Black Tap requires little introduction. The New York import famous for flavoursome craft burgers and excessive milkshakes has finally opened in the UAE capital. Black Tap has been on our radar for the best part of three years, with our Instagram feed inundated with appealing images of their signature (albeit excessive) shakes on an almost daily basis. Despite a number of failed visits to the Dubai locations at Jumeirah Al Naseem and Rixos Premium (it’s alway so damn busy) in the past few months, the Abu Dhabi branch was eerily quite during our lunchtime visit.
Tucked away in Yas Mall’s Cascade dining promenade, the monochromatic colour scheme and the sleek industrial feel of Black Tap Abu Dhabi work well to replicate the feeling of the New York flagship and it’s certainly pleasing to see a mall dining space with a bit of character.
An old school hip-hop soundtrack creates immediate appeal (we haven’t enjoyed a restaurant soundtrack this good since dining at Dubai’s Toro & Ko) and despite the casual nature of the concept and the fairly limited menu, the ethos of less is more seems to prevail.
Before indulging in their famous burgers, we begin with Black Tap’s cilantro heavy guac and chips (AED 37) which focuses on a sweeter guacamole than we’re accustomed too! Mixing salsa verde and pico de gallo into a conflicting dip for the crisp tortilla chips. we find this particular dish difficult to recommend! The atomic shrimp (AED 65) however are just as you’d expect – crisp battered shrimp, slathered in a spicy sauce that isn’t afraid to be fiery. In fact the dish has become so popular that the atomic shrimp also feature in the atomic burger, the latest addition to the Black Tap menu.
How times have changed… It seems like only yesterday that the minted lamb burger at GBK represented the height of sophistication (we’re talking London circa-2005). Over a decade later and it seems anything goes in upping the ante when it comes to just how extreme a burger can become.
With 14 burgers to choose from (including a number of vegetarian and gluten free options) Black Tap seemingly offers a burger for everyone, stuffed full of appealing ingredient combinations like crumbled blue cheese, pear bacon jam, truffle mayo and crispy kale (the pear bacon and jam burger) and wagyu beef, house buttermilk-dill, blue cheese, arugula (the signature Greg Norman).
Despite the high price point (burgers range from AED 68 – AED 110) the overall quality is good and the portions large. We throughly enjoyed the Carolina Burger (AED 88) a recent addition to the menu featuring an all American burger stuffed inside sweet brioche and piled high with smoky pulled beef, Carolina BBQ and a particularly good buttermilk-dill sauce. We would go so far as to say the burger is superior to The Texan (AED 88) one of Black Tap’s signatures which features a prime burger in conjunction with aged cheddar, crispy onion ring, beef bacon and BBQ sauce.
Served with either fries or salad (we’d recommend both the sweet potato and the truffle fries) the burgers come chock-full of ingredients but are somewhat difficult to eat, so prepare to get messy!
If burgers don’t float your boat, then a selection of salads, tacos and fried chicken dishes are also available.
One of the factors that made the two Dubai locations such a success was that the premises are licensed. Meaning craft beers and other ‘adult drinks’ to wash down the tasty burgers. Unfortunately, the mall setting in the capital equates to soft drinks and mocktails only and it feels as though some of Black Tap’s heart has been lost along the way (perhaps this is part of the reason for this particular location being so quiet, while an hour long wait still prevails in Dubai?)
Thankfully the very core of the Black Tap concept, the crazy shakes, remains in tact. We’re sure many of you have been skimming through the review just to find out if the milkshakes are worth the hype and constant Instagram attention.
A guilty pleasure resulting in the distinct possibility of slipping into a diabetic coma (we joke) the seven distinct shakes (plus occasional limited specials) are likely the reason that the majority of customers visit Black Tap. With a range of flavours including the incredibly popular Cookie N’ Cream Supreme (crushed oreos, cookies ’n cream sandwich, whipped cream and chocolate drizzle) and The Cake Shake (rainbow sprinkles, a funfetti cake slice, whipped cream and a cherry), these sweet monstrosities are Black Taps USP and a scandalous embodiment of the freak shake craze originating from Australia in 2015.
We order two shakes between four and struggle to finish both! The cotton candy (strawberry shake, vanilla frosted rim, chocolates, lollipop, rock candy, whipped cream and cotton candy) is a sweet sensation but one that ultimately gets the better of us due to the sheer abundance of toppings. The sweet and salty (peanut butter shake, chocolate frosted rim, M&Ms, peanut butter cups, pretzel rods, whipped cream and chocolate drizzle) goes down a little easier and manages to stay on the right side of sickly sweet. Again the price point is high (AED 69 per shake) but of all the crazy shakes we’ve tried in recent months (see reviews of The Black Lion, Fume and The Coffee Club) the shakes at Black Tap are easily the most impressive – well constructed, well balanced and presenting a genuine wow factor.
Throughout our lunch the Black Tap Abu Dhabi team come across as particularly chirpy and although the service is far from the sharpest in the city, the friendliness is enamoring and little ones are given plenty of attention. With “shake it, flip it” emblazoned across t-shirts and tattoos on show, it’s nice to see staff are encouraged to express their own individual identities and Black Tap certainly enlivens the dining options in Yas Mall which otherwise revolve around run of the mill chains.
The shakes alone are likely to pique the interest of Abu Dhabi diners and make Black Tap worth a visit. Though much like the now defunct Rogo’s rollercoaster restaurant which recently closed on the upper level of the mall, we can’t help but ponder the case for repeat business at Black Tap. Especially considering the prices…
Out & About UAE were guests of Black Tap. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.