A trio of restaurants hidden in Abu Dhabi
Living in Abu Dhabi we are surrounded by some wonderful off-the-beaten-track restaurants, outside hotels – many of them well-kept secrets that most people don’t know about. So with this post, I am taking you on a culinary journey into the capital’s foodie underbelly with three of my favourite restaurants spanning Indian, Mongolian and Thai.
Evergreen, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant in Electra Street, Downtown Abu Dhabi is still one of my favourites for marrying good food with a cultural experience. Now if you are searching for ambience, this is not the place for you. Here you will find a restaurant with just the basics, yet filled with Indian culture and vegetarian food. There are two sections of the restaurant, downstairs which is male only, and upstairs for families. Service is fast, food is cheap yet extremely delicious.
Whenever I go to Evergreen, I order the dinner meal – a platter filled with exotic tastes of India. At AED12 one cannot go wrong. Might I add it’s bottomless. The waiter pops round and refills the sections of your plate with vegetarian curries, chapatti and rice – served with laban (yoghurts) and atchars (pickles). This, my foodie friends, is real authentic South Indian food that will leave your taste buds screaming for more until you cannot eat any longer. I do insist that you eat with your hands to create a true connection to this experience. Another wonderful dish at Evergreen is the behl puri at AED5, yes you read correctly, it’s filled with sev (a popular Indian snack of deep fried crunchy noodles made from chickpea paste and flavoured with turmeric and cayenne), chickpeas, potatoes, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and a spicy tamarind coriander chutney. The masala dosa, an Indian rice and lentil crepe, arrives at almost a metre long, filled with potato goodness which will leave your plate totally empty. The rava dosas are delectably crisp and served with yoghurt and a spicy chutney – well worth a try – as are the very large samosas; one of the best I have tasted in the capital. You will walk out of Evergreen feeling satisfied, content and planning your next trip down Electra Street. Go early it gets busy.
Have any of you tasted true Mongolian food? Let me introduce you to XiaoWeiYang Restaurant next to the Phoenix hotel on Airport Road. It’s from the same chain as the two Dubai locations. This restaurant yet again is basic, but the food will leave you speechless. Hot pot also known as shabu shabu is yet another cultural food sensation that one has to experience. Service is fast and friendly, with the hot pot arriving within minutes of ordering. You can choose between regular and spicy or an option of both with a divider in the centre of the pot. Select items from the menu to add to your hot pot like homemade noodles, pak choy, spinach, beef dumplings, crab balls and rice. A separate section entices you with fresh coriander, tahini, chilli sauce, chopped nuts, and soy sauce. The hot pot and its accompanying goodies arrive and is placed on a cooker in the centre of the table – you just add all your ingredients into the hot pot and let it simmer away. Scoop that deliciousness onto rice with your sauce accompaniments and just start eating. Like me, you may probably return every week for your shabu shabu fix. Another dish that I normally order as a starter is the spicy shrimp – with a plate filled with lotus root, bean curd and hot flavours that will, literally, blow your taste buds away. A must for anyone who has not eaten Mongolian food yet.
On a slightly higher level, but still with its own intimacy, I want to introduce you to Smoking Doll, an authentic Thai restaurant, created by the Star Corporation that also developed Leopold’s of London. The pomelo beef salad is a must-order – the pomelo gives this dish a wonderful texture that compliments the braised beef, which is slow cooked with hints of five-spice. The large and juicy tempura prawns come with a crisp and light batter. The duck dumplings also boast a very interesting taste of flavours. The South Thai dish of Massaman curry, with slow braised beef short ribs is rich in colour and the flavours dance with your taste buds, but it’s a little too sweet for my liking. A lighter dish of pad see awe chicken with al dente rice noodles stir-fried with Chinese broccoli – as authentic as anything I have experienced in my time in Thailand. Service is good and friendly.
Have you dined at any of these wonderful restaurants? Or if not, have I enticed you? Any other capital gems I should look out for?
I leave you with another favourite food quote of mine, “Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture” – Mark Kurlanskey ‘Choice Cuts’ (2002).
So who’s guest reviewer Liesl? “I have been a chef for 20 (odd) years, incorporating my many travels and experience with an intense passion for food. I have called Abu Dhabi my home for the last four years where I work as a private chef. I love food, exploring new cultures and people. I will probably die doing what I enjoy best, and that is cooking!”