Friday, November 28, 2014

KOI



Our Lamps work!   For months before we left, I was answering friends' questions “Are you taking your electronics, will they work there?”, I would get a knot in my stomach each time and shrug with complete confusion. And finally with some lots of trepidation, we gave away a few lamps and kept a few others.  We decided to lug those that we could not bear to get rid of, across the ocean in a warm shipping container, thinking that we could at least use them as decor! But the rumor is true.  If you are moving across the globe, bring your lamps!  We just needed to pop in a few local light bulbs (don’t try ones from home) and Voila!  Illumination.


On an even higher note, according to Brian, the much more important feat was that our television worked.  Having haphazardly decided to bring our television as well, we scoured the internet reading about how to calculate the watts to check compatibility of one’s television before shoving the plug into the wall.  Without proper calculation, I was warned, we could make our very own, very large, door stop.  We did some quick math, and feeling oddly confident plugged in.  Tada!  Ina Garten popped up on the screen with a bowl of ragu (and Arabic subtitles).  We have never been so happy to see her.


 To take a break from all of the things that were starting to go in the right direction for us, (our car was now running again, we had found a place to live, we seemed to be winning our battle with the cockroaches and ants that were trying to show us that our new home was really theirs, and we now had 2 English and 45 Arabic channels to watch on TV at any time)…it was time for dinner at KOI! 


KOI is a recently opened Japanese restaurant at the St. Regis on Saadiyat Island, which is just 5 minutes from our flat.  The setting is quiet and calm, with a nice outdoor seating area that is right on the hotel’s main courtyard.  The courtyard, although lined with a few other popular eateries, manages to stay quiet and cool in the night air.  KOI specializes in contemporary Japanese, and also has a large selection of very fresh sushi.  


You start with an amuse bouche from the chef (ours was a rock shrimp with carrot and peas shoot in a lovely miso-type broth).  We then ordered two of the main fish dishes, both of which were excellently executed: The Miso Bronzed Black Cod, with a medley of vegetables (broccoli, asparagus and carrots), and the Black Sea Bass in a Honey Balsamic Glaze with Shiso-Pea Coulis.  It was easy to see that the chef had obviously cooked a few pieces of fish in his time, as the skin was crispy and the meat was tender, moist and flaky.  Brian ended up asking for a spoon to sip up the last drops of the coulis, and I actually prefer the flavor of sea bass vs. black cod, so I was a little bias as to which was my favorite.  We cleaned both plates.


 Koi is not cheap, but I suppose you pay for what you get. And after a stressful day of calculating wattage and crossing our fingers, KOI was well worth it. 



Koi Restaurant Saadiyat Island,
at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
971-2-678-3334

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ripe


As the temperatures have begun to cool off in Abu Dhabi, people have started creeping out during daylight hours.  This past Saturday we went to the brand new RipeMarket at The Collection on Saadiyat Island.  The Saturday morning Ripe Market just opened one week prior in Abu Dhabi and I had heard that it was worth attending.  However, coming from Washington DC, one of the major hubs of the true farmers’ market and local food movement, I admit that I was a little skeptical.  


The Collection is a nice place for this market as it is a fairly large courtyard on the grounds of the St. Regis with a few other nice shops and restaurants.  However, I am not sure why such an earthly event as a farmers market needs to be at the St. Regis.  Considering how crowded it got so quickly, there are many other less-populated places on Saadiyat Island that could do with a little more buzz, and that would allow for the rising popularity of this market.


 While there were many really great craftsmen, clothing designers and gourmet food sellers (honestly better than many markets that I have seen), the vegetable market was really the star of the show for me.  Fresh organic, tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, asparagus, arugula, celery, sweet potatoes, purple cabbage, sweet peppers, hot chilies….and the list could go on.  All of it from local organic farmers.  


   I have shopped around at many of the major (and minor) supermarkets in the city, and have not come close to the great quality that is offered here at fairly reasonable prices.  Customers were thrilled.  Ripe’s lead grocer mentioned that they had sold out only two hours after the market opened last weekend, but today they had come much better prepared for the demand.   




Abu Dhabi is so lacking in offerings of local organic markets that this event could easily double in size next weekend, and there would still crowds.  Bloggers were out in a frenzy snapping photos, while Instagram and Twitter were jammed with #RipeMarket, and every variation of it, for hours on end.  Hopefully all this attention will do us all some good and bring us more markets and more products like this in the near future!


