Restaurant review: Choice Cut in Abu Dhabi

Choice Cut specialises in steak, but it’s the refreshing salad bar and dessert options where the restaurant truly succeeds.
The interior of Choice Cut. Courtesy Jonathan Gibbons / Choice Cut
The interior of Choice Cut. Courtesy Jonathan Gibbons / Choice Cut

The Novotel Al Bustan, on Abu Dhabi’s Airport Road, is an odd little proposition. It has little of the fanfare of many Abu Dhabi hotels, but has quietly established itself as a classy four-star alternative to the capital’s array of glitzy five-star options. For a mid-market chain, it’s almost boutiquey.

The flashy lobby belies its star status. Its bar, Amber, is a Belgian-themed affair that’s grand for a chilled evening out, and it has its very own steakhouse, in a hotel sector where many competitors throw in an all-day dining restaurant and be done with it.

We’d been forewarned that a fug from Choice Cut’s smoking area had a tendency to cloud the rest of the restaurant, so we wisely chose a table for two at the opposite end of the non-smoking area. Not only was the air fresh, but the setting was comparatively intimate, softly lit by purple-hued lamps.

There were no à la carte starters, which ordinarily means navigating the culinary minefield that is the hotel salad bar. Except here, things were different: far from all-day dining dross, there were innovative touches aplenty, including a selection of homemade olive-oil infusions, while everything tasted freshly made.

It wasn’t a bad idea, either, because who wants to fill up on big starter dishes when there are hulking chunks of flesh to get your teeth into? My dining partner’s eyes proved rather larger than her stomach when it came to her main: as a half-Canadian expat, she was amused by the surf ’n’ turf’s grammatically suspect “grilled half Canadian lobster tail” – although, as expected, it was 50 per cent of a tail, rather than a mixed-race crustacean. It was sizeable enough that nobody in their right mind would request a whole one, anyway. Unfortunately, the accompanying risotto rice and baby vegetables outshone the 220g black Angus tenderloin, which was drier than it should have been, even for ­medium-well.

I kept things traditional, under the jovial menu header “The reason you came”, with the 250g grass-fed French striploin. But while I had no complaints at the dimensions of the long island of flesh, it was also somewhat on the tough side. We both indulged in the borderline-confusing sides selections – some you could pick for gratis; others were Dh22 apiece. The sweet-potato fries, truffled mashed potato, corn on the cob and steamed asparagus all hit the spot without being especially notable.

The desserts were rather more deserving of praise. The coconut panna cotta with pineapple carpaccio (or “pena cotta” as the menu styled it) was a canny – and moreish – twist on a dish that turns up on menus with depressing regularity. The trio of fresh berries, meanwhile, combined a kooky meringue mille-feuille sandwich with plenty of fruity goodness and a nutty side ­crumble.

The service was frustratingly patchy in its frequency – over-keen waiters approached our table three or four times before we were ready to order, yet when we finally were, it took a while to get anybody’s attention. That rather set the tone, with the meal spanning two hours, despite my dining partner and I attempting to hurry things along a tad.

But the serving staff were, almost to a man, cheery and attentive in conversation (even if an attempt to gauge their menu knowledge by asking for a steak-sauce recommendation simply resulted in the waiter reading out the entire list of options).

Choice Cut, then, is in the bizarre position of being a restaurant with character in a four-star hotel and failing in its chief cuisine while excelling elsewhere. All of which is more confounding than it is choice.

A meal for two at Choice Cut, Novotel Abu Dhabi Al Bustan, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh654. For more information, call 02 501 6444. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito

aworkman@thenational.ae

Published: December 3, 2014 04:00 AM

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