There’s no escaping the charms of Abu Dhabi’s Park Hyatt hotel perched on a prime stretch of beachfront and overlooking the waters of the Arabian Gulf on idyllic Saadiyat Island. Each visit to the Park Hyatt property feels like a mini vacation as we leave behind the city lights in search of the far more relaxed pace of ‘island life,’ even if only for an evening.
Our destination on this occasion is The Park Bar and Grill, the hotels signature steakhouse and a venue that has recently undergone a period of transition in terms of concept. Originally intended as a steakhouse with a distinct Asian element, the menu has been transformed in a bid to bring a new identity to the restaurant, one more aligned with customers needs and one that encourages a gastronomic experience.
With the advent of a new menu, the Park Grill team have taken things one step further, inviting diners to participate in the ‘art of dining.’ A bespoke dining experience promoting the best seasonal ingredients in a fully-customised menu, curated each day upon the availability of produce and each diners specific requirements. Concepts similar to this may already exist in Dubai, but for the capital, it represents an exciting new prospect.
The Park Grill’s bespoke concept is based around the idea of Omakase, a Japanese word roughly translating as “I trust you” or “I’ll leave it up to you.” As opposed to ordering a la carte, diners will leave their meal in the hands of the capable chefs, who much like an orchestra, will conduct the meal to ensure an experience showcasing the very best the Park Grill has to offer.
Our meal begins with the Bluefin tuna tartare, a signature entree of the Park Grill and one that’s drizzled in lime to give the feeling of a ceviche. The unique construction of this specific tartare is combined with chunks of ripened mango to bring sweetness and a pleasant balance to the dish, which is offset further by the nuttiness of avocado. Granted the portion is perhaps a little too large (a recurring theme of this specific meal). the tartare is a wonderful introduction to the bespoke concept.
Next arrives a tepid but frankly delicious pea soup. Deconstructed at first, as a bowl containing baked ricotta, pine nuts and mint leaves is presented to the table. As the liquified soup is added, the aromatics are released, creating a seductive aroma almost as appealing as the taste. The addition of mandarin zest brings a welcome surprise to the comforting dish which is velvety in nature, but could’ve been served somewhat hotter,
The Caesar Salad is quite unlike any Caesar we’ve seen before, bringing an element of interactivity to proceedings with a tableside construction. This idea of allowing diners to interact with the chef really helps to add appeal to the dining experience, as questions are asked and answered while this method of dinner theatre becomes the focus of the table. Firstly, a corn-fed chicken is prepared and added to a large bowl of leaves, before being topped with chia seed croutons, anchovies, cheese and a Wagyu beef ham that is cured on site. Again the portion skews too large but makes for a welcome change from the usual iceberg lettuce and dry chicken, with the superfood element of the chia seeds providing appeal to the dish. A Caesar salad is something we’d be unlikely to order if we’d been left to our own devices but transpires to be a harmonious plate of top quality ingredients.
The fish course brings a generous fillet of halibut and half a Canadian lobster, with the claw meat already removed (meaning we don’t have to get messy)! Beautifully plated against tones of black, the delicate nature of this seafood is allowed to shine through but surprisingly, the squid ink fried rice trumps both of the proteins in terms of texture and flavour.
Almost too full to continue after the procession of generously portioned plates, we’re overwhelmed by the milk-fed veal rack. A literal slab of meat marinated in rosemary and garlic and served with a veal jus, asparagus and mashed potato. The veal itself looks deceptively fatty, but in reality is anything but, as our knife glides effortlessly through the beautifully pink meat. It’s a dish that we’re ultimately beaten by and one that could’ve done with scaling up the size of the sides in relation to the amount of meat.
Somehow finding room for dessert, the final course (much like the Caesar Salad and Veal) brings one last dose of interactivity in the form of a dessert trolley. Four desserts are offered amidst a selection of Italian cookies and confectionary and will be rotated on a daily basis. We’re spoilt for choice with the chocolate salami sliced like its namesake sausage, a chocolate Caprese cake (a rich chocolate torte hailing from the island of Capri), a fruit tart adorned with summer fruits and a tiramisu. With the desserts sticking firmly with Italian flavours we opt for the Tiramisu which is constructed tableside and makes for an indulgent crescendo to our bespoke experience. Yes, we wished there was some of the Marsala or stronger stuff present, but given our Middle Eastern location, the lack thereof is understandable.
Set amidst a dining room of chiffon curtains and hues of red, The Park Grill takes more of a fine-dining approach than one might expect from a steakhouse. A soundtrack of mellow soul adds atmosphere to proceedings, as does the adept and remarkably confident service style. All waiters wear chef’s jackets in a bid to provide a seamless transition between kitchen and front-of-house, with each member of the team trained as commis chefs, thus enabling them to assist with simple tasks in the kitchen.
The bespoke dining experience at The Park Grill does bear a strong resemblance to The Experience by Reif Othman in Dubai but without the same levels of privacy and exclusivity. Much like JW Steakhouse at the Marriott Downtown, it’s very interesting to see a restaurant diversifying and looking into what diners really want, which appears to be a quality experience matched with reasonable pricing. The Park Grill is certainly offering something new to diners in the capital and for that alone we fully applaud them.
Location: Park Hyatt, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 7pm – 11:30pm
Phone: 02 407 1138
We were invited to dine at The Park Grill. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE. Two interior images used courtesy of The Park Grill.