In 1930s Geneva a man by the name of Mr. Boubier developed a unique sauce named “Cafe de Paris.” His unique blend of (still) unknown ingredients was served as an accompaniment to the popular Entrecôte fillet steak, in a single menu concept that has been often imitated throughout Western Europe.
This Cafe de Paris sauce has become such a phenomenon that it’s now available at two locations in the UAE (The Dubai Mall and Abu Dhabi’s Souk Qaryat Al Beri), with the sauce being flown in specially from the original restaurant in Geneva. The sauce may be Entrecote Cafe de Paris’ unique selling point but for us the concept reminded us of the marketing techniques of fast food chain KFC that also utilises a secret recipe to sell their products.
Luckily, Entrecote Cafe de Paris is not KFC and offers a far more upmarket and refined dining experience on the upper level of Abu Dhabi’s Souk Qaryat Al Beri. Having passed through the Souk on countless occasions over the years, we’ve never noticed this unassuming venue tucked away at the top of the escalators near to the main entrance. From the outside the signage is a little mis-leading, neon lettering lit in the tri-colours of the French flag don’t seem to promote a fine dining establishment and the interiors appear very gloomy.
The design appears to be going for a classic French restaurant, with its dark panelling, impressionist paintings, decadent light fittings and pristine white tablecloths. For us the feeling is less classical and more outdated, like dining on a cruise ship and one that’s unfortunately lacking in atmosphere. The interiors don’t live up to the excitement and charm of other steakhouses in the capital such as Butcher & Still or The Foundry, which is a real shame, considering the promise of the food. We however, struggled to find a connection to the restaurant space even though it’s unlike anywhere else in the capital.
Whereas the original establishment in Geneva only sold one type of steak, expansion into the global market has required a little bit of diversification. Here in the UAE, diners can select from grass fed New Zealand beef, superior quality Australian Angus, 400 day grain fed Japanese Wagyu or the Japanese Black Wagyu. A reduced menu that offers only a handful of dishes may be limiting (vegetarians should keep walking) but it’s a refreshing concept and one that has worked remarkably well for the likes of Burger & Lobster.
Within minutes of sitting down we’re tucking into a large bowl of green salad, coated in a light French dressing. It’s no frills and relatively simple, which appears to be the theme of Entrecote Cafe de Paris.
Our 600 day grain fed Japanese Black Wagyu (9+) appears moments later and is presented on top of a burner. It’s a novel idea that helps to keep the sauce piping hot but with the Wagyu immediately mixed into the Cafe de Paris sauce, were given neither the opportunity to admire the marbling of the meat or to sample it’s flavours without a heavy coating of sauce.
The sauce itself is very good offering a taste that is slightly salty and really buttery. The restaurant manager indicates that the sauce is made with 80% butter as well as a blend of herbs that includes parsley. This is as much as he knows and despite being able to taste hints of garlic (and possibility cheese), the mystery of the Cafe de Paris sauce remains. Meanwhile the Wagyu itself is succulent and tender but we’re not convinced that it warrants the AED 595 price tag of the dish.
Also important to note is that all steaks come with unlimited orders of French fries, thinly cut and beautifully crisp.
With more desserts on offer than main courses we’re still in classical territory. Brownies, cheesecake, chocolate mousse and tiramisu offer no surprises. The inclusion a sticky date pudding may appeal to the local population, who appear to be the main patrons of the restaurant.
We’re persuaded to try three of the desserts. The Red Velvet Lava Cake comes with a 25 minute wait time and is certainly vibrant. The cake itself was slightly too dense (and a little dry) for our liking but the ‘lava’ sauce is thick and velvety.
Profiteroles au Chocolate de L’Entrecote are the restaurants signature dessert and appear as a gigantic tower. Large balls of Choux pastry are stuffed full of ice cream before being drizzled in chocolate sauce and sliced almonds. It’s a good dish, but one that we struggled to finish. If you’re a fan then you’ll likely want to indulge in Entrecotes ‘Guilty Tuesday’ promotion, in which diners receive unlimited profiteroles (for free) during the course of their meal.
Fondant au Chocolat is a dish we would always order and despite trying to order out of our comfort zone, it arrives on our table anyway. It’s a good fondant with the expected amount of ‘ooze’ and is complemented by a light vanilla ice cream, helping to cut through the richness of the chocolate.
Service throughout was passable and we found the pacing of the meal to be far too quick. There’s barely time to relax before the onslaught of food arrives and it feels as though the team are trying to rush you out of the door as quickly as possible. Restaurant manager Issam is the saving grace, liaising with guests in a way that clearly shows his passion for the brand.
Entrecote Cafe de Paris makes for a good dining option in Souk Qaryat Al Beri. Although the discreet location and lack of Sheikh Zayed Mosque view may be a deterrent for some. With a new outdoor terrace scheduled for construction during Ramadan 2017 the option for al fresco dining will add some definite plus points to the venue.
While we enjoyed the food (the secret sauce in particular) we did struggle to connect with the restaurant space itself. We may be in the minority here and the restaurant does appear to have resonated with the local population, bringing in a steady stream of Emirati diners.
With so many trendy venues popping up in the Souk in recent months (we spotted Itran, a new Moroccan joint) and old favourites Ushna and Sho Cho, Entrecote Cafe de Paris may need a strong marketing push to truly compete. While the original restaurant may have customers queuing out of the doors and sharing tables, the concept hasn’t had quite the same impact here in the Middle East.
We were invited to dine at Entrecote Cafe de Paris. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.