From Dunes to Oceans is the theme for this month's Chef's Table dining series, part of the second instalment of Abu Dhabi Culinary Season, an initiative organised by the capital's Department of Culture and Tourism. Running until Thursday, October 15, the food festival brings to the table 10 five-course set menus put together by restaurants around Abu Dhabi.
Each limited-time menu is meant to feature dishes that embrace Khaleeji heritage and regional flavours. So while you’ll still find Indian mezze at Namak by Kunal Kapur and all kinds of carpaccio at Mare Mare and Marco Pierre White, it’s the Arabic dishes that are the true stars of this culinary show. Here are some to sample.
The InterContinental hotel Abu Dhabi restaurant has been serving its fare for more than 30 years, and its Emirati-inspired menu by chef Muhammad Luthfi supports the local farming community. On offer at this chef's table are bzar-rubbed hammour fillet, made of the quintessential Emirati spice mixture of roasted cumin, peppercorn, fennel, cinnamon, coriander and dried red chilli, and served with green lime and coriander aioli; and luqaimat and date cake, made with khalas dates sourced from a farm in Al Ain, and served with pistachio ice cream and edible rose petals.
Chef Ninh sought inspiration from Bedouin food, which he explains was cooked on an open fire and with a lot of spices owing to the region’s proximity and trade ties with India. These he combines with Vietnamese flavours such as herbs, soy, and chilli, and South East Asian cooking methods, to present Arabic-spiced beef rice paper rolls stuffed with muhammara, spinach leaf and mint. The prune and pistachio mahalabia, meanwhile, packs a powerful flavour punch, with a side of mango sticky rice and lemon sorbet.
The versatile Swiss chef Yvan Marclay of Bab Al Qasr Hotel presents Arabic-inspired soups and desserts on his wide-ranging menu. The former includes shorba laham with lamb and vegetables; lentil-roasted tomato soup with saffron; and chicken harees soup. Desserts are Umm Ali with rosewater cream; and kunafa in cannoli form with dry fruits and pistachio cream.
The must-try dish from this menu, though, is the awamat. The Lebanese doughnut balls are filled with dates, nut paste, blood orange soup and basil ice cream.
The limited-time menu was created by Rosewood Abu Dhabi’s executive Arabic chef Emad Zalloum, who launched the signature Lebanese restaurant in 2012 and oversees the Arabic cuisine across the hotel. Unlike the other participating restaurants, which serve a mix of Indian, Asian and Italian cuisine alongside the Arabic, most of the dishes on Sambusek’s menu are from within the region. However, chef Zalloum particularly recommends kibbe stuffed with minced beef, pine seeds and pomegranate molasses (a vegetarian option comes with fried eggplant and walnuts); and the traditional halawa trabolsyeh.
The Chef’s Table dining series, part of Abu Dhabi Culinary Season, runs until Thursday, October 15. In addition to the ones mentioned above, participating restaurants include Bentley Kitchen, Tori No Su and Tamba. The set menus are priced from Dh350 and reservations can be made by calling the individual restaurants