Inside The Amador in Abu Dhabi

Juan Amador's signature Abu Dhabi restaurant is a Gastro-wonderland Comments

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The new signature restaurant from three Michelin-starred chef Juan Amador at the Park Rotana opened its doors last month to coincide with Gourmet Abu Dhabi. Amador Restaurant and Cellar is a tapas cellar and a formal fine dining venue serving characteristic chef Amador cuisine, but what makes it stand out is that it fuses a variety of cultures with Arabian flavours based on the chef’s understanding of local tastes from his visits to the UAE.

We’ve been biding our time of late, waiting for the right moment to pay Amador a visit, and this week we felt we’d waited long enough.
Dark wood floors, French windows and warm and romantic lighting gives Amador an understated refinement that puts one at ease immediately. It’s also got a slightly rustic, cellar setting going for it, which is quite novel. We were seated with much ceremony by the attentive service staff who made themselves readily available throughout the meal to top up our glasses, explain dishes and ask how we were enjoying our evening.

When the menu was presented to us, our waiter recommended the set degustation menu, which includes most of the signature dishes. We were all too pleased to follow his advice, since we very much wanted to savour the art of menu-tailoring as well as the dishes themselves. And it was a tumble down the haute cuisine rabbit hole from there on out.

The gastronomic adventure began with a serving of Amador’s specialty tapas: five bite-sized dishes that included such things as foie gras, mango and quail egg surprise. Stealing the limelight of this course was the baked veal tail. It was crispy on the outside, slightly nutty and had a satisfying wood-oven aftertaste. Sneaking in behind the veal tail was the pulpo gallego, a fantastic, savoury mousse with bits of octopus, served in a coffee cup. However, the award for sheer mind-blowing outlandishness goes to the virtual sushi. These were clear, delicate lollipops which instantly melted in the mouth, infused with ginger, wasabi and seaweed. The result is like having a taste explosion without actually eating anything – hence the word virtual, probably.

Without much delay our entree made an appearance. This was the iced beurre blanc, a soft hazelnut milk ice-cream (the hint of sweetness too subtle to hijack the savoury flavours of this dish) on malt bread and topped with imperial caviar. A beautiful combination of creamy, rich tastes and textures that ooze on your tongue. The moment we were served our starter marks the point at which we stopped trying to guess what was in the food. The menu describes the John Dory as chestnut, Perigord truffles and verjus. We describe it as a smothering of rich truffle paste over truffle pieces and other things we don’t understand, but is this all it really was? We still don’t know.

There was a brief break in between the starter and the main course, in which we were subjected to something akin to a science experiment. The object of this feat was to clear our palates for the crowning glory that was the main meal. It’s called the tonic nitro, and to execute this miraculous feat the chef himself comes out with his minions, a pot on a tray, a jug holding liquid nitrogen and a can of tonic. Before he starts he advises us to put the stuff in our mouth as soon as it’s ready, but not to chew or swallow. It must be allowed to melt. We nod nervously, to communicate that we’ve understood his instructions and the seriousness of what we are about to embark on. The chef then poured the liquid nitrogen into the pot, sprayed two foam balls of tonic onto a tablespoon and droped them into the liquid nitrogen. Everyone held their breath. The suspense and heavy silence combined with the sinister icy-vapour emerging from the pot, had us sitting on the edge of our seats. And then, out came two, hard dollops of frozen tonic, which we gobble up immediately. ‘How is it?’ the chef asked. ‘Woonwwoofuuu, fankwuuuu,’ we try to respond through the mouthful of the fizzy, icy, melting foam.

For our main courses, we tried both options on offer, the mieral pigeon with purple curry and the Australian lamb. The pigeon filet arrived smelling of curry, but with no actual curry in sight, and complemented with some mango cubes as well as spots of mango paste and coconut foam. The result was an exciting forkfull of savoury, sweet and creamy, mixed in with the flavoursome meat of the bird. Now this pigeon might be a special pigeon, and one of the signature dishes here, but for us the winner was the Australian lamb. Juicy, fatty and tender, prepared to melt in your mouth and complemented beautifully by accompanying cinnamon flour, pumpkin and mushrooms.

Our dessert was the café au lait. ‘In textures’ says the menu, because this really was a mind boggling combination of the most wonderful textures. It combined smooth and creamy ice-cream atop a coffee-flavoured panna cotta like thing, covered with a fine, grainy powder and sitting in a shell of white chocolate. This in itself would have sufficed to send us home happy, but Amador had another surprise up its sleeve: The tapas of little deserts, or what they call childhood memories. This set of five fascinating offerings, had us feeling like the kids at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Passion fruit candy floss, black-peppery truffle lollipops, a soft white chocolate bite encased in a chilly red coating – this food wasn’t about satisfying a hunger anymore, it was about satisfying our curiosity. When the giant bill arrived, our conscience couldn’t care less about the afflictions of our wallet.
The Amador bar is open daily from 4pm-2am for light bites and tapas, and the restaurant is open from 7pm-midnight. Amador Restaurant and Cellar, Park Rotana, Salaam Street (02 657 3200).

By Elest Ali
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

User reviews:

Posted by: Patrick on 10 Dec ' 12 at 04:01

Amazing food and exceptional experience !

Posted by: Rhys on 14 Jul ' 12 at 19:58

Excellent food and above all an amazing experience. I'd read the review before going and was still astonished at the complexity of what the team of chefs managed to produce but my girlfriend knew nothing about the place until we went and sampled the set menu. Fantastic!

Posted by: Daz on 24 Mar ' 12 at 12:09

Im going to be honest, the place is really nice and the staff are amazing but lets talk about the food: there is nothing in the menu! All u can find is "white fish, red fish, bla bla!" the food is really bad, u don't know what u r eating! It's tooo expensive and very verry VERRY small portions

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