We had been wanting the visit the Rosewood Hotel on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah island for quite some time now, so when one of the restaurants popped up on the Entertainers monthly offers for November we knew that we had to visit. The hotel itself is a very modern and sleek affair with a beautiful orange and gold colour scheme – the space itself is very welcoming and cosy and the hotel staff treat you like royalty even when it is evident that you are not a guest.
Dai Pai Dong in literal translation is a road-side stall selling street food and are popular in cities such as Hong Kong. The restaurant at the Rosewood has taken this idea and run with it, turning it into a more upmarket affair than the streets from where the concept originates.
The restaurant is located on level B3 which is the ground floor of the hotel leading directly into the Galleria Mall. We immediately knew that we were in for a treat when a large dragon suddenly rose from the floor in front of us – leading the way to the restaurant. In Chinese culture the dragon is a symbol of power, strength and good luck for people who are worthy of it – this symbolism set the president for our dining experience at Dai Pai Dong.
The interior of the restaurant resembles a Chinese tea shop with wooden latticed screens separating the dining tables, so that you get a little bit of privacy from the other customers. The decor is dark wood and beautiful carved Chinese statues which adds a feeling of intimacy to the restaurants atmosphere. Large baskets of garlic and chills litter the floor and huge jars of mushrooms and other essential ingredients are on display. Chinese instrumental music is played to add to the market feel of the restaurants thematics.
An open kitchen is the focal point of the restaurant and was a constant hub of activity during our meal, you are encouraged to get up and have a look as noodles are pulled in front of you, food is wok fried and dishes are prepared before your eyes. An open kitchen gives a great sense of transparency to the dining experience, as you can see the authenticity of the dishes and the way in which they are prepared. Providing a sensory experience as fragrant aromas escape out into the dining area and the steam from the dim sum emanates out across the room.
Staff were extremely thorough and were constantly on hand to check that we were happy, and to explain the food and beverage options to us – which is very handy as most dishes on the menu are listed with just one or two words and no descriptions. The attention to detail from the staff really helped to make the dining experience at Dai Pai Dong a special one.
The beverages on offer are akin to what you may find in a tea house with lots of flavoured teas in a number of varieties, we strayed from the hot teas and instead opted for a flower berry ice tea. The drink arrived with a piece of evergreen spruce inside which had the distinct smell of Christmas! The ice tea was neither too sharp or too sweet and managed to balance the flavour combinations perfectly for our liking. Alcohol is also available and there is a large selection of sake to choose from should you desire.
Our meal began with some of the signature har gow shrimp dumplings (which are ordered from a operate menu to the main courses). Each dim sum dish only contains three pieces, but these plump little balls were scrumptious and filled with large whole shrimp. To use there is no greater foodie feelings that the steamy reveal of dim sum in their bamboo basket – considering that dim sum are one of our ultimate favourite dishes to eat. The dim sum came with a variety of dipping sauces in the form of soy, black vinegar and home made chilli – all of which complemented the dim sum nicely. All dim sum dishes at Dai Pai Dong are made to order and you can literally taste the freshness as they melt in your mouth.
Upon devouring the dim sum, our main courses soon arrived. We opted for the soy-braised beef brisket and the crispy chicken. The potions were not the largest but the side dishes (none of the mains include rice or noodles) are gigantic. We found the food to be of a very high standard and thankfully not at all salty, as some Chinese cuisine tends to be. The beef brisket was soft and tasty accompanied by green onions and ginger – it was quickly gobbled down. The crispy chicken is served boneless and the golden crispy skin is fantastic, served with toasted garlic and a plum sauce that although tarte is delicious.
Our sides were Dai Pai Dong fried rice that contained shredded duck and egg and was not at all oily. We also tried the braised ‘e fu’ noodles with crab meat and mushrooms – again we could find absolutely no fault in the dish. The food was fresh tasting and filling.
There was a birthday amongst our group when we dined and Dai Pai Dong provided us with complimentary creme brûlée which was literally to die for. The texture was so light and creamy that we felt that we could eat it forever and the crisp sugar top was piled with sweet lychees and a caramel tuile. We can see ourselves returning at a later date just to eat this fantastic desert again. The staff made a great fuss is presenting the desert with the obligatory candle and chants of ‘happy birthday’ much to the satisfaction of our group.
The food on offer is not cheap (though it is currently on offer via the Entertainer), but you definitely get what you pay for and the fresh cooking defiantly enhances the flavours and provides a scintillating meal.
In summary we would say that Dai Pai Dong does an excellent job of re-creating a Chinese tea house complete with authentic cooking and courteous staff. We felt like it was a real pleasure to dine there and the atmosphere was very calm and relaxing.
With places like Zuma, Bentleys Bistro and Nolu’s close by – Al Maryah Island is fast becoming the go to place for fine dining in Abu Dhabi.
Location: Rosewood Hotel, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Opening Hours: 12pm – midnight daily.
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.