  So, instead of warming up that piece of cold take-away pizza that has been calling my name from the fridge, I made a nice salad from those vegetables that I bought (cucumbers, rocket, tomatoes, peppers, a little balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt, peper and a squeeze of lemon) . 


 And a slaw of super crispy red cabbage ( again with just a little balsalmic, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper).  The craziness of moving a home does not promote "eating your veggies", nor eating anything very healthy really... so as we are coming to the end of our two- month move, mom would be happy to see that this Ripe Market is feeding us well.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Selections


    A natural part of Abu Dhabi life seems to be the extravagant brunches on the weekends.  And competition is fierce.  Each of the hotels engages in a full-fledged attempt to win over the hearts of their diners.  This past weekend we chose to go to revisit a favorite which we had found a few years ago... back when we were only visitors: Selections Restaurant at The Intercontinental Hotel.  




It is very near to the popular beach area known as The Corniche and has been in Abu Dhabi for longer than many of the chic hotels, so it may not be all that new and flashy, but you can always count on it as a staple of high quality and service. 


The restaurant is light filled and bright, with a view overlooking the Marina Yacht Club below. There are not many places in Abu Dhabi where where you can look out onto all of the personal yachts that are just resting until their next adventure on the Gulf.
After being ushered to your table, you can request any special beverage that you like and then you are free to roam the counters choosing from any of the beautifully craft dishes. This brunch is especially known for the seafood, which proved itself with bright fresh sashimi, smoked salmon and mackerel, and a Indian based seafood biryani, just to name a few.



I was impressed how even in the prime of lunchtime, all of the food was immaculately kept and everything was clean.


I am really actually not a huge fan of the all-you-can-eat method, but some places know how to make it feel more like a banquet than a buffet.  And you won't see the place filled with your stereotypical (potentially overweight) American tourist either.  These hotel brunches fill with locals, many of whom are going out to celebrate the weekend with their family and friends... and are dressed to show it.


I went for a few different courses starting with the Lebanese mezze, then an array of smoked fish, and finishing with a deliciously crisp and bright green Thai papaya salad.  Brian went the meaty route especially enjoying the lamb and beef kebabs.  


The deserts were placed perfectly- and most importantly fulfilled the taste measure as well.  The offerings spanned the globe from the traditional Arabic sweets to, mini Baba al Rum (Italian rum cakes) to the all-American pecan pie


One of my favorites however, was a perfectly moist and decadent tiramisu.
The best part is that everything is already served in bite size pieces which are perfect for taste testing (my favorite job!).  


I don't need to tell you that we were definitely satiated at the end of our few-hour meal, although we did manage to finish the day with a deliciously thick cup of Turkish coffee. As we sipped our last few drops Brian emptied his grounds onto his saucer and looked inside his cup in an attempt to tell his future- (since he was recently told this was possible).  He shrugged his shoulders, squinted, and shook his head, "Ahhh..I think I see some sort of face....or... maybe I just need a little more practice.."

Cheers!  




Selections, Intercontinental Hotel
Open daily
Breakfast: 6:30am till 10:30am
Lunch/Brunch: 12:30pm till 4pm
Dinner: 6.30pm till 10:30pm
+971 2 666 6888


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mono Lebanese

    

    After three days of expecting our car to arrive from the port in Dubai.  We were standing in the parking lot at the Vehicle Testing Center, in the middle of Abu Dhabi.  We had just finished circling the block in our rental car, having accidentally pulled into a guarded Police Station, we were stopped by a uniformed officer that spoke little English and just pointed sternly towards the way he wanted us to go. 
 It was just becoming sunset and the sky was becoming a lovely purple haze.  The large garage with four bays, was busy with mostly locals requesting services, including an older Arab man with a pretty rugged looking old desert jeep- without power-steering.  After watching him attempt a 3-point turn, Brian was convinced that he probably needed a driver’s license too.


    Our mechanic had told us to meet him here.  I say “our mechanic”, but we had never actually met him in person.  Our car decided not to start when it arrived at the port in Dubai, so after days of searching for the problem, the importers told us they were sending it to a mechanic in Abu Dhabi.  Meanwhile, Brian is sweating about his “baby” being sent to some long lost importer’s cousin who calls himself a “mechanic”.  It turned out, our mechanic- whom does not speak English- was able to repair some fuses- we deduced- and fixed it in a day. 


