Hakkasan Abu Dhabi review: What to expect at the Michelin-starred restaurant

In this series, we give diners a look at what's on offer at the capital's award-winning eateries

Inside Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan Abu Dhabi

Inside Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan Abu Dhabi
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The Michelin Guide revealed its debut selection of restaurants in Abu Dhabi in November, with three venues receiving a star. The Abu Dhabi guide came a few months after the UAE received its first red city guide for Dubai.

In this series, called Star-grazing, I visit the three spots that won stars in the capital, starting with Hakkasan in Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental.

The story behind Hakkasan Abu Dhabi

Located within Emirates Palace, Hakkasan Abu Dhabi has been a star attraction for residents and visitors long before the Michelin inspectors came along. Led by executive chef Lee Kok Hua, the elegant venue is a study in Cantonese cuisine and blends sophisticated cooking techniques with the freshest of ingredients.

Hua describes Hakkasan Abu Dhabi's Michelin star as an acknowledgement of the city’s thriving restaurant landscape.

“Ultimately, we are thrilled to have been awarded one Michelin star,” he tells The National. “Michelin coming to Abu Dhabi has made a positive impact on the culinary scene here, and it will be exciting to see the developments in the coming years.”

What's on the Michelin-starred menu?

Hakkasan Abu Dhabi is a cavernous yet cosy space, with plenty of nooks for those looking to enjoy an intimate meal or business meeting. A scene-stealing terrace overlooks the lush hotel grounds, which has become a social destination of its own.

My dining partner and I take a seat on a U-shaped bench facing the dimly lit dining hall separated by carved wooden lattice screens made of American red oak.

We choose various dishes illustrating the restaurant’s pedigree for applying refined modern cooking techniques to traditional staples, starting with the supreme dim sum (Dh145) — a platter of different varieties of the popular dumpling.

Instead of the standard chicken, beef and veggie fillings, more nuanced ingredients and flavours are on offer. The har gow, normally a pleated dumpling stuffed with prawn comes with the buttery and almost sweet notes of Chilean sea bass instead (although a prawn option is also available).

Hakkasan Abu Dhabi takes the shumai — another traditional Chinese dumpling normally filled with chopped or minced mutton, spring onion and ginger — in a vibrant new direction with diced chicken, abalone and pearls of caviar.

It is at once impactful, playful and elegant — all attributes Hua says are essential to the restaurant’s ethos.

“The way we use the ingredients are important and with the dim sum there are many combinations that you can offer,” he says. “The dish allows a chef different options and that always helps when crafting new menus.”

Up next is the crispy duck salad (Dh175), a best-selling dish and for good reason.

The duck is perfectly cooked and the citric sharpness of the pomelo is undercut by pine nuts and shallots.

“Preparing the duck takes more than 10 hours to make it softer before we deep-fry it to make it crispy,” Hua says. “We use pomelo because it is delicious, juicy and leaves an overall refreshing taste.”

Not everything in Hakkasan is a fresh take on an old classic, though.

The stir-fry black pepper rib eye beef (Dh198) is popular precisely because of its familiarity. The sauce is rich without overpowering the succulent beef strips. A flamboyant touch arrives — we are in Hakkasan, after all — courtesy of a layer of shredded crispy prawn crackers shaped like a basket holding the dish within.

“The dish has become so popular that it is considered as an Asian food favourite,” Hua says. “But to do it in true Cantonese fashion, it is all about flavour and balance. When it comes to the sauce, it can't be too peppery because it can easily spoil the dish.”

The wok-fried tiger prawn (Dh108) is another staple of Cantonese cuisine, says Hua, and can work as a solid solo main dish or a satisfying sharing-style starter.

For dessert, we opt for the Hakka platter (Dh158), a mixture of light and decadent options including hazelnut parfait, chocolate souffle and pistachio cake.

Those looking for something lighter can order a selection of homemade sorbets or a fruit platter.

Hakkasan Abu Dhabi's Michelin star confirms what the city’s foodies already know: this is a masterful take on classic Cantonese cuisine that is as sophisticated as it is approachable — and a worthy starting point on Abu Dhabi's Michelin-starred food trail.

Open from Sunday to Friday, 6pm-11.30pm; Saturday from noon-3.30pm and 6pm-11.30pm. For reservations, call 02 690 7739

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: August 31, 2023, 8:01 AM