Two months ago we’d never set foot inside Abu Dhabi’s the Dusit Thani hotel but following a pleasing meal at Benjarong. We couldn’t wait to return and check out their Friday brunch offering. The brunch at the Thai inspired Dusit Thani is held at Urban Kitchen, the hotels all day dining restaurant, situated just off of the impressive lobby.
Imaginatively labeled as the Wok With Me Brunch – the name says it all – offering a good selection of international cuisine that takes diners on a journey around South East Asia… and beyond.
Urban Kitchen is typical of an all day dining restaurant whose predominant purpose is to serve up breakfast, lunch and dinner to the masses. As expected, it’s a light and airy space that though relatively nondescript, is competently transformed into a Thai street market for the brunch. Thai paper umbrellas, ceramic elephants and piles of fresh ingredients help to make the space more interesting and engaging, though it was the central light fitting of hanging red chili peppers that caught our attention. The space flows very nicely and is separated by islands and buffet counters that help to break up the monotony of tables.
Much like dining at the sophisticated Benjarong, brunch begins with the traditional Thai greeting of “Sawasdee kha” and the warm hospitality that had impressed us on our previous visit was again on full show and didn’t falter once during the four hour brunch extravaganza. Urban Kitchen’s brunch began with a tour of the buffet, a nice personal touch that allows diners to know exactly where (and what) everything is. Guests therefore don’t run the risk of missing the good stuff – as inevitably happens at these big, brash brunches. The spread at Urban Kitchen was far bigger than expected and deviated nicely from the expected Asian-fare.
Our favorite sections were the salads and cold cuts, beautifully plated and refreshed and replenished often (the key to any good brunch). Offering salads of French Bean and Turkey Bacon, Chili Salt Chicken, Black Quinoa With Mint, Avocado With Crab Meat and finally Snowpeas and Skitakke. Add to this a variety of sauces and dressings and a selection of Arabic mezze and it’s not a bad way to start a brunch.
Working our way around the central island, we feasted on fresh seafood (Mussels, Crab, Shrimp, Calamari and Octopus), Beef Carpaccio and one of the most thorough sushi selections that we’ve come across in the capital. Better still, all sushi is prepared fresh, with full customization offered. So often at brunch the sushi is substandard and particularly lacking in fish, so it was refreshing to see how generous the team at Urban Kitchen were with not only the ingredients but also the portion size.
We were mistaken in thinking that the Wok With Me Brunch was part table-service and part buffet with the arrival of a delightfully runny Braised Beef Eggs Benedict. It’s becoming quite a common trend these days for a brunch to be part a la carte, though unfortunately this was the only dish delivered to the table and is something that the team at Urban Kitchen may wish reconsider and offer more of.
The brunch cleverly utilizes the best of Dusit Thani’s restaurants. Offering signature Thai dishes from Benjarong and delicious cuts of quality meat from The Capital Grill, whose Roasted Wagyu Beef with Yorkshire puddings was a particular highlight.
Stepping beyond this, diners are treated to a feast of soups, Arabic dishes (Shawarma, Fattoush, Hummus), dim sum, pizza and pasta, Indian specialities (Butter Chicken, Dhal, Kebab and Panner Tikka) and a small cheese corner.
Better still. Children have their own buffet and a soft play area with movies and face painting, to help them burn off some steam and more importantly, allow parents to relax and enjoy the food.
Like any large-scale buffet the quality varies. For us though, it wasn’t the food itself that was the problem, rather the temperature. Dishes were a mixture of either piping hot or stone cold depending on how long they’d been sat out on the buffet. Understandably presenting an abundance of food is a complex task in terms of retaining freshness and textures and we do believe that these minor incidences of temperature loss can be easily fixed by the team at Urban Kitchen.
The live-cooking stations fared much better and are where savvy diners can find the very best dishes that this brunch has to offer. The Thai curries are excellent, with a choice of either red or green, chicken or beef. These curries are prepared on a small stove while you wait and are aromatic and flavorsome. Though not necessarily the done thing, we couldn’t resist matching ours with fresh Indian naan straight from then tandoor.
Much like the Thai curries, Urban Kitchen’s Asian dishes were the highlight of the brunch. With traditional Pad Thai, Tamarind Prawns, Lemongrass Chicken, Chinese Hunan Beef and Garlic Pepper Crab on offer. The only disappointment was with the dim sum, whose wonton skins were a little on the thick side for our liking.
Perfectly in keeping with its cosmopolitan city centre location, Urban Kitchen is an admirable addition to the Friday brunch scene in Abu Dhabi. Featuring a good selection of dishes and fun activities to keep the little ones entrained, this may not be the fanciest brunch in the capital. Instead offering a casual brunch experience for families and those not looking for lavish expense.
Trying a new brunch, we always try look for an angle that makes it unique. What differentiates it from the countless other brunches out there? Sometimes it may be something as simple as a drink but in this oversaturated industry, each brunch needs something special to draw in the crowds.
Urban Kitchen has two distinct things going for it, the impeccable service and that homemade ice cream!
255 AED++ (soft drinks and juices)
370 AED++ (selected hops and grapes)
95 AED++ (children aged 7 – 12)
Location: Dusit Thani, Al Muroor Road, Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Twitter / Facebook
Hours: 6am – 10:30am / 12:30pm – 3:30pm / 7pm – 11pm
Phone: 02 698 8137
We were invited to dine at Urban Kitchen. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.