Living in a city surrounded by water, it comes as little surprise that Abu Dhabi residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat seafood. But which of these restaurants are serving the best fish in town? And where should you go for fantastic shellfish? TOAD lifts the lid on its favourite seafood dishes in the capital
Omani lobster thermidor
Situated right down on the marina, Fishmarket is a seafood lover’s dream. All the seafood is laid out on ice for guests to go and choose for themselves which is a novel touch, but the food here is far more than just novelty. The fresh lobster is particularly good – if you’re hungry don’t worry because there are some whoppers you can get your hands on every night. Have your catch cooked thermidor (a creamy cheese sauce is mixed into the lobster shell with the flesh and then baked in the oven) for a real treat.
Price depending on weight, circa Dhs200. Fishmarket, InterContinental Abu Dhabi, Al Bateen (02 666 6888).
Golden eye snapper
Inakaya is the only place in town that offers Kinme-dai (Golden Eye snapper) as a grilled whole fish. The deep sea fish is considered a delicacy in Japan as it is expensive and is usually consumed during festivities.
The Kinme-dai is native to Japan, and is in-season during the winter months. Since the fish’s meat is thick, restaurants rarely serve them whole, but the robatayaki-style of grilling enables the fish to cook slowly with salt to retain moisture. It is served with grated daikon radish, lemon and soy sauce.
Dhs370. Inakaya, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Venetian Village (02 404 1921).
While most people venture out to the Blue Grill for turf, that doesn’t mean they skimp on the surf. In fact, the crab cakes at Blue Grill might be some of the best in town. The cakes are full of tender chunks of fresh crab, and they burst with all the right amounts of herbs and celery. They are elegantly served with a red bell pepper aioli and papaya-mango salsa as an appetiser. You may just forget about that steak you ordered after having noshed on this starter.
Dhs78. Blue Grill, Yas Island Rotana, Yas Island (02 656 4000).
Wild sea bass
Situated in a perfect spot for a seafood restaurant overlooking the Al Maqta creek, Pearls and Caviar is a hidden haven for seafood fans. A seafood-heavy brunch should be on your foodie bucket list as well, but if you find yourself here during the week, make sure you order the wild sea bass served with a fennel apple beurre blanc, herb spätzle, edamame beans, baby onion, corn and karir leaf croquettes. It’s excellent and is sure to delight the discerning seafood lover’s palette.
Dhs165. Pearls and Caviar, Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri, Bain Al Jessrain (02 509 8777).
Local Shaari Ceviche
The Beach House is homely and casual, and just steps away from the sea. It’s no wonder the Shaari ceviche served here tastes as though it was caught moments after you place your order. You might be inclined to pass that small, inexpensive pink fish over in the market in favour of a larger, more well-known fish, but don’t do that at the Beach House. The talented team of chefs take this small, unremarkable fish and make it a star with their knowledge of how to cut fish for maximum flavour and their choice of seasonings: avocado, lime and chilli.
Dhs70. Beach House, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1234).
Seared scallops and shrimps
Steak is the order of the day at The Forge, but don’t sleep on this fantastic appetiser. Plump scallops and juicy prawns are served with pastry and smothered in a decadent buttery sauce – the dish is well put together and absolutely delicious. A seafood appetiser is a good option before a hearty hunk of meat – opt for the scallops and shrimps at The Forge and you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Dhs130. The Forge, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 818 8282).
An afternoon of hard graft shopping in The Galleria is capped off perfectly by dinner at Bentley’s Bistro and Bar, and one of the best dishes on the menu is the French style fish stew bouillabaisse. Served in a small cooking pot on a wooden board, this light and spicy broth is packed with delicious seafood including clams and squid. Use the artisan bread the dish comes with to mop up the broth – trust us, you won’t want to leave any of it.
Dhs200. Bentley’s Bistro and Bar, The Galleria, Al Maryah Island (02 626 2131).
Trader Vic’s is relaxed, warm and has an intimate feeling to it. It feels just enough Polynesian to accept almost any dish you find on the menu. Calamari might seem strange on a Far Eastern menu, but of course the chefs put their unique flavour and spin on it to make this delicacy their own. Their crispy fried calamari is lightly fried and served with a zingy wasabi mayonnaise dipping sauce. The calamari is tender and not chewy, which is rarity enough for a starter that can be hit or miss.
Dhs62. Trader Vics, Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (02 607 9000).
When you bite into Caramel’s TNT shrimp starter, you experience a deja-vu of sorts. You might feel as though you have tasted this dish somewhere, sometime before. It’s perhaps that familiarity that makes it such a standout dish. The succulent shrimp are lightly battered and then tossed in a tangy and spicy Japanese mayonnaise. You can also swap the shrimp for scallops, and that too is a flavour sensation.
Dhs120. Caramel, St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island (02 678 3344).
Asia de Cuba’s cuisine is nothing if not adventurous, with its inspired fusion dishes. For seafood its difficult to choose between small plates and the ceviche bar as they do fish starters well, but the tuna ‘pica’ is a standout. In the ‘pica’, tuna sashimi is arranged in a crispy fried wonton, garnished with spicy Asian-influenced accoutrements, and then eaten as you would a taco. Asia met Cuba and the Asian raw fish taco was born.
