Restaurant review: The offerings at JW Steakhouse deliver on taste

The steakhouse at the Marriott Hotel Downtown in Abu Dhabi offers carnivores a succinct menu. The meaty offerings match up to some of the best on the dining scene in the capital.

The JW Steakhouse at Marriott Hotel Downtown, Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Marriott Hotel Downtown Abu Dhabi
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While I’m all for education about the origin of people’s food, I have a confession to make: when I’m at a restaurant, I prefer not to directly think about the animal that died to provide my dinner, should I have chosen to order a carnivorous option. This is the case even when there are tanks of live fish in a seafood restaurant.

It’s not that I’m squeamish, it just feels like an unnecessarily in-your-face link.

There are plenty of laudable ­design touches at JW Steakhouse, the new Marriott Hotel Downtown’s meaty maison, that I will vouch for until, well, the cows come home.

But when it comes to actual cattle, I would probably rather not face embellishments such as black-and-white hide-esque chair coverings or the bristly outer wallet that contained our bill.

Not that, in a design context, these aforementioned forays are outlandishly incongruous. Quite the opposite: there is a small ­dining area of several ­separated sections that seems custom-made for adjectives such as “cosy”.

Although I definitely preferred the over-the-top, almost-­cowboy-level wooden platter onto which my steak was deposited, replete with a silver bull’s-heads figurine at either end.

The menu, in keeping with the dimensions of the restaurant, doesn’t go big on flabby excess. There are 10 starters (or, as they prefer it, “First Flavours”), a brace of soups, nine mains, variations on six different steaks, and seven desserts.

The first category was the most imaginative, particularly the big-eye tuna cones, which broadly provided the answer to the question: “Fancy some mini tuna- tartar Cornettos?” ­Embellished with chilli, scallions, masago (fish roe) and sesame, it was as enjoyable as it was visually ­perplexing, with added mildly spicy bite.

The lump crab cake, with decorative morsels of avocado, cucumber, lime and tomato, was run-of-the-mill by comparison, but did nothing wrong per se.

As a matter of course, I ­generally try to avoid red meat in my daily diet, but I still couldn’t resist the master Kobe “AA9” ­tenderloin from “The Cuts” menu (150 grams for Dh310; double the weight costs Dh610).

The ­manageable cylinder of meat was predictably tender. The real boon, however, was my choice of spiced date jus, which added an excellent Middle ­Eastern touch.

A side of bitterballen-­dimensioned sweet potato ­fritters, with an ­inspired sweet-and-spicy dip of maple syrup and chilli, ­completed a left-field win.

While ordering the grilled tuna steak, my fruit-phobic ­dining partner replaced the usual ­accompaniment of olive ­gnocchi with a side of (minuscule) ­heritage carrots.

The two oblongs of fish were so succulent they could have ­reasonably been served without anything at all.

An aside among the sides: ­vegetarians might want to grab a snack before dinner – there’s only one salad, one soup and one main that will satisfy your needs.

Dessert brought fewer ­surprises yet equal ­competence – the hazelnut-dotted apple crumble had a cinnamon ­flourish, while the Black Forest gateau compensated for its cute confines with a cherry-splashed richness.

JW Steakhouse, then, much like its unflashy name, isn’t ­going to change the face of beef-based dining or blind you with celebrity chefs.

It’s reserved and largely ­unmoved by trends, whereas, say, similarly new capital-city steak spot Butcher & Still overflows with ­conversation-worthy eccentricity.

Yet it does changes up things with sufficient regularity that it’s by no means a pale alternative.

• Our meal for two at JW Steakhouse, Marriott Hotel Downtown, Abu Dhabi, cost Dh900. For more information, call 02 304 7777. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito.