Jul 3, 2012 - Tapas, travel    7 Comments

Three meals in Abu Dhabi

Pakistanis love their food, we know it, we cook it, we eat it –we eat a lot of it, and we love to talk about it. However, most Pakistanis eat their own kind of food and do not want to experiment much with different cuisines. Despite being a paindu Pakistani, I love food in all forms and from all over the world – though I too draw a line and don’t eat things like frogs and alligators – in fact no travel experience is complete without trying local foods. Abu Dhabi was a little different because finding authentic Arabic places to eat was not too easy for a new person, but as an alternative, the city offered amazing international choices that can rival any cosmopolitan city of the world. 
I was lucky in a way that the hotel I stayed in – Traders Hotel – offered great variety in the breakfast menu. Though they served South Asian and continental breakfast in all its glory, I was looking for authentic Arabian breakfast and upon consultation with the restaurant manager, decided to go for Labneh which is yougurt like soft cheese balls covered with herbs and olive oil. I also had flat bread with Za’atar which is a dried blend of various herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme, sumac with sesame seeds and olive oil. For a person who normally starts her day with a bowl of muesli, the Arabian breakfast was an explosion of taste. Both the things tasted great, however, I would recommend Za’atar for a mid day meal rather than breakfast but then again, I am not really a morning person and enjoy my food better when I am fully awake. Labneh, on the other hand, was great way to kick start a busy day.
If you happen to be or live in Abu Dhabi, I recommend that you should try out the lunch buffet at Sofra Restaurant in Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri. If a restaurant is packed for lunch on a weekday at 1.00 pm, it generally means that the food would be great. What I was not expecting was the sheer variety of food they had on offer; from a full mezze spread to a variety of salads to sushi for starters to Continental, Mediterranean and South Asian sections for the main course. The sweet dish section was so great that I decided to skip the main course and only had starters and two sweet dishes as I could not choose one. If a person with no particular fondness for sweet dishes went bat shit crazy in that restaurant, imagine what would happen to a person who actually has a sweet tooth! I predict food coma :).

The appetizers at Sofra
meetha heaven!
But the best food experience of my stay in Abu Dhabi was at the Tapas bar, Amodar in Park Rotana. The spread was amazing with everything from seaweed wrapped smoked salmon to deep fried calamari to poached prawns, to wafer thin strips of beef to batter fried anchovies, meatballs and amazing variety of cheese with thick chunks of doughy German bread. The service was great and our Spanish waiter not only explained the food to us but also shared a little bit of history of it and the background of the chef who designed the menu. Being a foodie and a food critic, Kiran asked a lot of questions about the food which brought out the two chefs from their kitchen. What happened next was magical. First they prepared an amazing entrée where they made balls of cucumber juice by putting them in calcium water and then serving them with oyster leaves, seaweed and salt water foam to give the dish its oysterish sea like feel; needless to say it was delicious and getting is made right in front of us was quite an experience. You can taste everything, from the cucumber ball to oyster leaves to seaweed separately in your mouth. With us gushing over their skill, the chefs decided to show off some more and made a sorbet for us with liquid nitrogen. They mixed an assortment of juices and drinks, added liquid nitrogen and whisked the mixture in the bowl with fog emanating from it and then served us those little sorbet balls on frozen dishes. It would not be putting it mildly if I say that it was one of my most cherished food experiences ever – anywhere in the world. Not only did we enjoy excellent food, we also learned a great deal about the cooking techniques. The way the chefs attended to us and made things for us made us feel like royalty. I personally felt like one of the judges in the masterchef kitchen. What a wonderful experience it was! I suggest that if you happen to be in Abu Dhabi, do drop by at the Tapas Bar in Park Rotana, I guarantee that you will not regret it. 

Varieties of salmon

Discussing food, loving food


making cucumber balls

Scooping them out of calcium water


Sorbet making with liquid nitrogen

The trip to Abu Dhabi was part of  LivEY experience.For those who want to try their luck traveling the world with Etihad Airways, they should check out the LivEY facebook page, who knows, you could be part of the next group to a new destination.

PS: Most of the photos are taken by Ali Khurshid

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