Giant Naan & Butter Chicken: Kareem’s | Ramada Abu Dhabi

It’s not very often that we fully research a restaurant before visiting to write a review for Out & About UAE but when it came to Kareem’s in Abu Dhabi we instantly found ourselves reaching for our trusty Zomato app.

We’re not sure if this was due to the less than desirable location in the four star Ramada Hotel at the far flung end of Abu Dhabi’s corniche, or the fact that we’d heard virtually nothing about the place prior to our invitation. What we found was a very mixed bag of reviews, some overwhelmingly positive and others well… not so much. With a last minute lunchtime opening in our calendar, we decided to pop in and decide for ourselves.

In honesty the hotel itself is nothing to write home about, let’s just say a business hotel in need of some updating. The polite concierge directs us towards a specific lift, one that only goes to Kareem’s. The golden lift is compact with a low ceiling and barely enough room for two people but after ascending just one floor the glass doors slide open to reveal a surprising venue.

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We were possibly expecting something a little more dated and traditional but laid out before us was a smallish restaurant for approximately eighty covers awash with textiles and coloured lamps. The private lift certainly adds an element of intimacy to proceedings and gives off that New York penthouse feel. Kareem’s is by no means a fine dining establishment and while the interiors are not going to win any awards the colourful cushions and a rainbow of coloured fabrics are more appealing than we’d been led to believe.

A glance at the menu reveals very reasonable prices and with a Friday brunch for just AED 69 net, we’re dubious about the quality. Our appetiser of chicken soup does little to hasten our fears, slightly too watery and covered in globules of oil – we’re not off to a good start.

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Moving swiftly onwards, Kareem’s kebabs were truly excellent. Masterfully spiced and served on a sizzling skillet amid a variety of vegetables, the heat level from the spices is not overpowering and the meat was wonderfully tender. The trio of chicken resembles the colours on the Indian flag with each colouration representing a different level of spice – white Murgh Malai Tikka (normal), green Murgh Hari Mirch Tikka (medium) and the orange Special Murgh Tandoori (hot). The tandoori kebabs of both the chicken and prawn were the definite highlight of our meal.

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Next up were the curries and though the Mutton Rogan Josh was far too fatty for us to really enjoy, the sweet and creamy butter chicken was fantastic, as was the Dum ki Daal (good but not quite as good as the version served at Punjab Grill). Perfect for dipping, these sauce heavy dishes come with a variety of freshly baked breads and the gigantic garlic naan should not be missed. Overflowing from its wicker presentation basket the warm naan is brushed with butter and an abundance of chopped garlic that had us salivating at both the appearance and the aroma.
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Though full, we sampled the signature biryani which was unfortunately a bit of a disappointment. The rice is beautifully cooked but the flavours seemed to be severely lacking, a small hint of sweetness was all that we got and on the whole we found the dish to be a little bland and underwhelming. A disappointing fact given the aroma released when the breaded lit was cut from the traditional clay presentation pot. Kareem’s biryani’s have a very good reputation in the capital and it’s rumoured that the royal family order regularly from here but for us they were perhaps the weakest element of our dining experience.

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Regular readers will know that we’re nor overly fond of traditional Indian desserts and while we admire the methodology and culinary finesse, we seem to be in the minority when it comes to our overall enjoyment of them. A Gulab Jamunserved in a thick syrupy mixture did little to change our minds, nor did the Gajar Halwa and its blend of carrots, milk, sugar and ghee. The Malai Phirni was more to our liking, an Indian rice pudding topped with chopped nuts and flower petals.

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Kareem’s may be piggy-backing off of the successful Mumbai outpost, where chef Kareem Dhanani has crafted a popular eatery based on his twenty years of experience in some of India’s finest kitchens. A lack of alcohol (the restaurant is unlicensed) and a feeling of Russian roulette when it comes to the varying quality of dishes, makes the Abu Dhabi restaurant a difficult recommendation. Stick with the reasonably priced kebabs, breads and the butter chicken and we think you’ll enjoy it, but venture away from these staple menu items and you may have an entirely different experience!

It’s not all bad and Kareem’s has plenty of room for improvement. The potential is there, especially when taking into consideration the reasonable pricing structure but there are a number of things that need to be addressed:

  • Presentation of dishes needs to be cleaned up and it feels like little care and attention has gone into the plates as they leave the kitchen.
  • Service varies greatly depending on which member of the team is serving but often the waiters are hovering in such close proximity to the table that you feel a little uncomfortable as a diner.
  • The varying quality of dishes and overall lack of consistency.

The front page of the menu proclaims Kareem’s to be a fusion restaurant blending traditional tastes with contemporary trends but we struggled to see this concept come out in any of the dishes we sampled. While we certainly admire the Kareem’s mission to “have every customer inspired to come back again and again”, we’re not sure if we’ll be returning anytime soon.

Location: Ramada Abu Dhabi, Mina Road, Tourist Club Area, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook
Phone: 02 418 2565

We were invited to dine at Kareem’s. All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.

Kareem's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato