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Where to eat in Abu Dhabi – a food and dining guide

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Abu Dhabi has long been overshadowed by its cousin in the north but it appears that in recent years this city has caught up as it now shapes itself to become the food capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Sajeev Valappil

My Destination local expert on

Abu Dhabi

There’s now a wide variety of cuisines to be savoured by all kinds of palettes. Though Indian, Middle Eastern and Chinese still remains the dominant style of cuisine, Abu Dhabi is growing and diversifying its food scene at a rapid pace.  Sampling the local Emirati and Gulf cuisine is a must for all visitors. Typical flavors of the local cuisine include the usage of aromatic spices such as cinnamon, saffron and turmeric, as well as nuts and fruit. A few of the traditional local dishes to sample include Ma'louba, Margooga, Harees, Machbous, Frsee'ah, Fireed, Jisheid, and Mishwy.

 

Due to Islamic law, consumption of pork is prohibited and not included on Arab menus; however some restaurants in Abu Dhabi are known serve pork under special circumstances. Visitors to the UAE should take note of the Islamic Calendar especially during fasting month of Ramadan where only a handful of restaurants are open for non-Muslims.

 

Eating at Souks

 

The souks are a part of the cultural heritage of the Arabic people. Visit the Fresh Food and Fish Souks located in the Al Meena to sample some of the city’s freshest produce. The Central Souk also houses some nice cheap eats where tasty Indian and Arabic eats can be found. The portions are almost definitely generous, prices low and quality exceedingly high. Abdel Waha, located in Souk Al Bahar, is an easy-going Lebanese restaurant that has proven to be popular with both expats and Emiratis.

 

Hotel Restaurants

 

Since alcohol laws only allow the serving of alcohol inside the confides of a hotel, many of Abu Dhabi’s finest eateries can be found inside these luxury hotels where you’ll be served the best cuisines prepared by well-skilled chefs. The Jumeirah at Etihad Towers houses two of the city’s best restaurants: Li Beirut, which serves contemporary and traditional Lebanese cuisine, and Asian fusion specialist restaurant, Quest. Abu Dhabi hotels have even attracted award-winning Michelin star celebrities chefs, with many new exciting restaurants continually appearing throughout the city.

 

Café Arabia

 

It is here where the East truly meets West – both in décor and cuisine. This two-storey café is a great meeting place for both locals and expats, being a long established local gem which features extravagant local art pieces, wonderfully Arabic furnishing and a boastful amount of cozy soft cushions that evoke the essence of Arabic hospitality. Though mainly for lunchtime hours, Café Arabia serves a mixture of delicious Arabic and Western cuisine. The briyani and mixed grill are a must! • Café Arabia, Villa #224/1, 15th between, 2nd/Airport and 24th/Al Karamah. Tel: +971 2 643 9699

 

Lebanese Flower

 

A long-time favorite for many of the locals in Abu Dhabi, the Lebanese Flower has made wild claims that it serves the best shawarmas in town. Judging from the daily occurrence of long queues that form just before opening, it certainly appears that it does live up to its reputation. At this restaurant, it’s the food that does the talking with the décor bland, simple and basic. Besides the famed Shawarmas, the impressive selection of fresh juices quenches any thirsty and the crispy falafels are absolutely heavenly.• Lebanese Flower, Hazza Bin Zayed St - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates. Tel: +971 2 641 4128

 

Sardinia

 

It appears that the crazy food scientists have been let loose, with Sardinia being the city’s go-to place for mad-hatter dining. On the higher-end of the price scale, the food here is prepared in an imaginative manner with an odd combination of contrasting food choices. Blue cheese milkshakes anyone? Though Sardinia is a divine place for those wanting to experience Arabian molecular gastronomy, the place is bafflingly quiet and relatively low-key. Rest assured however, this should be taken as a good omen for you can take joy in the solace and treat the venue as your own private restaurant.• Sardinia, Abu Dhabi Country Club, Al Mushrif - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates. Tel: +971 2 657 7640