07 September 2011

Sri Lankan food in Abu Dhabi?

I know I haven't posted in a long, long time - I hope to rectify that somewhat shortly - but does anyone know of a good Sri Lankan restaurant in Abu Dhabi? My wife and I had Sri Lankan food for the first time this summer in NY and absolutely loved it, and would love to have some here (if we can find a place.) Thanks a lot.

08 November 2010

Ritaj Hyderabadi Restaurant

Location: One set of buildings Corniche side of Electra Street between Airport Road and Muroor Street, closer to Airport Road.
Telephone: 02-6310036 / 02-6333097 / 02-6734227

As anyone who has visited or lived in Abu Dhabi can tell you, there is a very large South Asian population here. Everywhere you go, there appears to be at least 10 different Indian / Pakistani restaurants from every region of the sub-continent, with food that both looks absolutely amazing and appears to be very inexpensive. Just off Electra St. there is one such array of restaurants, and one day when a biryani craving hit us we decided to go there, settling ona Ritaj Hyderabadi because we could see a giant pot of biryani cooking on the store. So how was it? Honestly, fairly disappointing. The chicken was not as moist or flavorful as Arab Udupi, and the rice seemed a little hard. We also got a chicken curry, which was nowhere as good as Mughal Restaurant. Was the food cheap? Absolutely. Were the portions huge? Definitely. But you definitely could do better (and we have done better) on taste, so we probably won't be going back. Oh well.

06 November 2010

Al Sayad Marine Restaurants and Grills

Location: Go to the Mina Fish Market, go past the gate, make the immediate left, make a right at the end of the pier, and it will be about 5 doors down (blue doors, no sign, next to a refreshments place.) This is NOT the place with the same name inside the fish market itself.
Telephone: 02-6733711 / 02-6733838

When my wife and I first visited Abu Dhabi last January, one of the first places we went to visit was the Mina Fish Market because a) we love seafood, b) fresh and affordable seafood is hard to get in NYC, and c) we really love seafood. We had heard that there was good and cheap seafood at the Mina Fish Market, so away we went. We someone managed to not find the restaurant stalls in the fish market itself (which we actually haven't eaten yet), but by driving up and down the pier managed to find a delightful little seafood "shack" which we have visited several times sense (most recently with the in-laws, who also know their seafood).

The decor? Tables, plastic tablecloth (sometimes), and a TV blaring Syrian TV or Fox Series. Exactly what one wants. The service? Friendly. Cleanliness? We've been there many times and haven't gotten sick yet. The menu? Whatever fish and shellfish they still have, though if you really want something different they will run to Al Mina and get it. You tell them the weight you want, and it is yours. They also have an amazing platter of mixed rice (six different preparations) as well as the usual pita bread and salad (if you want). The preparation? You can get your food fried or grilled, and we always go with the charcoal grilling with hot sauce. Smoky and spicy, but doesn't overwhelm the fish/seafood nor dry it. Plus, the smell wafts into the dining room as it cooks which is great. If you like prawns and they have them, order them. They are served heads on, which I love, and they are sweet, juicy tiger prawns the likes of which are almost impossible to find in the states. The prices? Eminently reasonable. It varies day-by-day and per item (of course), but the two of us have gotten very full on prawns and rice for only 60-70 AED. Definitely one of our favorite restaurants in Abu Dhabi. It's far from fancy, but the food is oh so good and reasonably priced too. Well worth the trip out there.

19 September 2010

Le Beaujolais

Location: Ground floor of the Novotel Hotel on Hamdan Street near Liwa Center
Telephone: 02-6333555

After a week of eating Indian or Middle Eastern, we wanted something "different." And different here means "European." After hearing from three separate groups of people that the best affordable European restaurant in Abu Dhabi was Le Beaujolais, it didn't take us long to decide where to go for dinner. Le Beaujolais is a cute little restaurant, with a decor reminiscent of a French bistro. The bread, warm, crusty on the outside and soft of the inside, raised the expectations even higher. So how was the food?

