Hakkasan Abu Dhabi news & pics
Hakkasan opens at Emirates Palace. But is it worth the wait? 1 Comments
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Rumours that Hakkasan restaurant would be arriving in the capital began circulating more than a year ago. That’s a long time to be salivating. Last night, however, the doors to the exclusive celeb magnet, currently doing a roaring trade in London and Miami, swung open to a select few, and the feasting began.
It’s a stunning looking venue, lit in an icy blue, framed in the signature rustic wooden structures recognisable from the London outlet. Access is currently via a teetering stepping stone causeway that the architect says will be replaced after Ramadan – a shame, as the current layout gives a real sense that you’re arriving somewhere totally unique in this city. A 15-metre bar takes pride of place in the first of several large rooms, with a rippled lighting affect dancing across the back wall that puts one in mind of an exclusive spa. The dining area is laid out inside a kind of cage creation, suggesting a sense of privacy whilst – at the same time – allowing the bustling atmosphere to seep in. Abu Dhabi hasn’t yet seen anything like it.
Time Out dug into a nine-course sampling menu, highlights of which included a very indulgent champagne and codfish creation and a venison dim sum, so moreish it should be forbidden. Resigned to re-reviewing things once the clamour has died down (the things we do for you people!), we sat down with head chef Lee Kok Hua and his assistant Pang Pin Lee to discuss Michelin stars, David Beckham, and why Hakkasan is modern but not fusion.
How do you class Hakkasan’s cuisine? Is it Cantonese?
Lee Kok Hua: Some is Cantonese; some is from Malaysia; then, Beijing; a little is from Thailand...
So it’s fusion?
Pang Pin Lee: No! Not fusion! The base is classical Cantonese cuisine; then we mix up some Far Eastern and Chinese cuisine. We call it modern Chinese cuisine. It’s not fusion.
Righty ho, then. What did you have to consider when you put together the menu for Abu Dhabi?
Pang Pin Lee: We are new in Abu Dhabi, but our signature dishes are very important to Hakkasan. For example, our venison puff dim sum; our champagne codfish. But we have to adapt to this market, so we arrange something with the local ingredients, like the hammour and the blue shell crab.
You’re famously Michelin-starred in London. How do you think a Michelin-starred restaurant differs from somewhere without that distinction?
Pang Pin Lee: We don’t want to compare ourselves with other restaurants. Taste and consistency is very important for us. When we arrived here, we did our market research in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We visited the Shang Palace (Shangri La Hotel, Bain Al Jesrain), because they do classical Cantonese. But we can’t compare, because it’s a different way (approach). Lee Kok Hua says we aren’t going to compare with others. We’ll just bring out our Hakkasan philosophy.
But did you actually like Shang Palace?
Pang Pin Lee: For the food? I’ve no comment. Some is very good; some is so-so. Maybe that’s because I’m a chef...
Hakkasan in London is known as a celebrity hideout. Have you served many well-known customers?
Sometimes the customers are very friendly. If they feel it’s a good meal, they come to the kitchen and say, ‘thank you chef!’ It gives us energy to keep going. Very, very good [he later adds that he’d be more than happy for that to happen here, too]. I’ve cooked for Hong Kong stars such as Michelle Yeoh. Also David and Victoria Beckham...
The Beckhams? Did they like the food?
Pang Pin Lee: Yeah, they liked it! They used to come, I think, once a week or twice a week.
So Beckham is your good friend?
Lee Kok Hua: Hahaha! No, we’re not close. But it’s very important that we have a good relationship with our guests. We want them to feel at home.
Hakkasan will open to the general public on June 12, initially for dinner only (6pm-2am; last orders at midnight). Reservations can be made on 02 690 7999
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