Teatro is a surprising find, tucked away in the Park Rotana complex close to Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The restaurant announces itself confidently with large red lettering that can be seen all the way from the hotel valet and will stick in your mind even if it’s not your reason for visiting.
Inside the bold theme continues with a large portion of the restaurant given over to a glass wine cellar. Meanwhile the dining area is home to both a show kitchen and a live-sushi counter and is decorated in deep red curtains, Venetian masks and chunky chandeliers. Making for a space that is part West End theatre and part boudoir, leaving us feeling as if we had stepped into a sequence from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.
At first we struggled a little with the concept, unsure of exactly how the theatrical setting (complete with posters from famous musicals The Phantom Of The Opera, Evita and The King & I) would fit in with a menu featuring various international cuisines.
We’re generally very wary of restaurants that offer more than one cuisine, as usually none of the offerings are that spectacular, with everything coming across as mediocre at best. Thankfully, Teatro bucks this trend by offering a diverse menu of Thai. Indian and Italian flavors under the pretence of “East meets West.” Yet much like the Venetian play masks that cover the walls (commonly used to mask the wearers true identity), the food offers the same illusion of subtle fusion done exceptionally well.
Much like the stage curtains that are draped from the ceiling, the experience at Teatro is about surprising guests with a ‘show.’ Take the cocktails for example, presented in truly unique ways – think metal vats and clay cups. Our favorite had to be the Downtown Tokyo, a beguiling blend of sake, vodka and ginger presented in an ice filled sake box and poured from a traditional sake jar.
Our dinner show began with a pleasant mix of appetizers that included Wasabi Coated Prawn Tempura. A great dish presented in an Asian-style wooden box, home to some of the biggest prawns we’ve had the pleasure of eating. With a light batter and just a hint of wasabi the intricate flavors are allowed to shine.
For our vegetarian dining companion, there were Crunchy Green Bean Tempura and Vegetarian Rolls (a vegetarian sushi containing mango, shiitake mushrooms, avocado and cucumber). The lightly battered green beans with a duo of dipping sauces were the superior dish of the two and left our veggie companion relieved not be offered another salad or stuffed pepper.
It was the Yellow Tail Samba that particularly stood out. A remarkable fusion of Japanese sushi and Mexican soft-shell taco, which in theory shouldn’t work but the subtle mix of flavors alongside two very different textures, made for a dish that was executed with a zing and spice that diners are unlikely to find elsewhere in the capital. The Yellow Tail Samba should be made a more prominent feature on the overwhelming list of menu options at Teatro.
As we fully embraced the concept of Teatro putting on a show, w began to connect more with the food. Admittedly it was a struggle to pick a main course from a seemingly endless list of Asian favorites, Western signatures and monthly specials. With everything from Miso Seabass to Roast Duck, Butter Chicken and Risotto Funghi on offer, the variety is certainly good, though we did require a little guidance in whittling down our selection. The staff were quick to offer recommendations, although we did find a slight case of information overload regarding the dishes.
After sampling Japanese during the appetizers, we decided to go for Indian and Chinese for the main courses. Selecting Buddha’s Delight (stir fried prawns, mussles, scallops, calamari and udon noodles) and the Vegetable Handi (mixed vegetables and paneer in a spiced onion and tomato gravy). Both dishes hit the mark with the wok-fried noodles providing a nice hint of chili amongst it’s mix of Asian-inspired flavours. Alternatively the Handi was a hearty dish that was perfectly mopped up with a selection of mixed naan breads. At the chefs request we sampled small portions of the monthly specials, Lamb Ragu and Gnocchi, that though thoroughly enjoyed, we would’ve preferred the gnocchi slightly more al dente.
An operatic showmanship comes to fruition in the final act with the presentation of the dessert course offering diners The Big Show. A sharing platter for two that showcases small taster portions of every dessert from Teatro’s menu.
Presented on a lazy Suzan piled with ice and adorned with exotic fruits, The Big Show feels like a Russian roulette of desserts! Rotation of the platter allows diners to appreciate the desserts full spectacle and is visually one of the more impressive that we’ve sampled in the UAE. On the Big Show diners will find mochi ice cream, a lemongrass creme brûlée, chocolate truffles, coconut gelato, matcha cake, watermelon snow and banana fritters with a delectable Dulce de leche dipping sauce.
Despite our initial reluctance regarding what we perceived to be a muddled concept, if you give in to Teatro’s charms you’ll be rewarded with an innovative dining experience. From immaculate presentation in trinket boxes and other apparatus, through to the fusion of subtle tones and minor flavour enhancements. A meal at Teatro is like a trip to the theatre, with each course upping the game and rising like a crescendo that culminates in a show-stopping dessert course.
With many dishes floating around the 250 dirham mark, Teatro may not be a cheap place to eat and is certainly not in keeping with the reasonable prices and great value for money usually associated with the Rotana brand. Instead Teatro targets a more high-end market and judging from the clientele during our dining experience, are doing very well for it.
Ending the meal with a coconut fortune cookie proclaiming “You can always tell luck from ability by its duration”, we ventured into the night. Back past the red lettering that signifies Teatro as the dining destination of choice in the Khalifa Park area and it must be said that we are wholeheartedly inclined to agree.
Location: Park Rotana, Khalifa Park Area, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 6pm – 11pm
Phone: 02 657 3333
We were invited to dine at Teatro All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.