The 2024 edition of the Michelin Guide in Abu Dhabi was unveiled on Thursday, with all current star holders – 99 Sushi, Hakkasan and Talea by Antonio Guida – retaining their much-coveted culinary awards.
Alongside them, Erth also earned a star, becoming the first Emirati restaurant in the world to win one. As The National found in its review, dining at Erth feels like reading a love letter to the UAE.
"The concept is to pay homage to Emirati culture," Amit Arora, chief operating officer of Erth, said at the award ceremony at Louvre Abu Dhabi. "We support local farms in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and to provide a sustainable dining experience has always been our ethos."
Speaking to The National, Arora says: "We feel very proud of the team's achievement and are truly excited about what lies ahead. We want to thank our customers and patrons for supporting us.
"We are passionate about supporting the local economy and creating a sustainable experience. To see that being recognised today is a proud moment."
Being the only Emirati restaurant to be honoured with a Michelin star will help “elevate Middle Eastern cuisine for other nationalities to come and experience it, because it’s not very well known, and it’s only being discovered”, Arora says.
The Michelin Guide launched in Abu Dhabi last November. At the time, three restaurants were awarded one star each. Four restaurants made it to the Bib Gourmand category, while the entire list comprised 42 Michelin-recommended dining spots.
This year's announcement brings the number of Abu Dhabi's Michelin-starred restaurants to four, while two new restaurants – Al Mrzab and Oii – were added to the Bib Gourmand category, and eight more to the general guide (full lists below).
Of retaining 99 Sushi's star, chef Thinus van der Westhuizen said: "It's a lot of team effort. Retaining the star is almost harder than getting the first one."
In a recorded video played at the start of the ceremony, Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guide, said: "Abu Dhabi keeps impressing us with cuisines from all corners of the world. From Emirati specialities and other Middle Eastern wonders to food of more international flavours, Abu Dhabi remains a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, where every talented chef works to amaze curious gourmets with innovative dishes."
Poullenec praised the “ambition and passion” of chefs in the capital, saying the 2024 selection “perfectly reflects how dynamic and diverse Abu Dhabi is”.
The event was followed by a preview of the Middle East's first Michelin Food Festival, which begins on Friday.
This year's stars
Hakkasan, 99 Sushi Bar and Talea by Antonio Guida all retained their one-star status, which the guide gives to venues with “top-quality ingredients, where dishes with distinct flavours are prepared to a consistently high standard”.
Erth became the fourth Michelin-starred restaurant in the capital.
No restaurant in Abu Dhabi has achieved two stars yet, though Dubai has three restaurants in this category. Both emirates have yet to lay claim to Michelin's top honour, three stars, given to venues that demonstrate “superlative cooking”, such that the dishes are “elevated to an art form” and are destined to become culinary classics.
Bib Gourmand restaurants
Other than Al Mrzab and Oii, all four restaurants from last year's list retained their Bib Gourmand status, namely Almayass, Beirut Sur Mer, Otoro and Tazal.
Named after Bibendum, the Michelin Man and official company mascot of the Michelin Group, the Bib Gourmand category represents value-for-money spots and is “not quite a star, but most definitely not a consolation prize”, according to the guide.
The anonymous Michelin inspectors also conferred a series of special awards to individuals.
Rigers Cuka, of Oii, took home the Young Chef Award and was lauded for excelling at restaurant management and cooking skills beyond his years. Visibly emotional on receiving the award, Cuka said: "I immediately fell in love with working in a restaurant, from waiting tables to serving guests, and I can't believe I've reached this point."
Elsewhere, Chandran Thanggaraja from Kopitiam by Chandy's won the Service Award, while James Soo Yong Kim received the Opening of the Year Award for Les Dangereux.
How the Michelin stars are born
The guide is essentially determined by dozens of anonymous Michelin inspectors who conduct random restaurant visits throughout the year. No inspector visits the same restaurant twice, and meals are planned at various times of day and year to gauge consistency of quality.
Five universal criteria are taken into consideration:
1. The quality of the ingredients
2. The mastery of cooking
3. The harmony of flavours
4. The personality of the chef reflected in the cuisine
5. The consistency both over time and across the entire menu
List of Abu Dhabi restaurants with Michelin stars
- 99 Sushi Bar & Restaurant, The Galleria Al Maryah Island
- Erth, Qasr Al Hosn compound (new)
- Hakkasan, Emirates Palace
- Talea by Antonio Guida, Emirates Palace
List of Abu Dhabi restaurants in the Bib Gourmand category
- Al Mrzab, Al Mushrif (new)
- Almayass, The Galleria Al Maryah Island
- Beirut Sur Mer, Mamsha Al Saadiyat
- Oii, Al Qana (new)
- Otoro, Al Qana
- Tazal, Al Qana
List of restaurants selected for the Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi
- Al Farah (new)
- Butcher & Still, Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island
- Byblos Sur Mer, InterContinental Abu Dhabi
- Cafe James, Shams Boutik
- Cafe Milano, Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island
- Catch by St Regis, The St Regis Abu Dhabi
- Cipriani, Yas Island
- Coya Abu Dhabi, The Galleria Al Maryah Island
- Dai Pai Dong Restaurant, Rosewood Abu Dhabi
- Finz, Beach Rotana
- Fishmarket, InterContinental Abu Dhabi
- Fouquet's, Louvre Abu Dhabi
- Grand Beirut, The Galleria Al Maryah Island
- Hoi An, Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri
- Jose by Pizarro, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers (new)
- Kopitiam by Chandy’s, Al Falah Road (new)
- Les Dangereux, Mamsha Al Saadiyat (new)
- Li Beirut, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
- Li Jiang, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
- LPM Abu Dhabi, The Galleria Al Maryah Island
- Market Kitchen, Le Royal Meridien Al Markaziya
- Martabaan by Hemant Oberoi, Emirates Palace
- Mate, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel And Villas
- Mazi, The St Regis Al Saadiyat Island
- Meylas, Al Muneera
- Mijana, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
- Moksh, Etihad Towers
- Namak, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi
- Niri Restaurant and Bar, Mamsha Al Saadiyat
- Oak Room, Abu Dhabi Edition
- Paradiso, Yas Bay
- Punjab Grill, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
- Ray's Grill, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers (new)
- Shang Palace, Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri
- Silk & Spice, Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche
- Tean, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort
- Terra, Al Qana (new)
- VaKaVa Pan Latin Grill and Lounge by Richard Sandoval, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
- Villa Toscana, The St Regis Abu Dhabi
- Yadoo's House, Embassies District (new)
- Zuma Abu Dhabi, The Galleria Al Maryah Island