A sensational Brandon's Table at Tamba - Abu Dhabi

When I announced that Tamba would be the venue for the 6th edition of Brandon's Table, there was an inevitability about it. It is a well known fact that Tamba is my most beloved restaurant in the city and has been from the moment I walked into it on May 8, 2016. But it is more than just a favourite. I regard it as one of the best in the city - how many restaurants have challenged the status quo the way Tamba has? I have said this before but it bears repetition - Indian cuisine is objectively the most popular in the city and Tamba dared to go against the grain in how they interpreted, presented and served this cuisine. People might wonder why I waited as long as I did to have Brandon's Table at Tamba - well, Tamba is like my second home as far as restaurants go and I think I was afraid of being disappointed because I felt perhaps too familiar with the restaurant that I could not see myself being wowed. Nonetheless,  Tamba hosted us. 

Our arrival at the gorgeous Tamba bar was met with a glass of Prosecco, a staple now at Brandon's Table - no matter how hard life is, bubbles lighten the burden, even if just for a short time. For most of the guests, it is their first time in Tamba and I am so thrilled for them. There is something magical, almost mythical about certain first time experiences - your first kiss, first love, first heartbreak ...

We move to the dining table,  a table usually known as Chef's Table, so-called because it gives guests a lovely view of the kitchen and direct access to the kitchen as well. It is simply but beautifully laid out. I note the attention to detail. 

It is a menu of one gastronomic moment after another.  But rather than go through each dish, for some have been described already in previous posts on Tamba, it is necessary to pick out a few dishes that wowed guests. The Delhi mix, served this time with a quinoa dumpling is an immediate hit, with the sweet and sour tang connecting with guests. having tried this dish several times before, I do enjoy the slight variation. It is indeed an evening of many firsts at a Brandon's table, with  a number of dishes making their debut at Tamba - there is a sense of unworthiness and gratitude when this is revealed. 

The Cauliflower with adrak coriander glaze is exceptional. Roughly put, it is Tamba's play on a panna cotta. This dish is remarkable for a few reasons - the texture and the distinct flavours of the ginger and cauliflower. Finally, with yogurt powder strewn on the plate, as Joan shows us, you should really take your finger, and like a child, drag it across the plate and taste it. Yes, there is a child-like joy about it, but make no mistake, there is nothing childish about the flavours - a truly exceptional dish. 

Cauliflower image courtesy of Joan Tuano.

Conversation, so much a cornerstone of Brandon's table, flows effortlessly. It is hard to believe that of the 10 guests plus yours truly this evening, 7 are experiencing their first Brandon's Table - they arrived a strangers and by the the second course, that is forgotten.

The second new dish, the Prawns pickle, brings to the table idly, a staple from the Indian breakfasts I often have at Indian restaurants downtown. A clever use of ink squid reinforces the sea nature of this dish. However, it the lobster 'crisp', well crisp is the wrong word - it is more like a dehydrated film containing lobster. we bite into it, as per Chef's recommendation and a chorus of ooohs and aahhs reverberate around the table. Another great dish.

A dish that grabs everyone by tastebuds again is another new dish, flamed scallops - an absolutely sensational dish. The trick with Tamba's success in adding an Indian twist to traditionally Western dishes, is how nothing is overdone. Subtlety is the key. Caramelised kumquat and tom yam provide diversity of flavour, while the scallops retain their integrity and purity. I am not exaggerating when I say this is the best scallop dish I have ever had. The combination of creativity, execution and flavours make it easy to arrive at this conclusion.  

Scallops. Image courtesy of Lena Tolmach

The final dish that will soon be on the menu at Tamba is The Truffle soup, complete with a story narrated by chef. The presentation is supposed to evoke the foamy sea, with a  few rocks to break the all encompassing sea. The taste? Exquisite. I am not overstating when I say again, there is a loud murmuring of approval. All in all, a marvelous flavoursome, light, foamy soup with fresh mushrooms and just the right amount of truffle. 

While not mentioning the other dishes, I have to say every dish is a culinary high point. It is a cleverly thought out menu that leaves me satisfied but not bloated. Coupled to this is the service. Special mention has to be made. Guests at Brandon's Table, it must be said, have been blessed to have had wonderful service throughout their evenings. On the other hand, tonight just raised the bar a bit higher.  Regular, almost intuitive topping up of drinks is always a good thing, is it not. This is the case tonight. In addition, staff are so relaxed and engage guests in a non intrusive but connected way.  

The menu is accompanied by a full wine pairing, featuring 5 wines celebrating the new world wines of Australia and South Africa - including a South African Chenin Blanc, Australian Chardonnay and South African Pinotage that paired stunningly well with the lamb. Kudos to the restaurant's team for this. 

Chef Aditya Jha, Head Chef at Tamba, ensures that the experience is the most interactive yet. 11 dishes, all individually plated, with care and precision, are introduced each time. Chef is a busy man this evening. His personality lends itself to this. There are those chefs who are just a bit awkward in the limelight. Chef, on the other hand, understands the value of engaging guests. 

Childhood is an important theme to him and on several occasions, including his introduction of the Pumpkin paratha and tomato salsa, where he references his childhood when referring to the inspiration behind a dish. This makes such a  difference to our evening. His kitchen team is in sync with him. In fact, there is one dish, the Chicken bhakarawdi, that is plated by three different chefs, going around to each guest. This is a new experience at Brandon's Table as the kitchen is brought to the Table. It is quite something to behold, as they pass each guest and add an element that completes the dish.   

Tamba, having captivated guests with its daring approach to Indian cuisine in its first two years, is clearly stepping up to another level. Our experience at Brandon's Table is proof of that. One of the main ingredients over and above conversation I look for at A Brandon's Table is a wow factor. Every Table has had it so far, with varying success. Tonight's though, had has its wow element - the dishes. The food. The menu. The Chef and his team. As it was during Ramadan, there was no music. Furthermore, it was a Sunday night, generally a quiet time for restaurants and all guests had work the next day. Yet, this Table sizzled.  

I liken my experience tonight to going home to my mum and aware that she going to cook for me. I know what to expect and yet she manages to surprise me  with some amazing dishes. That is Tamba, tonight. 

Thanks Lena Tolmach for this great pic

Tonight, the line between the kitchen and the guest became ever so thin, while the line between food and experience disappeared. Most of us left the restaurant in the small hours of the morning, emotionally drained, overwhelmed by an evening in which people at Brandon's Table celebrated the beauty of the human palate, the nature of a heart opened up to others and the hand of the chef.  When last did you experience these? 
The Essentials

The Hub,
World Trade Centre Mall,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 672 8888

The next Brandon's Table, dubbed Brandon's Table - The Experience, will be held June 8.

Brandon Stoltenkamp