Restaurant review: Geek Kitchen gives American diner food a super boost
Chef Zandro Billardo brings a touch of fine dining to classic dishes at the comic-book-themed restaurant in Abu Dhabi's Al Nahyan Camp
You might wonder where Geek Kitchen derives its name, but any confusion is dispelled as soon as you walk in the door. This is a superhero-themed eatery, with related images and paraphernalia of the genre adorning every conceivable space that isn’t needed for seating, eating or cooking.
Nestled in among a bundle of restaurants, Geek Kitchen first opened its doors about six months ago and has been steadily building up a customer base since. Manager Richard Lacuesta, a veteran restaurateur in the UAE, and head chef Zandro Billardo say this is the first foray into what they and the owners hope will become a franchise operation. Don’t think this is only for the millennials, either – Geek Kitchen is most certainly geared towards anyone who likes high-quality American diner food, regardless of the comic-book surroundings.
What to expect and where to sit
The colourful, artwork-heavy decor channels a relaxed and fun vibe. Casual attire is the order of the day, and the seating, while unfussy, is comfortable. There are a couple of booths – this is essentially a diner, after all – but there’s no escape from the superhero imagery, and there are boxed figurines stacked up like small, shiny bricks around the counters and shelving. The staff are friendly and attentive, all in their matching Geek Kitchen T-shirts, and one of the two food preparation areas occupies the centre portion of the floor – all very nice for those who like to see their food being created and enjoy the bustle of a kitchen environment.
The breakfast menu includes a selection of standards such as pancakes, waffles and crepes (between Dh25 and Dh30) with accompaniments such as peanut butter, berry compote and, naturally, maple syrup. Oatmeal with caramelised banana, peanut butter and honey (Dh29) and a smoothie bowl comprising seasonal fruits and toasted coconut shards (Dh35) are also available.
These sit alongside breakfast-on-toast savouries that include omelettes (Dh34), and sides such as hash browns (Dh10), chips (Dh12) and corned beef hash (Dh12). Smoked salmon and egg (Dh29) is lurking in there, too. The starters (Dh15 to Dh21) are standard fare – the likes of onion rings, diablo chicken wings and jalapeno poppers – while the burgers and sandwiches (Dh35 to Dh45) are out in force. Beef patties are available with a variety of cheeses, sauces and pickles – and all in artisan bread and buns baked from scratch on the premises, which is not something you come across often.
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If you’re after something lighter, opt for one of the fresh salads (Dh46 to Dh49). The beet-sprout concoction is a particular delight, combining bean sprouts and beetroot (no surprise there) with pomegranate seeds, sugar snap peas, quinoa, beetroot hummus, tahini and avocado, all slathered in a lemon vinaigrette. You won’t want to miss the desserts, either – the freshly prepared cheesecake (Dh19) and chocolate brownie (Dh12) are particularly impressive.
It’s worth mentioning more of the restaurant’s cute touches here, which include coffees adorned with superhero faces in powdered chocolate. You can also order made-to-measure cakes, themed or otherwise. Also, you won’t find any dish that doesn’t have a comic-book character name tacked on. Remember those onions rings? Well, they’re actually Dr Strange onion rings, and the oatmeal and smoothie bowls are part of the Jedi Master breakfast range.
Two plates will leave anyone with a penchant for slow-cooked meat very happy indeed. The beef brisket (Dh42) and spinach-and-cheese-stuffed chicken breast (Dh37) are worthy of inclusion on a menu at any fine-dining establishment. Both plates are succulent and perfectly balanced in flavour, with the brisket covered in a delightful rich sauce (again, created from scratch). Chef Billardo has been classically trained in the European tradition and these dishes reveal that in spades. Many establishments talk about freshness, but these two plates show how important this is to what Geek Kitchen has to offer.
Chef Billardo sources all the ingredients himself from markets in Zayed Port and Mushrif Mall. He honed his skills under French and Italian cooks, and brings those standards of quality to the menu here. Including the head man himself, eight cooks work at Geek Kitchen, and Billardo ensures they prepare the dishes to exacting standards.
Geek Kitchen is on Al Muroor Road. It opens from 7.30am to 11pm, and tables can be booked by calling 02 449 3330.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant
Updated: February 6, 2020 03:09 PM