Sadaf Restaurant - Abu Dhabi

Great Persian food in a surreal setting in Abu Dhabi
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Time Out Says

Great Persian food in a slightly surreal setting.

Let’s be honest; they do things a little differently at Sadaf. The restaurant dining room itself is very pleasant, elegantly decorated with marble flooring and walls interspersed with panels of painted Persian tiles, ornate chairs and thick linens on the tables. So far, so good. However, when we arrived for our visit (and were immediately sent upstairs) we were a little unnerved – the dining room was empty, apart from a troupe of staff standing formally awaiting instruction, and there was no music or any background noise. At all. Not that music is indispensable or anything, but combined with no other diners and a room full of staff we couldn’t help but feel somewhat uncomfortable.

All that paled into insignificance, however, when we took a look over the menu. Persian cuisine consists largely of meat and rice. The meat is either slow-cooked, skewered and grilled or occasionally made into stews and they manage to do some pretty fancy stuff with the rice as well. The menu at Sadaf is pretty slimline, with a small selection of starters and some grills followed by dessert – but it all sounded pretty appetising so, without hesitation, we jumped right in.

To start we ordered a borani esfanaj (spinach mixed with yoghurt and garlic) and a fatoush salad. We could have done without the fatoush because two large plates of vegetables were brought to the table, along with two bowls of an excellent lentil soup, after we had ordered. The borani esfanaj was delicious, the spinach was thoroughly mixed into the yoghurt creating a thick but creamy dip for the chewy flatbread.

For mains we ordered the joojeh masti (boneless pieces of chicken marinated in yoghurt and served with rice) and the zershk polo with meat (saffron rice with Iranian red barberries and slow-cooked lamb). When offered a choice of rice with the joojeh masti we faffed about for so long that the waiter said he’d bring us all three kinds to try – plain, zershk polo or biryani rice. Our favourite by far was the biryani rice; it packed a flavour wallop but didn’t overpower the chicken, which was deliciously and delicately flavoured and perfectly grilled to be ridiculously tender. The zershk polo arrived as a mountain of yellow rice with bright red berries mixed through concealing a huge portion of slow-cooked lamb that was so soft it fell apart at the mere suggestion of a fork. The berries were a semi-sweet, tart burst of flavour amid the fluffy saffron rice and the lamb was so infused with the herbs and spices it was cooked with that our taste buds practically expired in happiness and we ate far more than was sensible. After all of that, dessert would have been impossible so we admitted defeat and called for the bill.

While the restaurant itself is a little eccentric the quality of the food more than makes up for any misgivings you may initially have. A new favourite.

The bill (for two)
Borani esfanaj Dhs16
Fatoush Dhs14
Joojeh masti Dhs49
Zershk polo meat Dhs49
Total (excluding service) Dhs128

By Time Out Abu Dhabi staff  | 25 Jun 2013

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Payment OptionsCash, Credit Card
Dress CodeCasuals
Show number +971 2 641 4166
Abu Dhabi, Al Dhafrah, New Airport Road

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