Restaurant review: Fancy Indian flavours at Rasoi by Vineet Bhatia in Abu Dhabi
Both European Rasois by the Indian chef have Michelin stars
Chef Vineet Bhatia has already established branches of his renowned Rasoi restaurant in cities including London and Geneva. But settling down for dinner on the ground floor at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, you get the impression he has considered carefully how to serve up a great evening out in the capital. It is that attention to detail that has helped to earn the MasterChef India judge a stellar reputation – both European Rasois have Michelin stars.
What to expect and where to sit
The restaurant opened in Abu Dhabi in November and, since then, Bhatia has kept constant watch over the main dining area. The twinkly-eyed chef’s visage has been hand-painted on a wall and he smiles towards customers in the bright and airy space decorated with pops of colour, modern chandeliers and traditional Indian touches. Bench seating features prominently, but tables are spaced out so that, even if Rasoi is full, diners are afforded a sense of intimacy that is sometimes lacking in Indian restaurants. Cosy booths are available in an area off the main dining room for those who truly want to feel as though they have the place to themselves, while larger parties will be seated at tables with a view of the kitchen.
But do yourself a favour and arrive early for your reservation to stake a claim for the best seat in the house. That is found in the bar, with one table in particular offering a remarkable view of Emirates Palace and the Presidential Palace, both of which are illuminated in the evening. As you lose yourself in the grandeur, try the Bombay Blues for Dh35, a sweetly scrumptious mocktail served in a glass that appears to be a close relative of a chemistry beaker, garnished with lychee and served with a reusable metal straw for environmental brownie points. Cheers, Greta.
If a couple of drinks leave you in need of relief, be sure to take your smartphone with you as a “selfie area”, complete with a gold tree and large ornate mirror, has been set up outside. Elsewhere a fanned-out peacock tail adorns a “photo” wall. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to take a “before” shot prior to increasing your waistline with some top Indian fare.
Chef Bhatia says his vision for Abu Dhabi’s Rasoi is to create a place diners are keen to return to, and offering 26 starters certainly signals to potential regulars that they can sample something new with each visit. It is also worth noting that the main allergens (dairy, nuts and shellfish) are denoted next to relevant dishes on the menu, a small detail that can mean a great deal to those with food intolerances.
When we ask our server, Arjun, for help whittling down the options for the starters, he presents an iPad containing images of each dish and we swipe right until we find the ones that match our appetites. My dining partner settles on chicken snowballs (Dh75), an Instagrammable dish that features chunks of meat covered in basmati rice, each grain sticking up on end, and served with tangy chickpeas, while I order the B B C (Dh75). Activated charcoal means at first glance it appears my chicken samosas have been left in the pan too long, but beneath the blackened veneer are flavourful pockets of pastry that go down wonderfully with the roasted tomato ketchup.
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The portions leave enough room for negotiation over the mains, and we agree to share three: chicken Amritsari (Dh110), patila aloo gosht (Dh125) and lamb onion-berries biryani (Dh145). The rest of the table is to be taken up by sides – two naans, one red onion and coriander, one cheese – and a bowl of white rice. There would be little space left for condiments if any were provided, but chef Bhatia is clearly confident the finishing touches are applied in the kitchen. All his customers need to hand is cutlery (if that).
His faith is backed up when the food arrives – the chicken Amritsari, in particular, cannot be shovelled in quickly enough. Arjun explains the majority of dishes only deliver a mild heat, but all are full of flavour. The slow-cooked lamb in the patila aloo gosht melts in the mouth, and the delightful bursts of juice from the berries in the biryani complement the meat and saffron rice.
Though each dish is moreish, liberal helpings of rice and cheese naan soon slow the pace and it becomes a question of mind over masala. When Arjun delivers hot towels at the end of the heavyweight meal, it is tempting to throw them across the restaurant as a sign of surrender. We’re truly stuffed, but must dig deep for one final round: dessert.
You can expect to be steered towards the coastal prawns (Dh130) - the coconutty curry is a flavourful favourite - but for diners whose taste buds prefer to stick to dry land, look no further than the chicken Amritsari. If you have room for dessert, the chocomosa, or chocolate samosa, (Dh75) hits the spot and is chef Bhatia's signature dish .
A chat with the chef
Bhatia describes running his first Abu Dhabi eatery as “really special”, but when he is not in the capital, the kitchen is in the hands of head chef Alok Kumar. The latter says he is excited to deliver each dish on a menu hand-picked by his mentor. “To be honest, everything is my favourite on the menu,” Kumar says.
Value for money and contact information
Prices reflect the upmarket casual dining vibe. The most expensive starter, the pista lamb, will set you back Dh125, but there is a variety of delicious options for less than Dh90. The mains range from Dh90 to Dh195, with the biryanis priced between Dh115 and Dh145. All sides are Dh30 or less. Rasoi by Vineet is located at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, and tables can be booked by calling 02 447 4848.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant
Updated: January 22, 2020 07:15 PM