It would appear that dropping the apostrophe from the name of the Marriott’s signature steakhouse (found globally in the likes of Los Angeles, Toronto, Cairo and Doha) has allowed the JW in Abu Dhabi to deviate somewhat from the mould. Heading off on a contemporary tangent that allows this steakhouse to do things a little differently.
In a city awash with steakhouses battling to differentiate from the crowd, the look and feel of the JW Steakhouse makes a welcome change. Located on the first floor of the spacious property, guests arrive at a small lounge/waiting area, complete with cowhide rugs, a liquor cabinet and bold fonts emblazoned across the walls.
A set of wooden double doors open, before guests, are led into the actual dining room. Smaller than expected, but contains a nice blend of traditional steakhouse expectations amidst some modern touches. We’re seated comfortably in a secluded nook, able to observe the inner workings of the restaurant via a glass show kitchen.
Our reason for visiting the JW was to sample the newly launched Chef’s Tasting Menu from Chef de Cuisine Stephan Benkendorff and his team. Eight distinct courses paired with beverages, aiming to take diners on a culinary journey that’s about more than just the food. With tasting menu’s being such a rarity in Abu Dhabi, it’s a smart move by the JW team, allowing the chef free rein to create something truly memorable via a showcase of interconnecting dishes. It’s also very reasonably priced at just AED 250++ (food only) or AED 350++ (with beverage pairing) per person. An absolute steal, when considering the cuts on the main menu start from AED 200.
We begin with homemade breads, of which two varieties are offered (onion and cornbread), accompanied by three different kinds of butter — salted, smoked paprika, chilli — each better than the next. The arrival of the first course, Heirloom Tomato & Burrata helps set the tone for the innovation of the evening. Presenting tomatoes in a variety of colours, alongside creamy burrata (a favourite of ours) and an intriguing tomato sorbet. It may sound bizarre but it works wonderfully in conjunction with the other tomato elements including a tomato gel made to resemble a strawberry (complete with green stem and seeds). This initial course comes paired with a Tomato Gin Fizz with basil, a drink pairing we can certainly admire for its dedication to the plate but one that we didn’t care for so much in execution.
Course two takes the crab cake, a standard item on any steakhouse menu and flips it. The Lump Crab Cake is so much lighter than expected and whereas usually a lot of potatoes are used to bind the mixture together, here it is predominantly crab, meaning the flavours really shine through. The spiralled pickled cucumber, burnt lime and avocado puree help to add another dimension to the plate and paired with a Cucumber & Lime Spritzer, it’s a match made in heaven.
The third course presents another steakhouse favourite in the form of a Seafood Bisque. This was the most memorable dish from our visit to the Dubai branch, where it’s doused in flaming cognac in a bit of dramatic dinner theatre. Here in Abu Dhabi, the presentation is scaled back, presenting a vibrant yellow bisque and a spoon containing a lone lobster dumpling, sat on top of black pebbles that connect the dish back to nature and the seabed. The bisque is strong in flavour and exudes a delicate creamy texture, though it was the lobster dumpling that transpired to be the star of the plate (we only wish there was more than one). The delicate foam on top connects it to the beverage pairing, a Carrot Ginger Beer served in a miniature pint glass.
Course four was our favourite of the evening. A beautifully plated Parsnip Puree and Beef Cheek Tortellini that combines creamed parsnip and tender slow-cooked beef cheek into addictive bite-sized morsels (again, we wish there were more). With a prolonged flavour profile that lingers on the palate for some time after consumption, it’s paired with the evenings first glass of wine, the E&J Gallo Turning Leaf Zinfandel (USA)
We’ll confess straight away that we’re unlikely to order fish in a steakhouse due to our carnivorous nature (call us creatures of habit, but we love red meat too much). Therefore, it was nice to have the opportunity to try the Loch Fine Salmon, a course of delicate fish plated with a distinct lemon mint foam and a pea puree. Topped with a pistachio crust, the flavour combination was truly immaculate and paired with another American wine, the Columbia Crest Gewurztraminer (USA) it was a dish we would certainly order again.
Course six can rightly be considered the main course and the chance to sample one of JW’s premium cuts. The 28-day dry aged Kettyle’s Northern Irish Grass Fed Aberdeen Angus is a great choice of meat for this menu and is served with a leek and stilton puree. As tender and flavoursome as the meat was, it’s the salt crusted baked potato that we will remember the most. Released from its salt casing by Chef Stephan himself, before being topped with sour cream, scallion and chives. This meat course is paired with a cocktail of Cedarwood smoked black bramble, again prepared table side by your own mixologist.
Have you ever tried a red cabbage sorbet? Neither has we until this tasting menu and we have to say that after the initial taste, it’s actually quite an ambitious flavour choice that works surprisingly well as a palette cleanser. Presented on a block of ice and paired with a Cranberry & Shiso Cosmo (again presented on ice), it proves quite the winning combination. Shisho is a Japanese herb and it’s the deep purple colour of this plant from which Chef Stephan was inspired to create this dish.
Course seven upped the portion size dramatically with the selection of cheeses from the Cooleeney Farm in Ireland. A great selection accompanied by fruits, nuts and two delightful chutneys (which we confess to asking if we could take home) and a ‘washing line’ strung with crisp bread. Paired with Warres Heritage Ruby Port (Portugal) served directly from the barrel, it was certainly an impressive course but one we suggested be scaled back somewhat, considering all of the food that had come before.
The eighth (and final) course presented the dessert and no visit to a JW Steakhouse is complete without their signature New York Cheesecake, a dish served on all the JW menus worldwide. Here the dish is presented slightly differently, as Chef Stephan lays a piece of glass on the table before adding raspberry coulis, summer fruits, refreshing sorbet and a hazelnut crumble. Despite all these additional elements, the cheesecake itself remains the focus with its Graham cracker crust and soothing filling complemented by a sweet dessert wine, the Nederberg, Noble Late Harvest (South Africa).
The eight-course tasting menu is available every day and will remain a permanent fixture at the JW Steakhouse Abu Dhabi. We honestly can’t recommend it enough. For not only is the food wonderful, but the mixology and interactivity help to add to Chef Stephan’s distinct vision. One that understands food can be emotive and tries to seek a connection between the dish and its imaginative presentation.
Steakhouses are generally expensive places to dine and this unique experience shows a well thought out pricing structure that makes for a cheaper option than dining a la carte. Going into JW, we thought we knew what to expect but the meal was a complete surprise and one of the best meals we’ve had in Abu Dhabi this year. It may not be the newest steakhouse in town but favourites such as Butcher & Still, The Foundry & The Grill need to watch out!
Location: Marriott Hotel Downtown, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street, Al Wahda, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 6pm – 1am
Phone: 02 418 2585
We were invited to dine at JW Steakhouse. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Interior images used courtesy of JW Steakhouse.