The menu has all of the standards - coq au vin, shepherd's pie, etc. I got the braised lamb chunk (57 AED), while my wife got the prix fix special which included mushroom soup, glass of wine, salmon stuffed shrimp and fish, and fruit salad (75 AED). The braised lamb chunk was a very big piece of lamb, but unfortunately not very braised. The meat was not fall off with a fork tender as braised meat should be, and not particularly flavorful. Edible? Absolutely, but - except for the portion size (I took half of it home for leftovers) - disappointing. Not bad deal for the price, but could have been much tastier. Similar store for the prix fix - great portion sizes, but wished the food was better. The mushroom soup was actually good - thick, creamy, pronounced mushroom flavor. The salmon was a little overcooked and dry, very disappointing given how much good fish we see in the markets here. The fruit salad was very good, I even liked the kiwi fruit and I normally hate kiwi fruit. But the disappointments in the main dishes couldn't save it. Maybe we got the wrong items (if so, please tell us what to get next time), but the food was only okay. We'll probably try again due to lack of options, but not a "must go" for us unless we want the decor - and then we'd probably go to Shakespeare and Co. in the Central Market.

Note: 10% tip plus 6% tourism fee is added to all bills. Not a problem, but something to keep in mind

18 September 2010

Al Ababeel Refreshments

Location: Next to the NMC Ambulatory Center
Telephone: 02-6343578

What can I say, I'm American. I like fast food. I especially like trying "regional" fast food - not McDonald's, or Burger King - but local variations thereof. Hence, I am intrigued but all the different refreshment / fast food restaurants establishments here. One day, when we wanted a quick lunch, went to the closest one to where we live. The menu is much longer than the typical fast food place in the US - with various combinations of seafood, chicken (grilled and fried), and meat sandwiches / wraps, etc. We tried the khaleej burger (which came with fries for only 8 AED) and shrimps nashif plate (20 AED). The shrimps nashif plate consisted of essentially popcorn-sized shrimp (not breaded) in a spicy red sauce. Not a huge plate, but tasty and filling. The khaleej burger was a good-sized juicy piece of boneless chicken cutlet topped with a piece of lettuce, mayo, a few french fries and ketchup. Smaller than a McChicken to be sure, but filling. Again, it was tasty - not the most amazing sandwich I've ever had, but a good, solid lunch.

The most impressive section of the menu actually is the juices. The have juices for everything - watermelon, pomegranite, avocado, mango, etc. We got a small avocado juice (5 AED) and pomegranite (5 AED) juice. The pomegranite juice was actually disappointing to me - it was freshly squeezed, but too watered down for my taste. I enjoyed the avocado better, which was a nice thick shake.

All in all, is Al Ababeel an amazing place to eat? No. But want a quick, fairly tasty and filling lunch? You could do much, much worse.

17 September 2010

Abu Waqas

Location: Two rows of buildings in front of the Abu Dhabi Dental Clinic
Telephone: 02-6318332

I come from a family of bread-eaters. Seriously. At a fairly small family gathering a few years ago (15 people) we ate an Italian restaurant out of bread over dinner. While New York is a great place to get bread of all types, one area it is weak in is Middle Eastern bread - pita, in all of its regional variations, is often stale and limpless. One would hope one can find better here. So, when wandering around, you can imagine the excitement when I walked past (but more importantly, smelled) Abu Waqas bakery. The make one and only one kind of bread - a round bread about 12 inches in diameter, fairly thin but soft and fluffy, with holes, made out of a whole wheat dough. They cook it to order in an amazing looking clay pit oven, and it only takes a couple of minutes. It tastes very good, and it actually keeps at least a day (it didn't last longer than that). And best of all, it was 1 AED. Will be going back.

10 September 2010

Sushi and Ice Cream, Dubai Mall

I love sushi. There is a Burmese saying that when one sees raw fish one throws away grilled fish. No part of Burmese cuisine involves eating raw fish, so I was never quite sure where this saying came from but it sums up my feelings on sushi. As for conveyor belt sushi, if combining sushi and instant gratification is not genius, I don't know what is. So, when we found out that there was a conveyor belt sushi restaurant called "Yo! Sushi" in the Dubai Mall, we had to go.

