At the new steakhouse The Forge, the food is beautifully presented and masterfully executed but the service needs to be addressed.
Abu Dhabi's Forge offers choice cuts – to a point
Any newcomer in the capital's steakhouse scene is going to be up against some seriously tough opposition.
As well as having to battle the surly super-chef Marco Pierre White's eponymous venture at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, there are also the outstanding Rodeo Grill and Blue Grill at the capital's Rotana hotels.
So The Forge, which has recently opened at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, is attempting to muscle in on an already stellar collection of diners.
Its prospects are given a boost by the impressive decor. It's all dark woods, dim lighting and coloured-glass walls, creating the ambience of an upmarket New York brasserie.
And the food is equally pleasing, with the majority of dishes we chose being both beautifully presented and masterfully executed.
Even the free soda bread deserves special mention. Served piping hot with a crunchy exterior and soft centre, it's a momentous struggle not to fill up on it even before you've begun your meal.
Just about managing to resist gorging out, I plumped for the crab cake for a starter. This disc of white crab came with a dash of salsa sauce and was doused with black olive powder. It was an effective opening gambit.
The creamy, Parmesan-covered Caesar salad my dining companion went for was also excellent.
For a main, you could opt for the exorbitantly priced Wow Burger, which comes with pan-fried duck liver, truffle sauce and mushroom compote. A selection of seafood is also available. But why visit a steakhouse without ordering steak?
Just before our meals arrived, the waiter presented us with a tray of dagger-like knives from which we chose the implements to dissect our dishes. While it's somewhat gimmicky, it's kind of fun to mull over whether one prefers an oak or walnut-handled blade.
Resisting the lure of the Wagyu beef, I opted for the Australian sirloin and was delivered a dense, rich piece of meat cooked with care and precision.
After one bite of my friend's Argentinian tenderloin, however, I was jealous. This hunk of marbled meat with a slightly soft centre was so succulent it almost melted in the mouth.
The towering pile of deep-fried onion rings and the plate of crisp asparagus we chose as our sides were also worth saving stomach space for.
Even contemplating a dessert after such a feast took some serious willpower. Nevertheless, we managed to squeeze in a few bites of New York cheesecake. With its light cream and crisp, crumb base, we didn't regret the decision.
While the food was exemplary, we were frustrated with the standard of service. Often, the waiters were inattentive at best, invisible at worst. In fact, some of them seemed to have been practising the art of avoiding eye contact with diners, leaving us waiting for an eternity for service.
Since dishes are notably pricey - steaks start at Dh180 and quickly rise to the mid-Dh300s - these glitches urgently need addressing.
It's still early days at The Forge, so one hopes they're just temporary growing pains.
But because of these glitches, at present the restaurant just misses out on entering the ranks of great UAE steakhouses. With a few minor tweaks and a moderate dressing down for the waiting staff, a rapid promotion could well be on the cards.
A meal for two at The Forge costs Dh657, including service. For reservations, call 02 818 8888. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and reviews are conducted incognito
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