served last that is packed with emotion. Kibbeh safarjal is a very old dish hailing from his hometown Aleppo, the mountains to be exact. It is a hearty dish perfect for the cold months. Chef adds lamb shank, beautifully slow cooked and adds my own ingredient that takes me to my childhood, pumpkin. When I ask Chef about this dish, his eyes light up. There is a spark. So much heart. Well done Chef.

 Food and music. These are so valuable in restoring the body and spirit, are they not? In times of war, these are even more essential to people. Tonight we had a chef and a musician from Syria, a country that has seen so much pain and suffering. Through food and music they were able to carry guests, a lot from Syria, to another time. To a time before hurt and loss. To a time of smiles and laughter. I guess that is ultimately what food and music, so beautifully brought together in the Kamoon seaside tent - Khaymetna, is about. Music notes and ingredients do not matter - it is how everything comes together to give people hope. For hope is life's greatest treasure, even more than love.

The low down

Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana
Abu Dhabi
971 (0)2 657 0111

Average cost per person excl drinks
130-200 AED