Sunday, 22 May 2011

It's time to get Arabic in Abu Dhabi

After seeing some amazing things travelling through Asia, it was now time to make our way around the globe and head toward England. But first we had to make a little stop over at Abu Dhabi.

Coming to Abu Dhabi, Cara and I had no idea what to expect. The culture and customs were probably the most foreign that we have experienced so far. Cara was a little concerned about what she could and couldn’t wear. The women in Abu Dhabi need to be mostly covered up.  Even I couldn’t wear shorts in certain places, pants only, which was not easy in the intense heat. We are only here for 3 full days and there is lots to see and do so we planned out our time and set off excited about what we were about to discover.

Our first stop was the Grand Mosque. This is unbelievable! It is one of the most impressive structures that we have ever seen. The Grand Mosque in total can hold up to 20,000 worshipers at one time.  Cara and I were speechless. What an amazing way to start our time here.  Later that day, we decided to go and check out the Emirates Palace. This is the worlds only 7 star hotel. Unfortunately staying there is a little pricey so we were limited in what we could see. But what we did see was unreal. It truly was a palace. There was lots of carved marble and sand stone. Very ‘over the top’ which seems to be the trend in Abu Dhabi.

Before I get on to talking about our food and drinking experience for this week; I need to make mention of our desert safari that we had the pleasure of going on.  Imagine 4-wheel driving out in the desert and bashing through giant sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Carving up the sand, like a surfer carves a wave. Then dropped off in literally the middle of nowhere to feast on a traditional Arabic BBQ. We both had an amazing time. It’s something that we would recommend to anyone visiting Abu Dhabi.

Eating the Arabic food was… ‘interesting’. Some food we really liked, and then there was other things that I think you need to be a local to appreciate. On our last night, we went to the “Al Fanar” revolving restaurant to reflect on our time here over a nice view, a bottle of wine and some quality food.  I decided to do a bit of a food review this week. My mum would be keen to read this I’m sure.  For our Appetizers, Cara ordered pan-fried scallops, which were served on a bed of green mango and marinated with mirin soy sauce, finished off with sesame seeds as the garnish.  This was a simple very well presented dish. The scallops were nice, but did seem to be a little undercooked. Having said that the flavours balanced well with the green mango. Cara seemed to enjoy the dish, but I don’t think it blew her socks off.

I decided to order the Alaskan crab served with a wasabi lime emulsion. After eating wasabi with sushi in japan, I have formed a liking to it, so when I saw the idea of a wasabi lime emulsion, I had to try it.  As I tried the crab first, just on it’s own, it was already delicious. Soft and juicy and well seasoned.  When I mixed it with the wasabi lime emulsion, I expected that kick of spice that you usually get from wasabi. But this was not spicy at all. It was actually refreshing. It complimented the crab beautifully. 

As we waited for our mains, the waiter came over and gave us a complementary sample and a dish that the chef was experimenting with, sautéed shrimp with mayonnaise. Sometimes with food and cocktails people can over think the ingredients and over complicate what they are serving. Sometimes the simplest recipes are the most effective. The chef’s sautéed shrimp with mayo was a perfect example of how a very simple dish can still be amazing. It was a nice combination of flavours. Something that I hope finds its way on to the menu.

For our mains, Cara ordered the beef rib eye with spinach cannelloni. The beef was cooked to perfection. It was a little on the rare side for Cara’s liking, but that doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the dish. It was juicy, soft and it pulled apart easily on the plate. I was certainly a little jealous. The cannelloni was a good side for the beef.  The combination of spinach and cheese worked well. The only criticism with the cannelloni was there was too much of it. The serving size needed to be less.  Eating the entire beef and cannelloni was just too much for Cara, but she thoroughly enjoyed her meal though.

I went for the sautéed chicken, served with roasted potatoes and onions. Like the beef, the chicken was cooked perfectly. Falling away from the bone with ease. It had a nice crispy skin, which I love. I also love roasted potato’s unfortunately I only got 3 little marble sized mini potato’s. The delicious flavours of the chicken made up for the lack of potatoes.

Overall our experience was great. The views of the city at night were awesome. We both had fun and it was a perfect way to spend our last night in beautiful Abu Dhabi.

After dinner we went to a near by cocktail bar. The cocktail menus I had seen in places so far had been very traditional, very classic. So I was hoping for something a little different when we went to the “Piano cocktail lounge”. Unfortunately, their menu consisted of just the basic classics too, daiquiri’s, margarita’s, martini’s, etc. So I decided to ask the bartender for his signature cocktail. The barman’s English was not that strong, so it took him a while for him to understand my request. After a little confusion, he explained that he did not have a signature creation, however he could serve me a drink that is very popular in Arabia. He explained that when the locals go out, this is what they drink. It’s called a ‘Bull Frog”, which is basically a long island iced tea, but with red bull instead of coke and blue curacao instead of Cointreau. To make a ‘bull frog’, you build in a tall glass over ice, 15ml vodka, 15ml white rum, 15ml tequila, 15ml gin, 15ml blue curacao and top it up with red bull. This drink is perfect for the sweet tooth. For me, it was a little too sweet. But I could understand why some people would like it. It’s like a liquid lolly-pop. The barman was right when he said that ‘bull frogs’ are what everyone drinks in Abu Dhabi. During the short time that we were sitting at the bar, we saw about six or seven of these concoctions get made and sent out to other customers.  It’s not the most creative idea for a drink I’ve seen, but it was a good incite to what is popular in Abu Dhabi.

The Bull Frog:
Build in a tall glass over ice:
15ml Vodka
15ml Gin
15ml Tequila
15ml White Rum
15ml Blue Curacao
Topped up with Red Bull


  1. Hmmmmmmm you are right and a right time to enjoy with your family in Abu Dhabi Desert Safari
    and take the special taste of Arabic Dishes ......

  2. That really looked delicious. Mouth watering. I am hungry now watching this.