Amid thunderous applause, 42 chefs from Abu Dhabi stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the most prestigious of culinary stages. The Michelin Guide has come to the capital, with the debut list unveiled at Emirates Palace on Thursday.
Eyes glistening with tears and triumph, the three chefs who won a prestigious Michelin star high-fived Bibendum (aka the Michelin Man, the group’s mascot) as they collected their glittering plaques.
Two restaurants from Emirates Palace — Hakkasan and Talea by Antonio Guida — are now Michelin-starred, with the hotel’s in-house team showing up in substantial numbers to cheer their colleagues on. Hearteningly, the applause and cheering reached a crescendo when Luigi Stinga from Talea took home the Young Chef Award. The final restaurant to receive a star was 99 Sushi.
Four restaurants were placed in the value-for-money Bib Gourmand category, while the remaining 35 received an honorary mention.
The evening was a success on many counts. Michelin’s foray into Abu Dhabi seals the capital’s reputation as a burgeoning gastronomical hub and promises local and international diners delicious meals in the future.
This was something that was stressed by both Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide, and Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, DCT — Abu Dhabi’s director general for tourism.
“Today is a very special day for Abu Dhabi,” said Al Geziry. “We are a part of Michelin and we have proved that the standards we’ve set are now recognised on an international level. But we are not comparing numbers today. Rather, the point of this partnership is to encourage culinary excellence, and to push chefs, restaurateurs and their teams harder so that you, the diner, will have a memorable and unforgettable meal whenever you walk into a restaurant in Abu Dhabi.”
Poullennec, meanwhile, was all praise for the “warmness and sincerity” of eating out in a “unique cosmopolitan setting”. He said the diversity of cuisines reflected in the Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi is “just the beginning of an exciting story".
"Abu Dhabi's is a rapidly evolving landscape and this is just the kick-off party, a way to ignite the dynamic and raise the bar," he said.
A taste of the growing gourmet decadence was on offer at the ceremony.
Appetisers arrived in the form of canapes filled with premium ingredients, plus counters for caviar, oysters, cheeses and seaweed.
For the gala dinner, Michelin roped in four international master chefs from around the world to curate the menu, all of whom were in attendance at the Abu Dhabi event.
Chef Simon Rogen — of three-Michelin-starred restaurant L’Enclume in the British village of Cartmel — prepared the first course: a decadent lobster with caviar and kohlrabi.
This was followed by a frothy onion, liquorice and almond creation by Bjorn Frantzen, who runs his self-titled three-starred restaurant in Sweden. Chef Frantzen’s connection to the UAE runs deep, as he recently announced he’s bringing two concepts bringing his Nordic cuisine to Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm, next year.
Jimmy Ophorst, a Dutch chef who’s credited with elevating the farm-to-table experience in Thailand via his Michelin-starred restaurant Pru, served a delectable lamb dish with shrimp paste.
Before guests could dig in to Singaporean pastry chef Cheryl Koh’s dark chocolate tart, the in-house Hakkasan team — led by chef Lee Kok Hua — served a grilled red snapper, laced with a tongue-tingling spice mix. Requests for seconds rang out from many a table, underscoring the Michelin Guide’s core purpose: a promise of culinary consistency, experimentation and excellence.
Restaurants recognised in 'Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi' — in pictures