Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Abu Dhabi - Grub

Let's jump ahead to the good stuff.

I love the food in the Middle East. This could partially be because I'm technically "on vacation" while I'm there, and therefore have the time to savor everything, to buy carts of fresh produce and pick my way through it throughout my visit, or because everything is vaguely foreign and therefore exotic to me. Or it could be because I love food, and the Middle East does food extremely well. 

Just so you're aware - this post will NOT contain the biggest culinary adventure of our trips thus far - a brunch in Dubai. That will be its own separate post. And you shall see why.

But here's a taste of the most recent Abu Dhabi adventure.

First off, lemme tell you a little bit about my favorite store in Abu Dhabi - The One. See a fancy couch in someone's flat, or a delightfully postmodern chrome lamp, or a whimsical fake deer head? Chances are, it's from The One. And, as if their sales of interior decor wasn't awesome enough, they opened a restaurant which is fantastic. 

We went there for lunch one day, and brunch another. I was pretty stoked about both.


Thai Vegetable Curry - mild green curry with pumpkin, sweet potato, shitake mushrooms, aubergine (eggplant), bamboo shoots, tofu, green beans, and pak choi served with jasmine rice and a papaya and mango salad. A steal at DHS43 (about $11.71). Also - that drink is one of their fancy iced tea concoctions with ginger and mint and stuff. No alcohol served here, as it's not a hotel, alas. Also, the table and the lamp above us had price tags - The One is ultimately a furniture store and doesn't want you to forget it.

Let's take a look at that curry from another angle.

Eggs Benedict, The One style - turkey ham on a toasted English muffin with  sauteed spinach, soft poached eggs, and original or roasted red pepper Hollandaise with cheesy spiced potato wedges. DHS33 ($8.98)
So, remember how I was saying there were all of these little al fresco cafes along the Corniche? We stopped by one of them one sweltering afternoon, and were pleased to find that staff trained the giant fans directly on us, and that a nice(r) Gulf breeze was pushing the hot air around down by the water instead of just hovering in a ridiculous blanket over the island.

We enjoyed a nice bread basket and olive dish, but please enjoy (in the background here) the lovely blue drink called a "Mojito."

First off - the restaurant doesn't serve alcohol. This was Sprite with blue food coloring and a garden of mint leaves on top. And while it was delightfully refreshing on a torturous humid early-summer day, I'm pretty sure I understand why diabetes is on the rise.

Crusty bread, perfect olives, and a "mojito." No. Just....no.
Added to the list of things that suck about a long-distance relationship is the sheer amount of PTO you burn through. It kills me that I lose an entire day each way on my travels to the Middle East. Even if you leave at 10pm, you're still not getting in until 8pm (local time) on the other side. 8 hours of PTO spent jammed into a plane seat watching "The Perks of Being a Wall Flower" again and wondering how much you should sleep on a 13-hour flight.

Even more difficult is when one of the two of you has to work while on vacation - usually me. Being overseas means that I can't really start checking emails until around 5-6pm (given that the US is 8 hours behind), and that you could be responding to things well up until 1-2am.

But the one night that I ended up having to work, The Gentleman made me dinner. Because he's the best.

I've mentioned Jones the Grocer before - it's a conveniently located, Australian-based (ridiculously expensive) gourmet grocery store/cafe. It's one of the only places in Abu Dhabi that serves booze outside of a hotel (I have no clue how they got that license). Apparently there's a rampant foodie culture in Australia/New Zealand (as evidenced by the many gourmet foodie magazines I leafed through while brunching/lunching/waiting for carry-out).

So, we bought some stuff from there and Spinny's (also expensive, but I love it because they're fully stocked with all of my favorite British treats like biscuits and trashy magazines). Here's a Tuesday night, home-cooked meal:

That cheese is loaded with truffles. No lie. But everything on the right side of the photo is healthy, at least.

This stuff is awesome. With vodka. Or not. 

Appetizers - veggies and hummus, crackers and truffle cheese.

Risotto for the main course....


Cooking chicken and the risotto.

The finished product - chicken, risotto with truffle butter, and a rocket salad. I freaking love rocket salad. Why has this not taken off in the US?

On another night when I didn't have to work, we ventured out to the Intercontinental for dinner at the Belgian Cafe and drinks at the Yacht Club.

I totally had a Fruli at the Belgian cafe. It tastes like strawberry pop. 

Mussels are big at the Belgian cafe. We ordered two pots: Thai-style in Thai curry sauce (DHS155, $42.20) and  Roquefort cheese and cognac (DHS165, $44.92). They were ridiculous.  

Another specialty of the Belgian cafe are their crisps, which they serve with  different kinds of mayonnaise - true Belgian style. These were also ridiculous. 
I don't have any pictures of the Yacht Club, but it was Ladies' Night, and so I did get free champagne while The Gentleman paid like $50 for two fingers of mid-level scotch. First world problems.

On my last day, when we went jet skiing, we stopped at the Shangri La Souk on the way back for some shopping and lunch. We ate at an Indian place called Ushna.

First off, I was dressed quite inappropriately in a bikini and beach cover, and they served us with utmost respect and 5-star service. Restaurants can (and will, and should) absolutely refuse to serve you if your appearance is not aligned with their rules of conduct. This was a nice restaurant, and I was surprised that they let us in off of the beach in our swim suits, said nothing, and offered nothing but extremely excellent service. It could have been because it was a slow, weekday lunch, or because they knew we were tourists who might write about the service on their self-indulgent blogs. Regardless, they were nothing but kind, but I knew that I took my chances on that one.

Second, the view of the Grand Mosque from our lunch table:

I mean, I guess it's like awesome or whatever.

The No. 1 selling Indian beer! Apparently. Delicious, regardless.

Dipping sauces. I don't even know what went where but....it went, and it was good.

Cucumber salad thingy served on an endive boat. I love the presentation. IT'S EVERYTHING.

I don't remember what all we ordered beyond chicken, lamb, and garlic naan (like a nursery rhyme!) but it was incredibly delicious and looked very nice.

Things to look forward to on this blog:

Pittsburgh - city of bridges and fabulous mixed drinks
Ocean City - old meets new
A weekend out in Dubai (shi gets cray)
Epic Dubai Brunch
That time we went to Sandance
That time we went skiing indoors
Crazy Middle Eastern idiosyncrasies 


The Lebanese/Canadian said...

You do realize so called "rocket" is just arugula right? We got plenty of it here... it's just not as good for some reason.

The New Glitterati said...

I knowwwww! But it tastes...lackluster at best, and much more bitter. Why is that?

Mac said...

There is no way to make a long plane trip fun or productive. The food all looks so good. Maybe it's because I had cold leftover rotisserie chicken for lunch, but I'm really hungry now.