Every time you visit a restaurant for the first time — or even one that you’ve been to before — you may wonder if there’s something else on the menu that’s worth trying out.
Sure, you may have a go-to menu item or two that keeps you coming back to your favorite place. And you might argue that sticking to your staple orders will guarantee a superb dining experience very time, which can be expected if the chef and the staff are able to maintain consistent quality with every plate that gets sent out from the kitchen.
But then again, where’s your sense of adventure? After all, you’ll never know if there’s a new potential favorite to be discovered in a restaurant’s selection of dishes that would reward your taste buds with an explosion of great flavors and textures.
For this reason, we urge you to throw all caution to the wind and embark on a culinary journey in Abu Dhabi.
With plenty of amazing restaurants offering up the most creative dishes inspired by a whirlwind of global cuisines, you’ll be sure to find something to whet your appetite and leave you yearning for more.
Here are six of the most imaginative dishes to try the next time you check out Abu Dhabi’s culinary scene.
- Rock n’ Roll Soft Shell Crab, Spicy Tuna, Baked Crab Topped with Toro and Gold Leaves at KOI Japanese Restaurant
Japanese food is a timeless choice for people who love indulging in the freshest seafood and appreciate ritualized preparations. So it’s no wonder that KOI, which is much-loved in Los Angeles, California, has carved out a home in Abu Dhabi as well, thanks to its traditional and modern fusion Japanese cuisine.
In addition to the finest sushi, sashimi, and hand or cut rolls, KOI also offers their Signature Rolls, and one you simply must try is the Rock n’ Roll Soft Shell Crab, Spicy Tuna, Baked Crab Topped with Toro and Gold Leaves. Nothing spells decadence than a mouthwatering platter of rolls featuring top seafood favorites and garnished with sparkling gold. This luxurious dish is sure to impress when you bring family, friends or colleagues into KOI’s special private dining room for a momentous event or celebration.
Other creative and delicious offerings to try at KOI include the Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) Soup with Nori Powder and Braised Wagyu Short Ribs with Wasabi Risotto and Sansho Pepper Jus.
- Signature Steaks with Charmoula Sauce at BOA Steakhouse
Anyone can appreciate a juicy, well-cooked steak — it’s the perfect meal for celebrating special occasions or simply treating yourself to high-quality dining. There’s no better place to satisfy your craving for top-grade meat than at BOA Steakhouse.
Here, you can take your pick from the finest steaks in Abu Dhabi, from prime mid-western Texas and Kansas beef to certified organic beef and premium American Wagyu.
But whether you choose the Australian Mayura Wagyu Beef Strip, 35-Day Dry Aged Rib-Eye, or the US Prime Black Angus Tenderloin, you can make your steak extra special with BOA’s premium sauces, rubs and crusts.
In particular, you must try the Charmoula sauce with your steak of choice. Charmoula is a type of marinade and relish featured in Moroccan, Libyan, Algerian and Tunisian food. It’s commonly made with ingredients like cumin, paprika, dried parsley, garlic, coriander, cumin, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
If you have previously dined at BOA and ordered the more traditional Bearnaise, Peppercorn, Horseradish or Chimichurri sauces with your steaks, then it’s the perfect time to discover how the rich Charmoula sauce can work wonders on a perfectly cooked piece of beef.
Curious about BOA’s other dishes? Try sampling Peter’s Farm Holland Milk-Fed Veal T-Bone
and the Lamb Rump on your next visits.
- Golden Egg Sauce Bao at Panda BaoBao
Fans of Asian cuisine are sure to have soft, pillowybaos and steaming hot dim sum always on the mind every time they enter a restaurant offering these quick and savory delights — and Panda BaoBao in Abu Dhabi is no exception.
Baos come with a variety of fillings, from beef to chicken to shrimp to vegetables. They can be pan-fried or even contain a sumptuous mouthful of soup inside, alongside the meat fillings, making each bite truly satisfying.
