x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Market Kitchen at Le Royal Méridien pricey but worth visiting

It may be one of the more expensive among Abu Dhabi's dining options but the creative menu ensures that the restaurant stays busy.

Market Kitchen aims to replicate a modern American restaurant. Delores Johnson / The National
Market Kitchen aims to replicate a modern American restaurant. Delores Johnson / The National

There is no shortage of dining opportunities at Le Royal Méridien, a stalwart on the Abu Dhabi skyline. But it seems that Market Kitchen is already putting its in-hotel rivals in the shade, judging by our greeting upon arrival.

The valet asked us why we were visiting the hotel and when we replied that it was for dinner, he responded with a knowing smile: “Ah, Market Kitchen?”

The restaurant is inspired by the philosophy of the French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but Market Kitchen’s main room felt a little strait-laced.

From our downstairs vantage point, however, we spied the first-floor balcony and quickly relocated after ordering. The result – a tucked-away corner table replete with a comfy sofa and surrounded by shelves of kitchen apparatuses – immediately set us at ease.

Despite the aforementioned French influence, the culinary scope is somewhat more international, aiming to replicate a modern American restaurant, while the pinnacle of our meal was distinctly Far Eastern.

The “Simply Raw” starters section only featured three dishes and two of them (oysters and salmon tartare) didn’t exactly set our pulses racing. But the crispy yellowfin tuna sushi was a revelation. The four imposingly thick slices of fish were mounted atop rectangles of deep-fried rice cake, held in place by gorgeously flavoursome chipotle mayonnaise. Pizza, meanwhile, as an appetiser seemed comparatively unusual. We opted for the beef carpaccio and beneath a veritable undergrowth of rocket, the simple and light dough, mushroom, Parmesan and meat concoction didn’t weigh us down in the slightest.

A good job, too, because we didn’t want to waste a crumb of the soy-glazed beef short ribs. The meat was tender to the point of melting on the fork and, despite the apple-jalapeño purée being a bit over-salted, the rosemary crumbs and a mini-mound of shredded apple were imaginative complements. The roasted Maine lobster with artichokes, fingerling potatoes and spring garlic couldn’t quite match that impact – especially at Dh230 (plus tax) for a relatively miserly amount of ­crustacean.

The main selection of entrees all came with preselected sides, although there’s also the “Simply Cooked” option: fish or meat dishes accompanied by your own choices of sides.

We, however, got greedy and ordered an extra side apiece regardless: creamed herbal spinach and truffled macaroni and cheese, both of which were competent additions. Vegetarians should, unfortunately, resign themselves to starters and dessert only, unless they fancy cobbling together a main dish of sides.

Among a clutch of dessert standards (chocolate cake, fruit pavlova, sorbet, ice cream), one stood out a sweet-toothed mile: the salted-caramel ice-cream sundae with peanuts, popcorn and chocolate fudge sauce. Its sizeable serving proved too much to finish – but regret wasn’t an emotion that we experienced afterwards.

The Market cheesecake wasn’t quite as inventive, with glazed cherries and a cylindrically presented sour cherry sorbet that concealed a blob of cream, but it looked – and tasted – delectable.

While Market Kitchen is far from an easy-on-the-wallet option, then, it possesses enough innovation to lend it a quietly notable USP – the crispy yellowfin tuna sushi is almost one in its own right.

A meal for two at Market Kitchen, Le Royal Méridien, Abu Dhabi, costs Dh754. For more information, call 02 695 0300. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and conducted incognito