We took the bus to Dubai, which was cheap and comfortable, and hopped on a cab to the Dubai Mall. Little did we know that even more culinary happiness awaited us. As we entered the mall, we could not resist the bright neon siren call of sugar in Candylicious, so we walked in. And there it was, staring at us! Emack and Bolio's! Given that it is a small ice cream chain which started in Boston and is only in a few cities even in the US, we never expected to find it in Dubai. It was like running into an old friend from China in Pennsylvania. It brought back memories of happy afternoons when we would walk over to the Emacs and Bolio's on Houston St. and come out with cups, cones, or quarts of ice cream with hot fudge. Since it was the middle of the afternoon during Ramadan, the tubs were chastely lidded. Will they have grasshopper pie? I couldn't wait for sunset.

We got to Yo! Sushi about 10 mins after they opened and the restaurant was already two thirds full. We sat down and started grabbing the color coded plates. They ranged between 11 Dirhams (vegetarians rolls. Really, what's the point?) and 22 Dirhams. Each plate had 2 pieces of nigiri (e.g. salmon for 13 Dhs or tuna for 15 Dhs), 3 pieces of rolls (salmon and avocado for 15 Dhs or soft-shell crab for 20 Dhs), or 5 pieces of sashimi (salmon for 15 Dhs or tuna for 18 Dhs). The fish was fresh and flavorful and the rolls were well constructed. We tried various forms of salmon, tuna, eel, and soft-shell crab sushi and sashimi. The salmon was better (and cheaper) than the tuna. The only cooked thing we tried was miso black cod which was 22 Dhs for 3 small pieces, which was not worth the money compared to the sushi. I should have heeded ancient Burmese wisdom. (If you want miso black cod, go to Wasabi in the Al Diar Mina hotel in Abu Dhabi.) The stack of plates grew and in the end, we spent more than we had intended to but we left full and happy.

We walked around the Mall for a little bit and headed back down to Emack and Bolio's. They were open and ... had grasshopper pie (creme de menthe ice cream with chocolate flakes and oreo cookie pieces), my favorite. One scoop was 10 Dhs which is similar to NY prices. If you are in Dubai Mall, we recommend grasshopper pie, cosmic crunch, and serious chocolate addiction. If you are a peanut butter fan (I'm decidedly not), the peanut butter cup flavor is supposed to be good. Unfortunately, the hot fudge was still on its way from the US but to make us for my disappointment, the person behind the counter gave me a free scoop of grasshopper pie. There couldn't have been a better ending to the day.

We'll be back to the Dubai Mall and, hopefully, hot fudge will have arrived by then. The next adventure will be to search for the shop that sells H&H bagels.

Eid Mubarak

I apologize for the lack of restaurant reviews lately but, to those of you who know the identities of the faceless google accounts behind this site, know that we have been exceedingly busy of late. While one might think that would mean we've been eating out a lot, it actually means a lot of eating leftovers from meals already reviewed on this site and cooking quick meals (I am extremely partial to tandoori chicken luncheon meat and Indomie ramen. The former I discovered here, the later has been a favorite of mine for over 10 years and I'm thrilled it is ubiquitous at grocery stores in Abu Dhabi). With hopefully the beginning of some normality in our schedules, look for restaurant reviews shortly. And if you have any recommendations, please leave them below.

Eid Mubarak!