Once you’ve had your fill of baos and an assortment of steamed dim sum (like Sticky Rice, Vegetable and Shrimp Sumai), move on to the next wonderful treat: the Golden Egg Sauce Bao.
The Golden Egg Sauce Bao contains duck egg yolk mixed with carrot juice and butter, yielding a rich, sweet filling that will perfectly coat your tongue and cap off your meal on a heavenly note.
Aside from the boas and dim sum, wake up your taste buds with other menu favorites like the Chinese Black Fungus Salad (Jew’s ear mushrooms on a traditional salad mixed with garlic, green onion and spicy sauce) and the fiery Dan Dan Noodle tossed with a spicy sauce made with Sichuan pepper, red chili oil, peanut butter, minced beef, preserved vegetables and scallions.
- All the Gluten-free Options at Tawa Bakery
If you have food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies, or you would like to sample or sustain healthier eating habits, then Tawa Bakery is one of the places you must visit in Abu Dhabi.
This bakery and cafe takes pride in the fact that they are uniquely 100% gluten-free. That means everything on the menu — from their freshly baked breads, to pizzas, pastas and sandwiches, to their sinful desserts — are all prepared in a fully gluten-free kitchen. What’s more, they have a vegan menu for customers seeking to nourish their bodies with animal- and cruelty-free wholesome meals.
So what should you try at Tawa Bakery? Order their Veggie Burger, made with a vegetable and chickpea patty with hummus, rocket leaves, tomatoes, and beetroot, served with a side of sweet potato fries. If a truly filling meal is what you crave, select the Special Foul, or Emirati-style chickpeas and beans with freshly baked pita bread.
Of course, there are also more familiar options like Margherita Pizza, Grilled Chicken Panini, Seafood Risotto, Eggs Benedict and Belgian Waffles. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to be digging into a gluten-free specialty.
- Afghani Pasta at NoLu’s Cafe
Eager to try a mix of two distinct cuisines? Then pay a visit to NoLu’s Cafe where the menu is a happy marriage of California-style eats with a hearty Afghani twist.
Case in point: the Afghani Pasta, a dish comprised of Afghani beef meat sauce on penne pasta, seasoned with green onions, dried mint, coriander and garlic yogurt. This extraordinary combination of flavors is sure to bring you to the cafe time and again.
Other innovative fusions to try? Order the Pulled Lamb Baguette (made with lamb, lettuce, cucumbers, pickled onions and tomatoes and dressed with basil mayo). And to round out the meal with a sweet treat, choose the Sakura Vegan Cake, an almond granola tart with lychee sakura confit and raspberry cashew mousse.
- Pulpo Al Grill at BU!
Finally, the sensuality of Latin American dining is sure to be present in Abu Dhabi’s culinary scene. To get your Spanish gustatory fix, head out to BU! (the restaurant’s name is derived from buenisimo or exceptionally good).
In any Latin American establishment, you’ll find a variety of quick-bite appetizers, soft and hard shell tacos, skewers, main courses, and grilled items. In particular, turn your attention to their Pulpo Al Grill, which is grilled octopus in passion fruit and habanero syrup with truffled tabbouleh and figs. This refreshing combination of ingredients is sure to leave a strong impression on your palate.
In addition, don’t leave without ordering one of the restaurant’s signature ceviches. Try the Camaron Amarillo, or shrimp in Leche de Tigre, coriander, lime, serrano oil and ajiamarillo. Leche de Tigre is a Peruvian term referring to the citrus-based marinade used in ceviches to cure the seafood. This “leftover fish runoff” is typically made with fish juice, lime juice, chiles, sliced onions, salt and pepper — and is usually drunk by diners after finishing the seafood.
Ready for more dining adventures? Remember to keep your mind (and bellies) open to new flavors and textures, and you’ll be sure to discover many more wonderful dishes as you explore Abu Dhabi.
Jenene Bronwin Batts is the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Tourism Development & Investment Company or TDIC. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations, including KOI Restaurant & Lounge and Boa Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi.