Business lunch in Abu Dhabi? Let's go Korean at Cristal

The Life: Cristal Salam Hotel in Abu Dhabi is pushing ahead with its Korean strategy through a Korean business lunch, says Sid Sattanathan, the general manager of the group.

Sid Sattanathan introduced the Korean business lunch to meet the needs of the growing Korean business community. Delores Johnson / The National
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Sid Sattanathan, the cluster general manager for Cristal Hospitality Group, was busy serving guests at the hotel during the Korean New Year on Sunday. He took some time off to talk about the business of introducing a Korean business lunch at the Cristal Salam Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Why introduce a Korean business lunch?

Introducing the Korean business lunch is part of our overall marketing strategy to meet the needs of the growing Korean business community. We launched Sura, our Korean restaurant, in mid-November 2012, and have been encouraged by the positive response to the restaurant, its Korean ambience, the authentic food and beverages, and even our karaoke rooms. We are currently the only hotel with a full licensed Korean restaurant. Besides the restaurant, we have [some] native Korean team members working in different departments such as front desk, restaurant and sales. And this has helped us attract Korean companies to place their guests with us. Some of the team members are paid by the South Korean government to come and work in the UAE to get international work experience. They stay for six months to a year.

The restaurant opened a year after the hotel. When did you notice the demand?

Many Korean companies, such as nuclear and infrastructure companies, have established in Abu Dhabi in the last three years. I joined in August and proposed the theme to the management and it got approved right away. We converted the all-day dining restaurant at the hotel into the Korean restaurant and karaoke rooms.

What are the popular dishes on the Korean menu?

We have four sets of menu that we rotate every week. Among these are a sea food and spring onion pancake starter called haemoolpa jeon; spicy chicken with vegetables main dish called dak gang jeong; marinated thin beef and soya sauce with vegetables or bulgogi; and soojeong gwa, a cinnamon sweet punch.

Is the Korean menu the only one for the business lunch?

We do have a small international menu as well.

What is the cost of a Korean business lunch?

It is priced at Dh65 [US$17] for a three-course meal.

How many clients have you served the lunch to?

We launched it in mid-January this year, and already have several regular guests and diplomats dining with us. The cuisine also has a broader appeal to other Asian communities, such as Japanese, Chinese and Filipinos. North Americans are also fans of the food. I would say around 40 per cent of the clients are Koreans.

When did Cristal Salam open?

The hotel opened in November 2011, and is owned by Fadhel Saeed Al Darmaki,and is managed by Cristal Hotels and Resorts. It has another hotel in Abu Dhabi called Cristal Abu Dhabi, which opened in the first quarter of 2009.