Dhs65. Asia de Cuba, Nation Riviera Beach Club, St. Regis Abu Dhabi, www.asiadecuba.com (02 699 3333).
The fresh fish restaurant Golden Sail is tucked away out of sight in Al Markaziyah, but should be proudly displayed on a smoking grill by the sea. Golden Sail displays a unique piscine pick ‘n mix, but the kingfish is well, king. Succulent and snowy white, soft inside, with a perfectly crispy exterior, one platter won’t be enough.
Dhs100 per kg. Golden Sail Seafood, near Khalifa Street, Al Markaziyah (02 627 7204).
This indulgent mound of handmade pasta with juicy chunks of hammour, shrimps, squid and fat cherry tomatoes is one of the stand out dishes on Burlesque’s compact menu. Mop up the creamy sauce with crunchy rolls and wash down with a dry, sparkling beverage as you soak up the theatrical atmosphere.
Dhs110. Burlesque Restaurant and Lounge, Yas Viceroy, Yas Island, www.burlesqueuae.com (056 498 7580).
Dover sole rolls
Delicious, silky smooth and mild islands of white fish astride streaks of buttery pesto Genovese are the order of the day at Bocca. The neat parcels sit next to glazed carrots, mashed potatoes and are sprinkled with parsley garnish. We love spending time in this welcoming, swish restaurant and loved devouring this moreish dish even more.
Dhs185. Bocca, Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road West (02 692 4160).
Filetto di Branzino
Two perfectly cooked slabs of sea bass fillet with crunchy skin and sea salt with fresh escarola and taggiasca olives is divine. The al fresco setting and sunset over the water at Emporio Armani Caffé is spectacular.
Dhs150. Emporio Armani Caffé, Sowwah Square, Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island (02 676 6995).
Presented in classic clay cookware, the La Passion tagine arrives as a bubbling cauldron of brightly coloured, eye-catching food. The aromas fill our nostrils with the smell of a Moroccan spice market and the dish looks so good we want to Instagram it. The dish exudes flavours and spices, and the fish has a spicy kick from the chilli – not mentioned on the menu. There are plentiful generously sized chunks of flaky fish which carry the surrounding flavours.
Dhs70. La Passion, Boutik Mall, Reem Island (02 671 4626).
As the reigning Time Out Abu Dhabi Restaurant Awards Best Seafood restaurant, it will come as little surprise that the menu at Scott's contains dozens of varied seafood dishes we’d happily eat again and again, and again! Our favourite though, is the seared scallops in the shell from the crustacean and molluscs menu, served with a chilli and garlic broth, and garnished with samphire. The scallops are delicately cooked to a soft perfection, and we can safely say shellfish appetisers don’t get much better than this.
Dhs145. Scott’s Abu Dhabi, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche West (02 811 5666).
Grilled jumbo prawns
Al Fanar offers some of the finest Emirati food in the capital, and within that menu, a simple appetiser is one of the stand-out dishes. The jumbo prawns here are of a different breed – a whole army of beefed up prawns arrive on a silver platter. They are gigantic; extremely plump and juicy having been chargrilled to perfection. The lemon adds more moisture and a citrus zing, complementing them perfectly. This platter of prawns needs to be shared – one person would struggle to get through the whole army.
Dhs39. Al Fanar, Venetian Village, Grand Canal, Al Maqtaa, www.alfanarrestaurant.com (02 448 1144).
Grilled seafood platter
What to do if you simply cannot choose between all of your seafood favourites? Well that’s an easy one, have them all served on one platter, of course. At Turquoiz, perhaps the best restaurant specialising in seafood on Saadiyat Island, the seafood platter includes Canadian lobster, prawns, scallops, calamari and the local catch of the day.
Dhs355. Turquoiz, St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat island (02 498 8888).
Slow cooked baby octopus
With an impressive menu of Italian delicacies and many seafood options to choose from, Sacci offers one of the more delicate antipastis that we have sampled in 2015. If you’re looking for something different to start your meal off, try the polpo. Warm, slow cooked baby octopus served with potato and mint cream, and crispy red onion is presented like a work of art, and it is extremely photogenic. The baby octopus is cooked impeccably – not rubbery or chewy as one might expect of a tentacle-clad, deep sea-dwelling creature.
Dhs80. Sacci, Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Sas Al Nakhl (02 616 9999).
With a whole host of Turkish cuisine to choose from at Dolmabache, the stew-cooked sea bass fillet with seasonal mushrooms is a safe bet for fish lovers. We appreciate how the chef doesn’t hold back on the portion size of the sea bass, which is stewed to perfection – there is a huge amount of fish covered in a rich, creamy mushroom sauce, accompanied by tomatoes and peppers.
Dhs95. Al Raha Boulevard, Al Zeina (02 552 5571).
