Abu Dhabi’s culinary scene is shaped by a myriad of influences. Emirati, French, Peruvian and Japanese, there is a plethora of cuisines to discover. Here’s what not to miss when you’re in Abu Dhabi, as you’ve experienced firsthand. By Chirag Mohanty Samal
Eating out in Abu Dhabi can be daunting – you’re inundated with a sea of mind-boggling options and will need advice on what to choose. And we’re here to help! While five-star hotels in Abu Dhabi offer award-winning fine dining, there are also many iconic local restaurants that have maintained their tradition of serving unique and authentic dishes. If you love good food and a great atmosphere, Abu Dhabi is sure to exceed your expectations.
T+L recommends the following must-try restaurants when visiting Abu Dhabi.
One of Abu Dhabi’s oldest restaurants, Bu Tafish opened in 1968 as a humble restaurant on a boat selling fresh seafood cooked with flavorful spices using simple techniques – something which they have continued to this day. Founded by a Palestinian immigrant, Bu Tafish was named after the late Sheikh Zayed, who was a regular. Now located in Al Bateen Marina, the modern restaurant is designed in a nautical fashion with wooden boats, oars and lifebuoy rings forming part of the decor and waiters dressed in sailor attire. The wide range of fresh fish, shrimp, squid and oyster dishes will delight seafood lovers, and diners can choose from a mix of grilled meats served with a special sauce. According to Wael al Tamini, whose father founded Bu Tafish, it’s the “secret” sauce that has been hooking regulars for years. Some diners who came to the restaurant as children are now bringing their families for a trip down memory lane.
For a memorable dining experience, Coya is the place to be. Delicious Peruvian cuisine is perfectly complemented by sumptuous interiors, mood lighting, steel latticework partitions, leather upholstery and floor-to-ceiling windows offering sweeping views of the Al Maryah neighborhood. Must-try dishes include seafood ceviche, tuna tartare tacos, and veal chops with sesame and pickled radish. Or opt for the Chef’s Tasting Menu, a real highlight. Coya also offers some interesting cocktails with optional infusions that you must try!
A relatively new addition to Abu Dhabi’s bustling dining scene, Kaizu serves up authentic Japanese cuisine in an immersive, theatrical setting. The concept was born after founder Shadi Shawqi ate sushi for the first time in his life and was completely fascinated by it. After traveling to Japan to research and try different variations of sushi, he opened Kaizu. Dark wood interiors, dim lighting, and realistic murals create a sense of drama, but the food takes center stage. All types of sushi with a myriad of ingredients are aesthetically plated like works of art. Here, it’s a feast for the eyes and the stomach!
Located on Yas Island, Ishtar is named after an ancient Mesopotamian goddess and offers visitors a taste of Arabian culture through its ambiance, food, and entertainment. Contemporary interiors with Arabic lamps and traditional furnishings, as well as outdoor seating with stunning views of the Yas Marina Circuit, provide the perfect place to relax and have a good time. Ishtar adds a refined touch to the area’s street food and serves them with great enthusiasm. You can enjoy meat grills, seafood barbecues, hummus and a variety of local breads. Don’t miss the exceptional belly dancing performances beautifully choreographed to Arabic music!
Bushra by Buddha-Bar at Yas Bay Waterfront blends Middle Eastern and Levantine influences to present a unique menu curated by star chef Greg Malouf. The extensive menu features grilled lamb chops, wild sea bass risotto as well as French lentil tabbouleh, haloumi fondue and ras kibbeh. The cocktails created by Buddha-Bar’s expert mixologists also deserve a special mention. Try Bushra signatures like Levante, Bushra Mule and Crescent to taste unique concoctions infused with Levantine ingredients. As for the décor, inspired by 19th century literature, music and visual arts, the restaurant beautifully blends different colors with Arabic textures and patterns to create a unique experience.
Abu Dhabi has a vibrant nightlife and Kai Lounge, the posh dining establishment at the World Trade Center Mall, is a thriving example. The hip atmosphere with metallic shades, plush sofas, and high tables makes for an ideal venue for evening cocktails and an intimate party spot. Kai Lounge offers well-crafted cocktails and an impressive wine and champagne list. The fusion cuisine menu features Japanese sushi, sashimi and katsu as well as Latin favorites like taco bites and octopus carpaccio.
For more details on Abu Dhabi’s dining offerings, visit visitabudhabi.ae
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