02 September 2010

Mughal Restaurant

Location: In the second set of buildings behind the HSBC building on Airport Road, on the corner of one the apartment blocks.
Telephone: 02-6342143

If there is one cuisine which should be better here in Abu Dhabi than in New York City (my frame of reference), it should be South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Tamil, etc.). Especially cheap South Asian. Maybe I should have gone to Jackson Heights or the Indian section of Flushing more, but the "cheap" Indian restaurants near where we used to live were okay, but not great. Given the high percentage of South Asian workers here, cheap good Indian restaurants should be plentiful - and one day while wandering around the super-block where we live, we found one. Tucked into the corner of a small apartment block, the menu of Mughal Restaurant is very simple: Mutton Curry. Chicken Curry. Fish Curry. That's it. For accompaniments they have chapathi, paratha, and rice roti. No rice, just those three breads. And no printed menu either. There were three of us, and together we ordered two chicken curries and one mutton curry as well as two chapathis and one paratha and three small waters. Since we were still confused by the lack of rice the server provided us with a rice roti as well.

Both curries looked like simple fares - just meat and "gravy" (curry sauce), no veggies or other filler. The chicken curries came with the dark meat quarter of a small chicken (no steroid chickens like in the US), but not too small at all. The mutton curry came with several pieces of tender meat still on the bone, which made for fun and delicious pickings. The gravy was amazing - thick and creamy, spicy - but not too hot, with a complex set of spices and aromas. Very tasty, though a bit heavy (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). I liked the paratha better than the chapathi, but both were good. I'm not a big fan of rice rotis, I don't like spongy breads except for Ethiopian injera, but it was good - especially the fresh out of the oven piece we got halfway through our meal.

What about the portions? Well, when they came out all three looked a little on the small size, but they were really filling. Especially the mutton curry, since they gave me an extra portion of gravy since I finished my first portion before the others. And then they brought more bread. And since the first rice roti they brought us was a little old (still good, and we didn't say anything), they brought us another one fresh out of the even. Now, during this time I'm thinking "Oy, this is going to add to the bill" - especially since we had no idea what the prices were when we ordered due to lack of menu. After all the extras, we were stuffed. So when the bill came I was shocked. The total? 30 AED. Not 30 AED per person. 30 AED. 10 AED each. That's it. 30 AED for a very filling, tasty meal - and we were very hungry when we came in. I think I found my new, dirt cheap very tasty Indian curry fix. And, for a cafeteria / worker restaurant, surprisingly clean. None of us went to the bathroom, but the tables and walls did not have the layers of grease often associated with such places. And even if it did, I'd still go back for the curry. Yum.

29 August 2010

Asian Garden

Location: On Elektra Street near Bani Yas / 6th Street, next to the El Dorado Theater
Telephone: 02-6763350

In the US, Thai food has in many respects become the new Chinese: prevalent but unfortunately heavily weakened for Western tastes. Real, genuine Thai food - e.g. Sripraprai in Queens, NYC - is flavorful and spicy, a wonderful experience. While Thai is obviously much harder to find in Abu Dhabi than in NYC, we hoped that the few restaurants here would be of much higher quality than the average Thai restaurant in the States. The first contender we tried is Asian Garden, a clean and small restaurant (about 10 tables) near the back entrance to the Eldorado Theatre on Elektra street (across the street from the Honda showroom) which advertises Thai, Filipino, and Chinese food. The first sign it was good - all the customers were Asian. The second sign - a nice, long menu. But that means nothing if the food wasn't good.

We ordered three main dishes: shrimp pad see ew (spelled "patseo" on the menu, Item #188, 20 AED), thai green curry with chicken (Item #96, 25), and Daing Bangus - a Filipino-style dry fried milk fish because it looked so tasty (Item #48, 25 AED), with an extra side of rice (5 AED) and a large water (another 5 AED). The daing bangus was tasty, though parts of the fish were a little dry and it was (not surprisingly) quite bony. The Shrimp "Patseo" was extremely tasty, with a good amount of egg, sweet soy sauce, and spice that separates real pad see ew from pretenders. The green curry was extremely good as well, a nice smooth spicy coconut milk based curry with a generous amount of chicken and eggplant. It was spicy, but not overly so - very good. All three dishes were a healthy portion - we took half of the curry home as leftovers.

In summary, we had some very good Thai food at Asian Garden for a very reasonable price (80 AED for everything). They have a pretty long menu, and we definitely will be going back to sample more of it. It's so nice to have found real, good Thai in Abu Dhabi.