Mo Gannon | September 5, 2013
The fastest clock Abu Dhabi runs on is what I call F1 time, the annual occurrence that brings such a flurry of new restaurant openings timed for the international race event that it’s impossible to keep on top of them all. But this year F1 time seems to be upon us earlier, with soft openings all over the place – a new St Regis on the Corniche, a shiny new luxury shopping space with food outlets in The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, the adjacent Rosewood hotel, and the blossoming of new restaurants at The Collection connected to the St Regis on Saadiyat Island. So I switched up my routine this week to sample as much of the newness on offer. Here goes:
• Over a weekend lunch, I bumped into at least three Abu Dhabians I hadn’t seen in awhile at Magnolia Bakery, which is a sign, along with the full tables, that it’s already the new lunch hotspot. My decent enough Cobb salad was easily overwhelmed by the item that everyone’s raving about: the banana pudding, which they sell in ice-cream containers for mad indulgence (Dh25-35). Divine, but better your hips than mine.
• Next up was Catalan in the Rosewood, the Spanish restaurant of Michelin-star chef Antonio Saez, where I happily skipped the paella to savour the beef tenderloin with melted-before-it-hits-your-mouth gnocchi. The interior is a little austere in a fine-dining sort of way, but the prices aren’t as outrageous as I’d expected.
• The next day lunch was at The Galleria’s sleek and stylish Emporio Armani Caffe, where at a press lunch we sampled its wood-fired pizza and buffalo mozzarella salad, and reminisced about the old days as we gazed across the water at a surprising new view of old Abu Dhabi.
• All of the above are worth a return, but my dinner at Koi surpassed them all. I love its entrance lit by fire urns, its Asian lattice exterior and its dark wood and bamboo candle-lit interior.
Even the Buddha Bar-style soundtrack was subtle enough not to spoil the mood. I’m an instant fan of the Crispy Rice with tuna, the fresh-made mocchi and the Honeymoon mocktail. Despite all that is new in Abu Dhabi, I’m sure to become a regular.