The palate of Pakistan through a rich culture filled with familial food and the burgeoning fine dining restaurants of its cities.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Michelin star food in the heart of Abu Dhabi

The Etihad Blog Series: Amador Restaurant and Cellar at Park Rotana Hotel, Abu Dhabi

An array of Tapas at Amador Restaurant and Cellar

I thought the only way to experience molecular gastronomy was to wait years for a reservation to Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck and Ferran Adria’s El Bulli which won’t open again until 2014. Luckily the Middle East is rising to the occasion like a chef’s perfect soufflé. Culinarily speaking Abu Dhabi is a literal global village – a combination of nationalities that can be tasted in the growing restaurant industry.

One of my most memorable days on our Etihad trip was our evening at the Rotana Hotel where we were fortunate enough to dine at two of the finest establishments, Amador and Teatro. We'll cover only Amador in this post, so be sure to check back soon for Teatro's review.

The night of seductive tastes started with the very sexy tapas bar, Amador. The very chic ambience puts you in a relaxed mood. Dim lighting. Walls stacked with bottles of vino. Cozy corners for intimate conversations.

The slick interior of Amador.

The hotel launched Amador in collaboration with 3 star Michelin Chef Juan Amador. The Spanish chef brings bold flavors to Abu Dhabi which will have you sit up and take notice of their individual flavors. Tapas are very common in Spain, small plates of food are served up which can include meat, cheese, seafood and be hot or cold. The nibbles can range from as little as two or three plates to upwards of twenty dishes (or more) depending on how many friends you have. The Etihad group would strongly suggest that you bring as many friends as possible since the conversation that night, much like the food, kept flowing. 

We sat at one of the two bars that take up most of the space at Amador. Our server immediately brought out bowls of popcorn, both sweet and spicy, black forest bread and smoke and aged cheeses. We wisely left the difficult task of choosing the tapas dishes to our host and were rewarded with an interesting selection.

Here's the rundown:

Salmon three-ways: Salmon infused with tonic, wrapped in seaweed and fresh, served with dots of pea puree. The raw salmon was so fresh that it melted in the mouth. Like most raw fish this dish didn’t lose its texture and become grainy. 

Background Grilled Spanish Peppers: These peppers were not as spicy as I was expecting and their charred skin was smoky and delightful.
Olive oil poached shrimp: Served in a tiny cast iron pot these shrimps were succulent and delicate in flavor. The infusion of olive oil and a few herbs left an air of flavor that was not over-powering.

CarpaccioI love beef so this was going to be one of my favorites. Whisper thin sheets of aged beef, but would have loved the Carpaccio in its original raw form.

Lightly breaded Calamari: A classic served with aioli.

Meatballs in a tomato gravy: Fresh and aged beef was used giving the meatball depth of flavor and with the luscious tomato gravy this was a comfort dish.

Fried anchovies with aioli: It might be off putting to eat a whole fish the size of your finger but this is the least fishy tasting fish in the sea!

Chicken Chorizo with Mushrooms: Spanish chorizo is traditionally made with pork and flavored with paprika. This dish lost out because the chicken could not hold up the flavor that you expect in a sausage since it gets most of its taste from fat. Beef might have worked better here. 

The theatrics of molecular gastronomy 

Faux Oysters made with cucumber juice, seaweed caramel and garnished with sea foam and an oyster leaf.

After such humble and classic flavor combinations the evening turned into one of surprise when Amador's Chefs had brought out a bit of culinary theatrics for our entertainment.

Not your average day in the kitchen. Courtesy: Ali Khurshid 

Cucumber juice is added to a calcium solution which helps the juice form a thin, flavorless covering much like that on the yolk of a raw egg. Photo Courtesy: Ali Khurshid
Faux Oysters made form cucumber juice, sea foam, seaweed caramel and topped with an oyster leaf and coarse sea salt. The mind boggling creation was no less than an experience that crashed like waves on your tongue. And that too quite literally. From the burst of cucumber juice that exploded from its suspended state to the sea foam’s bubbly texture, to the coarse salt that crunches delightfully and finally the sweet caramel that dissolves into an earthy seaweed aftertaste. It’s like dipping into the ocean for the first time. Anticipation, excitement and finally the joy of trying something for the first time that leaves you with a moment which you will never forget. This is how a great dish can transport you from the metropolis of Abu Dhabi to the beaches of Spain.

A masterclass in molecular gastronomy: Combining the art of food with the technology to create new ways to experience food.

Before the elation of our Faux Oysters had subsided another array of gadgets had already taken center stage. You know the party has started when liquid nitrogen makes an entrance and that too fashionably late. When we thought things couldn’t get any better a delightful assortment of a bottle of rose', pomegranate juice, lime and sugar syrup were transformed before our eyes in a veil of magician’s smoke into a delightful sorbet. The addition of liquid nitrogen and some exceptional whisking had turned the liquids into a frozen treat!

A jewel in the crown

Amador's latest creation: One Brick In The Wall - modeled to look like a Lego block yet nothing quite so simple.

One Brick in the Wall was the most perfect dish to cap our evening. Our night at Amador was full of surprises but this particular plate took our collective breath away. A milky custard with hints of nutmeg and maybe a touch of cinnamon covered in white chocolate tinted with beets. A sweet quenelle sat atop the brick with accents of raspberry and beetroot both hinting at their presence but neither overpowering the other. It was made to look like a tiny red Lego; the element of fun from the dish’s presentation or the childish delight you get from eating it could not hide how technical this dessert was. 

Chef Juan Amador should be proud. His masterful protégés are living up to the expectation of fine dining connoisseurs who enter the premises seeing Michelin stars in their eyes.

If you want to impress that special someone with an incredible night out then Amador Restaurant and Cellar will do the trick but be sure to keep the ladies away from the charming chefs. 

For more information on the Park Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi and Amador Restaurant and Cellar, click here.


  1. Wah!
    I want to go there again after reading this :)

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