x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Market Kitchen offers a taste of the United States in Abu Dhabi

Diners in Abu Dhabi will have a better understanding of the diversity of modern American cuisine with the unveiling of a brand new concept called Market Kitchen, by the renowned Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Parmesan-crusted chicken with basil and lemon butter. Delores Johnson /  The National
Parmesan-crusted chicken with basil and lemon butter. Delores Johnson / The National

If you’ve never been to the United States and you’ve only dined in American restaurants here in the UAE, how would you describe the cuisine?

Likely, the restaurants that come to mind are fast-food joints and chains such as Red Lobster, Chili’s or TGI Friday’s. While those restaurants do have a following in the US, they should not be the ambassadors of American cuisine. After all, we’re talking about a country that has produced culinary legends such as Charlie Trotter, Julia Child, Alice Waters and Thomas Keller, just to name a few.

But in a pluralistic nation such as the US, American cuisine isn’t easy to define. The food – and culture – changes drastically from region to region and even state to state. Food in the north-west corner of the US is so different from food in the south-east that it’s easy to feel like you’re eating in two entirely different countries.

Luckily, diners in Abu Dhabi will have a better understanding of the diversity of modern American cuisine with the unveiling of the brand-new concept Market Kitchen, which opened last week in Le Royal Méridien. As part of the 25-year-old hotel’s extensive two-year renovation, Market Kitchen makes its debut as a two-level restaurant featuring contemporary American cuisine in a trendy, upscale setting.

The restaurant is the brainchild of the French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, in cooperation with Culinary Concepts Hospitality Group (CCHG) out of New York City. Though Vongerichten is no longer an owner of the company, you will find some of his original recipes on the menu and classic French cooking flair will be evident. The executive chef, Justin Galea, who joined Le Royal Méridien eight months ago, says: “There’s nothing really to compare it to [in Abu Dhabi]. It’s its own entity. When I look at the food, it’s got really a New York, American-style feel to it. It’s American cuisine.”

The menu has Asian and local influences as well and features unique combinations of flavours. On the menu: black truffle and fontina cheese pizza, salmon tartare, avocado and spicy radish with ginger dressing and a Parmesan-crusted chicken served with asparagus, basil and lemon butter.

Market Kitchen will focus on seasonal food and make the most of the produce grown in the UAE. Galea and his team will also source the best ingredients they can find from countries where those ingredients are in peak season. Galea says they are currently getting the best truffles and tomatoes from Italy; king oyster mushrooms from France and 25-kilo bags of Idaho potatoes from the US to make what Galea calls “the best chips in the world”. They even stock Sriracha hot sauce, a Thai chilli sauce made in California. Galea says sourcing the right ingredients has been challenging but worth it: “There are actually products coming into Abu Dhabi that no other restaurant is using.”

When asked to describe the food at Market Kitchen, Galea uses words such as wholesome, identifiable, fun – and simple. But, he says: “Don’t misinterpret the word simple as being inferior. Simple is very, very hard to pull off. When you’re simple and you’re clean, the main ingredients have to sing. To get it right, you’ve got to use the right produce and the right ­ingredients.”

Imre Cupani, the director of operations at CCHG, says food lovers in the capital can expect “a fun, vibrant atmosphere with very polished service”. She adds: “I think our commitment to quality ingredients will set us apart. We’re going to create cravings that you’re going to want to come back for.”

Market Kitchen is open daily from 12pm to 3pm for lunch; from 3pm to 7pm with a kitchen counter menu; and from 7pm to 11pm for dinner. For reservations, call 800 101 101 or email restaurants.lrmad@lemeridien.com

artslife@thenational.ae