    The tall Pakistani man pulled up with our car on his flatbed truck.  He stopped, got out, and handed me an invoice for 1,000 Dirhams ($300).  I looked at him and then nodded my head towards the car.  He nodded his and proceeded to unload the car. Who knew we didn't even need words!  It was off the truck (and running!), and he had his cash in under 5 minutes.  Brian drove it over to the garage while I went inside to try to figure out what needed to be done.

 
   After realizing I was the only woman in line, I got up to the counter and explained that I wanted to register our car.  The nice agent (who spoke only broken English ) got me the needed paperwork, and I paid the dues (cash only). Then just before I walked away he said “You could have used the Ladies Counter”, he said, and pointed towards the far end of the large room towards a nice ornate, wooden door labelled with the words “Ladies Counter”. Of course... I thought, shaking my head and thanking him.  Note to self: if you are the only woman in a line, you are most likely in the wrong line. 

In less than two hours, we were driving away with Abu Dhabi license plates bolted to our car.  As we pulled off the lot I was relieved, happy, and suddenly starving.  Knowing my love of Lebanese food, a friend had recommended Mono Lebanese (you know, like the disease, she said).


We inched our way through the Thursday night traffic and found it located on a wide busy street.  We pulled up to the restaurant’s large red and blue sign lighting up the sidewalk.  There were groups of people sitting at tables outside, eating drinking and smoking shisha in the warm night air.  Employees dressed in tan Cowboy-style shirts with the “Mono” Logo rushed back and forth.  We decided to avoid the wait and opt for take away.  And why not try a few different things while we were at it… We rounded out our meal with two types of hummus with fresh Extra Virgin olive oil, (one with roasted Pine nuts), fatoosh green salad (with crisp cucumbers and tomatoes, chicken skewers, a mixed grill, mashed lentils with fried onions and not to mention all of the complementary fresh pita, pickles, olives and fresh herbs!  Everything was super flavorful, not over-priced- like so many places here, and well worth the trip.  

     
Mono Lebanese 
Phone: 02 6416655
Al Dhafrah ›
11th Street, Near Dar Al Shifa Hospital, Defense Road, Al Dhafrah, Abu Dhabi
Open 9am to midnight everyday!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Shawerma!!


As some of you may know about 1 month ago we picked up and moved to Abu Dhabi for a new adventure. And adventure it has been so far...so this blog will be taking a little turn eastward, but more to come on all of that. In the mean time I just wanted to share one of our great finds so far. Photos to come, I promise!

After looking at apartments for nearly 4 hours straight and not having had any sensible food beforehand, we were starving. We looked our smiley British real estate agent right in the eye and told him we could not take it any longer, we had to stop for lunch. He was happy to run off and get another contract signed while we took a much needed break. With his recommendation we went directly to Shish Shawerma which is located near the Corniche, behind Corniche Towers, Al Khalidiya.

It is tucked into a small street of shops a midst a few other food places (including a hotdog place called "Fly Hotdog" which boasts a smiling hotdog with wings as its mascot.)

Shish also seems a bit cheesy at first view with its bright orange logos and matching counter tops, however with one peek inside the small 20 chair eatery, you will see the baker on a constant cycle moving pita bread in and out of the brick oven. The rotisseries of chicken and beef are crispy and hot, continually being shaved and packed into the signature shawarma sandwich (with dollop of tangy sauce and a few crispy fries). If you love spice, be sure to ask for "hot sauce" as you will be provided with a small container of thick dark red tangy hot paste. Which I ended up using on everything.

The dips and salads are also not to be missed. The hummus and the moutabal (aubergine spread) are flavorful, smooth and topped with a drizzle of bright fresh olive oil. They also give you plenty of those hot fresh pita for dipping and scooping.

Shish is going to be busy at any time of the day or night, but especially busy for dinner. One advantage is they know that they are popular and so they seem to have their take out service down to a science. They smoothly manage a massive line of cars, all of which drive up the one way street to put in their order, and then drive back around the block to pick it up.



Corniche Road W, Street 2 - Behind Corniche Towers, Al Khalidiya 
 Abu Dhabi -United Arab Emirates

The restaurant is open 7 days a week.
Saturday to Thursday:12:00 pm - 12:00 am
Friday:06:00 pm - 12:00 am