Page 42 - Simply Abu Dhabi Magazine VI

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Restaurant Organisation and the title of UAE
representative chef for the ‘San Pellegrino
Young Chef of The Year 2011’ competition,
held in Venice, Italy.
But despite such impressive accolades,
Anthony is never one to sit back and relax
(that’s for his customers to do!). He’s
constantly innovating and seeking newways in
which to provide the ultimate dining
experience. He’s introduced regular seasonal
menu changes and he’s put together an
experienced team to ensure the highest
standards of cuisine and service. As well as
masterminding the modern seafood menu at
Sayad, Anthony is a regular host of chefs
during the annual Gourmet Abu Dhabi. He’s
currently focused on obtaining a Michelin star
- and if our experience was anything to go by, he won’t have to wait long at all.
Fantastically fresh
After the exquisite luxury of Sayad, the next day the weather was especially
beautiful and we felt like eating somewhere laid back, and preferably outdoors.
So in the end that made our choice for a meal the next day obvious – we went
to BBQ al Qasr. This place is really special: it’s an outdoor grill restaurant that’s
located near the beach, midway between the Emirates’ outdoor dining terrace
and the beautiful Arabian Sea. We just wanted something really simple, so we
went for a chargrilled platter – a mixture of tasty meats and fantastically fresh
seafood. We could not have asked for anything finer. An excellent grill is really
hard to beat, and the earthy and juicy flavours of this one were just incredible.
Combined with the superb natural views, this truly was beauty in simplicity.
As we sat in the stunning location, surrounded by exquisite beauty on all sides,
it was the perfect chance to reflect on our experience so far. And if I could sum
that up in one word...I can’t sum it up in just one word. In fact, no words really
do justice to this place. You can call it luxurious, sumptuous, or extravagant if
you like, but none of themwill quite do. To fully understand just how amazing
our experience was, the only way is to come here. And although we had been
here before, on this visit what we were really beginning to appreciate was the
crucial part that the restaurants play in creating the Emirates Palace’s atmosphere
of absolute quality.
Driven to succeed
Sometimes it’s just enough to sit back and appreciate such an achievement. But
if you do wonder how all this arose, then the name Wolfgang Fischer won’t be
too far away. Fischer is the Executive Chef here - he takes a creative overview of
all twelve of the fabulous restaurants, as well as five lounges. He has a staff of
400, who work throughout the Palace’s 128 kitchens and pantries. This is one
serious operation: the Emirates Palace kitchens are running 24 hours a day, seven
days a week. Fischer ensures that the experience of every guest, every day, is
absolutely first class.
When the management were looking to appoint someone to this crucial role,
you can imagine that they were looking for the very best, and with Fischer they
seem to have found it. Like Anthony, Fischer has extensive international
experience, having been travelling the globe since the eighties. He worked at
the prestigious Waldorf Astoria in New York before continuing his culinary
journey to various countries and cities, including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, the
Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea and Spain. With over 30 years’
experience, Fischer has been managing the culinary operation here since 2006.
An overview of Fischer’s life shows that he’s a driven man: he learned his trade
in the fearsomely disciplined kitchens of Vienna and wherever he has been since,
he has shown a desire both to be and to inspire the very best, whether
revolutionising the menus at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore or theWynnMacau.
While he runs a firm ship, he is known to dislike the angry tantrums that some
famous chefs are renowned for, and his door is always open to staff. In turn, he
is a much admired and respected leader, and his vision is apparent in every
excellent meal that’s served. We can be grateful that such a star has come here
to the Emirates Palace.
Always moving forward
So, where to next in Mr Fischer’s culinary kingdom? So far our cuisine had a
mainly European feel. We felt like travelling further afield. The next evening
we headed toHakkasan, which promises a contemporary twist on Chinese food.
Hakkasan has been awarded a Michelin star, so we were expecting great things,
and as it turned out, we got this and more. The food at Hakkasan has all the
variety and taste that we have come to expect from this country’s cuisine: I was
especially impressed with a deliciously creamy spinach and sea bass soup, while
the dim sum platter we shared was absolutely extraordinary.
Hakkasan is an extravagant place, and as if to underline the sense of exclusivity,
guests have a choice of two entrances: either through the main Palace lobby
entrance or Hakkasan’s own private entrance on the East wing of the building.
And I have to say that the staff here, as they had been in every other place we
had eaten so far, were simply perfect: friendly, helpful and efficient. Talking to
the staff is always a pleasure, and from the conversations we had with people,
we found that things had not been standing still at the Palace since our last visit.
The Emirates is a place that is always moving forward, always striving for
excellence in new ways.
For example, the hotel recently took part in the "Earth Hour 2012" campaign,
which was a global event to promote energy awareness. All the lights in the
Palace and the gardens surrounding it were turned off for a full hour. The staff
told us that Bugra Berberoglu, General Manager of Emirates Palace, was very
keen to participate, in order to encourage workers in the Palace to reduce
consumption and protect the environment. Another recent event was a
promotional tour to China, where representatives from the Palace had visited
Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Many visitors from this fast-developing
global powerhouse visit the Palace, and more are expected in future.
Of course, the most significant recent event at the Palace was one that we had
attended ourselves: the amazing opening ceremony for the Abu Dhabi Festival.
As well as seeing the fabulously talented Anoushka Shankar perform, we had
also marvelled at the incredible calligraphy exhibition ‘Gestures of Light' by Iraqi
artist HassanMassoudy. With exciting new developments like these eachmonth,
it’s no surprise that Kempinski Hotels - who manage the Emirates Palace -
announced impressive results for the first quarter from its portfolio of hotels
and managed residences in the Middle East.
Our next meal was Lebanese at Diwan L’Auberge. We’re both huge fans of this
country’s cuisine, so Diwan L’Auberge’s mixture of firm favourites and amazing
specialities had us drooling. Lebanese food is brilliant for sharing, and there was
so much of it, both hot and cold: perfectly grilled lamb, hearty bean dishes, spicy
dips, and succulent vegetables. It all merged into one amazing blend: a tour de
force of middle eastern cuisine. And to finish off, the sweet desserts were
sublime.
Established traditions with a twist of class
So, what could possibly follow that? Well, there was one particular restaurant
that we had been saving until the very last, because the concept is so exceptional:
Emirati cuisine. Yes, we were ging to Mezlai - the first Emirati restaurant in the
UAE! The chef here is Ali SalemMusbeh Ebdowa - sometimes known as “Chef
Ali” - and he is determined to increase appreciation for these lands’ ancient
culinary traditions. Simplicity is key to the food of the nomadic tribes who have
lived here for centuries. But Ebdowa has become renowned here for taking
these humble foods and adding a twist of class.
For example, I ordered a madfoun (which means “the buried one” in Arabic):
it’s a delicious meal of slow-cooked lamb wrapped in banana leaves, flavoured
with dates, cardamom, and lemon vinegar. Traditionally, madfoun took up to
20 hours to cook in a hole in the ground. Ebdowa cooks it for a slightly shorter
time - 8 to 12 hours - in an oven. Then for the contemporary twist: he puts this
time-honoured dish on a bed of saffron rice alongside a selection of fresh
microgreens. I tasted it, and I was astounded: the meat was beautifully tender,
and the greens were among the most refreshing I can ever remember trying.
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