Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

The must-try dishes at Taste of Abu Dhabi 2019

Finger food and bite-sized nibbles aside, the food festival has expanded its restaurant repertoire to include creamy curries and fine French fare

Abu Dhabi and Dubai host a variety of outdoor food festivals every year, which are typically dominated by food trucks or quick-serve stalls, bench or grass seating, and an air of casual ­camaraderie. Finger foods and other easy-to-eat bites make up the ­majority of the culinary offerings, as visitors eat and pay as they go from vendor to vendor. Escargot and curried shrimp, then, are not your typical food-fest fare. Yet, they feature on the menu at this year’s Taste of Abu Dhabi, which starts on Thursday, November 7.

The three-day event will serve mini-menus from 10 restaurants this year. Of these, Namak by Kunal Kapur offers some of the most elaborate dishes, all for Dh21 – which is but a fraction of their usual price. Appetisers include chicken tikka tacos with a “tomato rub, apricot chutney and tingmo bread” (for the uninitiated, that’s steamed Tibetan bread that momos are typically made of); and bunny bhaji, which is a combination of Mumbai’s pav bhaji and South Africa’s bunny chow, stuffed into soft buns with a cheesy crust.

Mains include three curries: prawns with fresh coconut milk and curry leaves; slow-cooked lamb in a cashew gravy; and paneer makhni in tomato curry – each served with rice and a salad. “True lovers of Indian food cannot do without their curry-roti or curry-rice combo, hence the decision to include these as our main course,” says chef Kapur. “People also tend to spend several hours at Taste of Abu Dhabi, so it’s nice to have more substantial options and comfort food. The starters and desserts, on the other hand, are more for the grab-and-go crowd,” he adds. Dessert is an exotic srikhand, served with cinnamon-­flavoured yoghurt, crispy pastry and apple gel.

An elaborate selection is also to be found at La Brasserie’s stall. The French restaurant, ­located at the Venetian Village in Abu Dhabi, will present such delicacies as snails cooked in garlic butter, crispy goat’s cheese pastilla with dates and nuts, lobster ravioli with lobster bisque and seared cod fillet with herb mashed ­potato brandade in cockle sauce. These are priced from Dh20 to Dh30.

If all this sounds a little too rich for your liking, there are dozens of other dishes to munch on the move. Wings are a food-fest favourite, and Taste of Abu Dhabi has ­traditional barbecue-smoked chicken wings from Butcher & Still (Dh20). Fries are another firm ­fixture, and here you have our ­favourite kind – truffle fries with Parmesan (Dh15) – also from Butcher & Still, while Todd English’s Olives will serve its sweet potato bravas, with crumbled feta and ­avocado cream (Dh20).

Of course, the whole point of Taste of Abu Dhabi is to sample a variety of cuisines (and make your way back for favourite seconds). From the Far East, there will be Cantonese duck rolls, chicken and shrimp sui mai, and wok-fried chicken noodles from Dai Pai Dong, for Dh30 each, as well as Thai dishes from Desert Lotus, including chicken satay with peanut sauce (Dh20) and pad Thai noodles (Dh35).

Get your Middle Eastern food fix from the Sambusek stall, which will serve its popular hummus tahini and chicken shawarma, plus shish taouk, kofta kebab and arayess, all priced between Dh15 and Dh30. Over at Amerigos, classic guacamole, tacos, nachos and other Mexican bites await for Dh20 a pop.

Pizzas and burgers are other go-tos, and the options at Taste of Abu Dhabi range from a duck fat beef burger and Chicago-style hot dog (for Dh30 each), to pepperoni and margherita pizza slices from Dino’s Bistro Italiano (for Dh20 each). Todd English’s Olives, meanwhile, will serve its cheesy Bronx Bomber flatbread, with beef pepperoni and caramelised onions, for Dh20.

While it all sounds delicious, especially at those prices, one unfortunate oversight seems to be the vegetarian options, which don’t go far beyond cheese, bread and potatoes. Dai Pai Dong’s “boiled mixed vegetables” does not sound appetising as a main, and there are only so many nachos and fries a person can eat.

One option is to jump straight from starters to the handful of desserts on offer – with a stopover for paneer makhni at Namak, perhaps. La Brasserie has a sticky toffee date pudding with salted caramel sauce; both Dino’s and Amerigos offer tiramisu, with the latter also serving churros with warm chocolate sauce; while Butcher & Still does a cherry pie with vanilla ice cream. These all cost Dh15. Bon appetit!

Taste of Abu Dhabi is from Thursday, November 7, to Saturday, November 9, at du Arena, Yas Island. Tickets from Dh70 and are available at www.tasteabudhabi.com

Updated: November 4, 2019 06:17 PM

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