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S I M P LY A B U DH A B I
A
family run business, the first Diwan L’Auberge restaurant was
established in 1973 by four brothers. The Charaf brothers had
not only the first Lebanese restaurant to open in Abu Dhabi,
but also one of the first in all of the United Arab Emirates. They opened
a branch in the luxurious seven star hotel surroundings of the Emirates
Palace as soon as the hotel opened in 2006 and they continue to offer
an alluring menu of sought-after specialties and well-known favourites,
including hot and cold Mezze and succulent grilled dishes.
The restaurant is not only renowned for its fantastic food either – they
also provide authentic live entertainment and fragrant shisha to ensure
an evening is filled with Middle Eastern mystique.
Arnie and I loved the interior and immediately felt like we were in an
exotic environment, and the fragrances coming out of the kitchen were
so tantalising we couldn’t wait to order and sample a range of their
famous food.
As well as a private dining room you can dine inside or outside, and we
took a table by the window that gave us a view over the shores of the
Arabian Gulf on one side and the stunning Abu Dhabi skyline on the
other. To begin we selected a range of hot and cold mezze, our waiter
helping us with good advice on how to pick from so many choices.
For the cold starters we shared some batrakh, which is the local version
of caviar and is served with salted tuna eggs, fine slices of garlic, and
sprinkled with olive oil. It was simply divine and we could have eaten
more but we also wanted to sample the moutabal. This puree of
eggplant blended with olive oil, lemon juice and sesame paste had just
the right lightness of texture and was delicious. As a salad we chose the
fatoush, a classic Lebanese dish that is bursting with flavoursome
ingredients. In our salad I counted fresh mint, tomatoes, green onions,
romaine lettuce, thyme, cucumber, green peppers, summak and radish.
All dressed with olive oil and vinegar topped with fried pitta bread.
Perfect.
For the hot appetizers I chose batata harra, which is small potato cubes
that are sautéed with garlic chilli red pepper and coriander. This was
cooked just right and the spices were not overpowering, although the
chilli did make Arnie’s eyes water just a little. He chose the bizri fish,
which is fried baby sardines served with a sesame paste sauce, and also
the aubergine fatteh – slices of eggplants with minced beef, pine nuts
and yogurt. The creamy yoghurt was an ideal balance to the spicier chilli
dish and it was a overall a fantastically cooked and presented start to our
meal.
For the main course I chose the L’Auberge seafood platter. This
included a marinated lobster, shrimps, muscles, calamari, salmon and
hammour fillet and it was all accompanied by sautéed vegetables and
served with the chef’s special sauce. I don’t know what secret addition
was in the sauce but it was bursting with flavour and perfectly
complimented the smorgasbord of seafood on my plate.
Arnie enjoyed tasting some of my seafood but he chose the Entre Cote
and remarked that it was cooked just right and of superb quality. The
meat was the key ingredient here and so the dish is kept simple and
accompanied by potato wedges and a sautéed spinach and garlic herb
sauce.
Diwan L’Auberge repeatedly receives some of the highest accolades
from the hospitality industry, and deservedly so, everything from the
friendly and professional staff, the quality entertainment and the
wonderful food and drink, is just perfect. We loved the subtle smell of
fragrant argileh and the evocative music from the oud player and the
talented flute player. We would definitely come back to the restaurant
and dine outside on the terrace next time. We finished the evening with
a mixture of richly sweet Lebanese desserts that comprised a mixture of
esmaliah, halawet el jeben, baklawa and muhalabia.
One of the four brothers who owns and manages the restaurant, Mr.
Zakarya Charaf, hits the nail on the head when describing the dining
experience here: “A visit to Diwan L’Auberge will be elegant, with
wonderful food and an atmosphere enhanced by Mediterranean-
inspired décor in one of Abu Dhabi’s most revered dining
establishments”. We agree with him one hundred per cent.