Restaurant review: Get the lobster, ditch the salad at Turtle Bay Bar & Grill on Saadiyat Island
Seafood is this surf-and-turf restaurant’s strong point
Saadiyat Island has no shortage of five-star hotels, which house equally impressive dining options. Turtle Bay Bar and Restaurant opened last March along with the Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, and is headed by Malaysian chef Joseph Walter.
What to expect and where to sit
With a large turtle statue hanging out by its entrance near the pool, the restaurant is hard to miss. Once we get in, we’re given the option to dine inside or enjoy a poolside view. The outdoor dining area is impressive, and has heaters, but on the Tuesday evening we visit, it’s windy and sandy, so we decide to stay inside. Turtle Bay has an impressive modern design with a seating area that looks into an open kitchen and allows us to watch the chefs plating the food. There’s also a bar area. The restaurant has a relaxed ambience that, along with its dimmed lighting, makes an intimate setting in the evening, while floor-to-ceiling windows let in plenty of natural light in the daytime.
The menu is made up of surf and turf options, mainly featuring a variety of seafood and meat dishes. Of the few vegetarian options on offer – mostly as starters and salads – I opt for the cauliflower popcorn with a truffle tofu dip, while my dining companion gets a tossed baby gem salad with creamy Parmesan garlic dressing. The dish is so well-portioned, we’re able to split it. We also try a beautifully plated poached lobster salad and herb creme fraiche, and get the jasmine tea fizz and melon drinks to accompany our meals. For mains, I order the pan-seared sea scallops with braised beef short rib, while my partner gets an Angus USDA beef tenderloin with Bearnaise sauce and a side of creamed spinach.
My dish comes with three scallops mixed with cauliflower puree, mushroom essence and shimeji. While it seems a bit on the smaller side at first glance, it ends up being incredibly filling. As for the tenderloin, it was ordered medium and arrived cooked close to perfection. There was some pink on the inside, but it held a firm yet chewable outside.
For dessert, we had a caramelised banana, mango and ginger, which comes with a scoop of mango ice cream and pieces of meringue. For those with a sweet tooth, it’s a great way to end the meal as the flavours blend well without being overly sweet.
The standout dish had to be the poached lobster salad and herb creme fraiche. As a New Englander, I’m used to really good seafood, and can be quite picky. This dish comes highly recommended, though, especially for those who love lobster. The meat is fresh and juicy, and the asparagus, edamame, peas, leeks and ratte potato accompaniments make for an appetising combo. On the other hand, despite its large serving size, I’m not sure I would order the baby gem salad again, because it’s basically a Caesar salad. There are many more innovative items to choose from.
Who’s eating there
We dined alongside a variety of patrons, including families with young children, group of friends and couples. Given its intimate setting, the restaurant is also well-suited for a romantic dinner or other celebration.
A chat with the chef
Chef Walter moved to the Middle East in 2008 and has worked previously at Atlantis, The Palm, Hilton Dubai The Walk, Al Muntaha restaurant in the Burj Al Arab and Dukes Hotel. He began his career in Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang in Malaysia and at a resort in the Maldives, which he says helped hone his seafood skills. While he recommends everyone must try the lobster salad, his favourite dish on the menu is the hand-cut steak tartare.
Price point and contact information
Starters and salads range from Dh38 to Dh93; while mains are from Dh91 to Dh450; and desserts cost between Dh40 and Dh45. Turtle Bay Bar & Grill at Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas is open daily from 5pm to 11.30pm. Call 02 697 0000 to make a reservation.
This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant
Updated: April 17, 2019 04:57 PM