Lebanese seafood restaurant at the One-to-one hotel in Abu Dhabi 2 Reviews
A Lebanese brunch with main courses and hot and cold mezze, as well as live entertainment. Dhs85 (with soft drinks) Timings: Noon-4pm (Friday)
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Given that it’s billed as a Mediterranean seafood restaurant, the most surprising thing about our debut visit to Sennara was the discovery that it’s actually nothing of the sort. What it is, in fact, is a Lebanese seafood restaurant – only distinguishable from its predecessor Sahriye by a few fishing nets festooned throughout the room.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re fine with Lebanese food – can’t get enough of the stuff – but calling a restaurant Mediterranean and ignoring the influences of Italy, Spain and Greece is like organising a music festival and forgetting to book any bands. And then setting fire to the stages. There’s no soft, crumbly feta cheese on the menu. Not a sundried tomato in sight. There’s the obligatory bowl of olives to kick off, of course, but even these were mushy and a few weeks beyond their best.
We had high hopes for the mezze, and at least some of it didn’t disappoint. The khubz bread arrived hot and puffy, and a plateful of grilled squid was a real winner, served in chewy, buttery chunks. Other dishes weren’t as successful. Moutabbel – an aubergine-based dip usually rich, smooth and smoky – came with un-blended chunks of veg and tasted overwhelmingly of lemon juice. Meanwhile the batata harra, though well-spiced, was extremely poor in terms of texture; its under-cooked, chalky chunks of potato leaving an uninvited and unpleasant starchiness in the mouth.
As for mains, here’s how things work at Sennara: you choose your fish from the menu (or the ice-packed counter, if you fancy a stroll), select your method of cooking – char-grilled, deep fried, steamed or Provencal – and team it with one of seven sauces, including tarator, lemon butter and cocktail, the latter presumably fetched via time machine from 1976. It’s a concept that’s been tried before in the city – successfully at the InterCon’s excellent Fishmarket, less so at the late Il Paradiso – but here the components of the DIY-fish-supper gimmick are all so dull that a lacklustre result is basically inevitable.
Sure enough, the grilled sea bass arrived dry, flavourless and strewn with tiny bones that poked our gums like vengeful punji sticks. The lobster and tiger prawns were better, but it’s difficult to find praise for dishes devised, prepared and presented with so little in the way of imagination. After all, anyone can take a piece of fish, put it in a hot place for a bit and then shove it on a plate, but for the prices involved you’d expect a bit of invention, maybe a dash of flair – at the very least a touch of seasoning.
Service was mostly competent and generally discreet – all except for the moment when the chef came to fish our lobster out of its tank, prompting the entire staff to gather around and giggle like sugar-addled school kids. We all appreciate a piscine pantomime, guys, but we’re laying out more than Dhs500 here – how about some decorum? Later into the meal, dishes were delivered and removed speedily, with no questions asked about the piles of leftover food; slim consolation that we probably weren’t the first to find the Sennara experience decidedly unspecial.
It’s a shame really, because in its former life, as Sahriye, this wasn’t a bad restaurant. As it exists now, however, there’s very little to recommend, especially with the likes of Finz and Sayad just a short taxi hop away. Our advice? Go back to the drawing board and give us some fish we can get excited about. Oh, and lose the misleading ‘Mediterranean’ bit, Sennara – you’re fooling nobody but yourselves.
The bill (for three)
Batata harra Dhs20
Grilled squid Dhs35
Grilled tiger shrimp x 4 Dhs87.50
Grilled sea bass Dhs45
Steamed lobster Dhs182
Biryani rice Dhs15
Total (excluding service) Dhs444.50
Time Out Abu Dhabi,
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