The mantra at Garage at the W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island is tackling a real issue in the region, especially during Ramadan: food waste.
Any experienced iftar buffet-goer will tell you that, as the anticipation of ending the day’s fast reaches fever pitch, filling up a plate ends up being based on ambitions usually unmet. So food waste becomes a recurring problem at gatherings and big venues.
Garage aims to solve that issue by preparing pre-portioned meals wherever possible, based on the number of reservations for the evening. If you care about your environmental food-print, Garage is definitely a place to visit.
What to expect and where to sit?
Garage has six different sections all with distinct settings and design, and food to match.
While there was a lot of decor to enjoy inside, I chose to sit outdoors to soak up the last few weeks of cool evening air in Abu Dhabi, a choice I’m glad I made.
The terrace overlooks Yas Marina and the Yas Marina Circuit Formula One track, which was very still.
Back inside, there is a global approach to the cuisine. At Nikkei House you'll find, Peruvian-Japanese ceviche, sushi and succulent beef tataki bowls, which are offered in perfectly sized portions, served in a room of black-and-white walls, with neon yellow, bright blue and hot pink chairs.
These fusions are an attractive option for the culinary curious, who want to go on a trip exploring different dishes.
At the steam table, Asian street food awaits people who, like me, love the familiar smells and sights of sweet and sour chicken, dynamite shrimp and Szechuan rice.
Lebanese flavours come to life at the mezze bar, through fattoush salads, tabboulehs and open shawarmas.
Sitting in their medium-sized bowls, little of the salad goes to waste and getting that pesky piece of pomegranate is an easier feat when it’s not served on a flat plate.
The meat vault, located at the end of the venue, is where you'll find koftas and kebabs, chicken tawook skewers, and the big rice and meat dishes, which are traditionally linked to Ramadan in the Middle East.
Desserts are split into two exciting sections,laid out on a table near the drinks area and hidden away in a tart van.
Seeing adults bustle around a mint-coloured ice cream truck carrying colourful bowls of strawberry, chocolate and raspberry scoops was a real delight.
There were several dishes that really stood-out.
The bite-sized opera cake truly made my evening. It was just the right size to fulfil that craving, but not totally take over your already full belly. The fact that the Asian street food section was anything but greasy and did not have that typical fast-food feel to it made going back for seconds and thirds a delicious and guiltless trip.
One other surprise was the metre-long assortment of what looked like, but weren’t exactly, pizzas. They were light, crunchy tarts filled with cheese and meat, a perfect combination. The best part was that they were brought around table-to-table for guests to choose from, which was a nice change of pace.
I had a small issue with the vine leaves which were too tightly wrapped, like a sushi, and lacked the tanginess associated with the cold, vegetarian version of this beloved staple.
Conversation with the Chef
I spoke with Peruvian Chef Luis Alberto Rojas Macavilca, who has been in the business for 20 years and has worked in Qatar, Brazil and Dubai.
“At Nikkei, we fused Japanese and Peruvian cuisine together — so we made Japanese dishes like sushi but using Peruvian ingredients like potato and corn,” he said, proudly.
With Garage’s main focus on avoiding food waste, Macavilca said planning is all the more important.
“The day before, we find out how many guests have made reservations and then we have a ballpark idea of how many would be walk-ins. Then we prepare the food accordingly to make sure that the guests have enough but not much food is wasted.”
Value for money and contact information
I had one qualm with the choice of hot beverages included with the buffet. At Dh198, I expected more than Arabic coffee, especially if said coffee was not as good as it should be. A wider selection of teas and filter coffees would have been perfect to round out what was otherwise a delicious meal, especially for people fasting who really value their caffeine fix.
If you want to visit Garage, make sure you book ahead by calling the restaurant, or book through the W Abu Dhabi website.
In general, Garage exceeds expectations in terms of variety and food consciousness. It maintains a low-key Middle Eastern vibe as classic Arabic tunes play in oud versions through overhead speakers complimenting the great feeling of truly having eaten just as much as you needed without so much as a grain of rice wasted.