55&5th, The Grill - St. Regis Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
As I walk into 55&5th, The Grill, I am met by the restaurant manager who asks if I would like to proceed to the dining room, or if I would prefer to start the evening with a drink at the bar. It is a bit early at 19.30, so I decide to have a drink. The manager immediately sets the tone for me by her relaxed but professional way of engaging me - someone who sees the value of conversation. The bar is spacious, and looks like a lovely pre-drinks venue. Comfortable sofa seats, gorgeous art work and a piano in the corner make the choice of a pre-dinner drink all the more sensible. I meet the sommelier, Aurelie, behind the bar. Humbly knowledgable.
|Popcorn at the bar|
|Luxurious comfort in the bar|
|The bar at an angle|
An inexplicable trend in my pre-dinner drinks continues as I request a mildly sweet Riesling. Aurelie suggests a Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling 2011, a great year. At the bar I enjoy the uptempo jazz music, reminding me that this is the signature St. Regis restaurant, based on the one in New York. As I chat to Aurelie, I learn that this is reflected in the wine list too where there are many American offerings. At the bar, I enjoy some chili popcorn and crisp. Simple. I like it. I also meet Chef de Cuisine Kreaton who serves a delectable plate of foie gras chunks pan fried leaving them with some crispy elements. Absolutely delicious, and eschews the traditional way this French piece of heaven is usually served.
|A snack-like interpretation of foie gras.|
|Palatial but warm.|
I decide this is going to be a long night. Chef Kreaton visits my table and we talk about the menu. He is very much a people person and when not too busy, makes a point of connecting with his guests. I request a platter consisting of taste portions of a few appetizers. Chef is not going to let me get away with it. He prefers to send out one starter at a time. I understand. When a chef has to produce smaller portions of an appetizer, it often clashes with his philosophy and artistic hand in that dish. I await my 3 appetizers.
|Amuse bouche for the night|
My amuse bouche is served: the highlight being an open top egg shell filled with sweet corn custard, oyster and caviar and a bit of popcorn also makes its way onto the plate. It is playful and dare I say fun in presentation but complex in taste. The restaurant manager produces a narrative on the various parts of it that works so well in making you want to try it immediately. Theatre. I love it. It is paired with an Australian wine, a Yalumba unwooded Chardonnay 2013, a fresh and easy drinking option, low in complexity.
|The foie gras - highly recommended.|
|The Grill salad|
|Forbidden rice and lobster|
The main course starts of with a very exciting dish - Lobster and forbidden rice. Forbidden rice, so called, because in early times its rarity meant that only emperors in China were allowed to have it. Its unique purple colour when cooked makes it look very impressive. Aurelie matches it with a wine that surprises me. Admittedly I am not a Pinot Noir drinker, but her choice , an American Cambria Julia's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, works wonderfully well. Much fuller than I anticipated, but with all the subtlety of a Pinot Noir. A lovely wine. What I enjoy about the Aurelie is her ability to talk about the wine in a down to earth manner which encourages questions. Wonderful. Symbolically, it is during this course that "Unforgettable' by Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole plays. I smile. How appropriate.
|The tenderloin and striploin|
|Onion rings in the foreground|
“Beauty is a form of Genius--is higher, indeed, than Genius, as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in the dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has divine right of sovereignty. It makes princes of those who have it.”
55&5th, The Grill is not cheap, but neither is a priceless memory. That is why there are bucket lists. Add this to yours. Visitors or expats will eventually bid farewell to Abu Dhabi, and it will be a shame if they do so without having dined here. Once. At least once. A special occasion like a birthday. An anniversary. That job promotion. The first time that you leave your baby with the baby sitter. That date that you believe can turn out to be a lifelong commitment. Or maybe you just want to appreciate the blessings you have. Make it a celebration of beauty and amazing food, as a chef, manager, sommelier and a waiter create a memory that will stay with you long after you have left the city... Beauty is indeed a thing of genius.
55&5th, The Grill
St Regis Saadiyat Island,
Tasting menu 555 Dhs
Appetizers 75-135 Dhs
Mains 160-450 Dhs
Desserts 45-55 Dhs