There are many tempting meat options on the menu at Park Bar & Grill, it’s hard not to opt for a prime ribeye or Wagyu steak. But for seafood fans, the whole Omani rock lobster offers a gourmet treat like no other. Crack into the expertly cooked and generously meaty lobster which comes fresh off the grill. The hefty crustacean comes with an option of four sauces; Chinese black vinegar and ginger, cocktail sauce, sweet chilli or black pepper mignonette.
Dhs190. Park Bar & Grill, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1138).
Does the thought of a big bowl of freshly steamed mussels have your mouth watering the way it does ours? Then get yourself to one of the Belgian Cafés dotted around the city. The mussels are the best you’ll find anywhere in the city; as well as being served naturally there are eight sauces diners can have them served in. Our favourite is the Roquefort cheese, which is thick and oozes unhealthy yumminess. Of course, all moules are served with Belgian frites.
Dhs165. Belgian Café, various locations including InterContinental Abu Dhabi, Al Bateen (02 666 6888) and Novotel Abu Dhabi Gate, Bain Al Jessrain (02 508 9740).
Emirates Palace seafood restaurant Sayad offers a menu that is crammed with classic fish dishes re-imagined with modern, delightful twists. In no dish is this more evident than the halibut main, served in a summer vegetable chowder with razor clams and fennel. The fish is so well cooked it melts in your mouth, and the supporting cast of ingredients only further accentuates its delicate flavour.
Dhs195. Sayad, Emirates Palace, Corniche West (02 690 7999).
Fish and chips
There are quite a few places in the city that serve a good fish and chips, but we can’t think of any better than McGettigan’s. Flaky fish, crispy batter, McGettigan’s signature fat chips and a big portion of mushy peas… what more could you ask for?
Dhs78. McGettigan’s Abu Dhabi, Al Raha Beach Hotel, Al Raha (02 652 4333).
Fish doesn’t get any more delicate than this. Delicately wrapped in a hoba leaf, Zuma’s black cod dish is one of the city’s culinary gems. For all the hype the dish gets, it still manages to taste beyond your expectations. An absolute must-try for foodies.
Dhs182. Zuma, Al Maryah Island (02 401 5900).
Sitting outside on the terrace overlooking the Corniche at Vasco’s is an incredibly pleasant experience even before you get to the restaurant’s menu. Make sure you order some dishes though, because the food is as good as the view. The Indian and Italian dishes are worth trying, but for our money, the best dish on the menu is the tuna steak served with thick cut chips and pomegranate salsa. Perfect for a sunny afternoon lunch.
Dhs135. Vascos, Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche West (02 681 1900).
Salt baked sea bream
Arriving on a trolley still encased in a thick crust of salt, you can be forgiven for not knowing what to expect from this flamboyant dish. One of Brasserie Angelique’s expert service staff taps away at the crust until it breaks away, leaving a fish that is perfectly cooked and not at all salty. The dish is served with braised endives, shaved fennel, honeyed aubergine, wild rice and a lemon butter sauce.
Dhs165. Brasserie Angelique, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche West (02 811 5666).
For the ultimate taste of Spain brought all the way to the heartland of the UAE, you simply have to head to Catalan at the Rosewood. This intimate restaurant has only got a handful of tables, so be sure to book ahead, and when you get there make sure you order the seafood paella. Prawns and mussels aplenty can be found atop mounds of fragrant, flavoursome rice.
Dhs230. Catalan, Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island (02 813 5550).
Rock shrimp tempura
Tempura cooked well is perhaps our favourite Japanese dish, and nowhere serves it better than Koi at The Collection on Saadiyat Island. The creamy rock shrimp tempura is one of the best dishes coming from the kitchen here – head to the St. Regis Saadiyat and order a portion next time you’re craving fine Japanese cuisine.
Dhs92. Koi, The Collection at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resorts, Saadiyat Island (02 678 3334).
Another restaurant specialising in seafood that’s situated right on the water – if you’ve got a hankering for fish, then you can’t really go wrong with Finz. If you still need a little prompting though, then our favourite dish is the sako tuna tartar prepared Japanese style and served with an avocado relish, ponzu sauce and sesame seeds. This dish is the perfect way to kick off a seafood-rich evening.
Dhs80. Finz, Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiyah (02 697 9000).
A staple of many restaurants all over the capital, grilled calamari is fairly ubiquitous in Abu Dhabi. For fantastic squid rings, head to Flooka at Eastern Mangroves Promenade. This Middle Eastern-inspired seafood restaurant has a whole menu dedicated to seafood mezze and the grilled calamari is our favourite dish from it. The squid comes simply marinated in garlic, lemon and oil.
Dhs41. Flooka, Eastern Mangroves Promenade, Abu Dhabi-Dubai Road (02 441 8244).
Lobster mac & cheese
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a seafood dish, but we couldn’t resist putting it on the end of our best seafood in the city list, and that’s because it’s simply so delicious. Hunks of fresh lobster sit atop a bowl of gooey, cheesy pasta that even smells decadent. The dish is rich, but it’s also moreish – if you’re not careful you’ll find yourself ordering another portion before you are served your mains.
Dhs130. Stratos, Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi, Al Markaziyah (800 101 101).