The Sofitel Abu Dhabi is a property we’re pretty unfamiliar with. Despite a fantastic location in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s bustling Corniche, the food and beverage options have never really jumped out at us. A five-star hotel boasting eight outlets of which we can only recall two (the popular Jazz & Fizz and the poolside Grills @ Chill’O) is a slightly worrying notion, but we believe things are set to change with the arrival of Parmigiana
Situated on level P8, the restaurant space has undergone a number of guises in recent years, none of which seemed to connect with Abu Dhabi diners. Parmigiana offers something a little different. An Italian restaurant, casual in nature without being soulless and one that provides a sense of hospitable charm. The simple furnishings, chequered tablecloths and black and white portraits of American Italian movie stars (we spot Marlon Brando, Danny DeVito, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sylvester Stallone) are completely overshadowed by the view.
Our eyes are drawn outwards across the capitals dazzling water front and dining at sunset, we manage to glimpse Lulu Island and the waters of the Arabican Gulf dotted with traditional wooden dhows, just as the sun slips below the horizon.
Aside from the vantage point the restaurant interiors have a lot to offer. It’s an assault on the senses, with the aromas of fresh bread and cheese emanating from the kitchen and adding extra appeal in the process. The service levels are also unexpected for a restaurant of such a casual nature, with staff taking ample time to guide diners through the menu and ensure a seamless dining experience, punctuated by friendly conversation and an immediate sense of warmth.
The name Parmigiana derives from the Sicilian word “Palmigiana”, meaning “shutters.” In the traditional Italian dish, tomatoes are layered with eggplant slices to resemble the palm-thatched roofs of Sicilian beach houses. We may not have tred the Parmigiana here, but the concise menu presents a number of uncomplicated Italian favourites, featuring a good (albeit small) selection of pizzas and pastas.
As creatures of habit, we begin with Buratta (AED 55), beautifully presented with ‘spears’ of Heirloom tomatoes, slow roasted cherry tomatoes and a dash of olive oil. The burrata is simplicity at its very best, with the creamy cheese cutting perfectly through the acidity of the tomatoes. Although not featured on the menu, we also order the Caprese Salad, which despite substituting burrata for mozzarella and pesto, in essence, remains the same dish.
Carpaccio (AED 55) is another of our ‘go to’ dishes when eating Italian. Thin slices of beef tenderloin, drizzled with lemon and finished with a sprinkling of Parmesan represent a good indicator to gauge the restaurant against other similarly themed concepts. The Carpaccio at Parmigiana is a good but doesn’t quite match our favourite version of the dish (currently found at Todd English’s Olives).
When it comes to the next course, we try and cover all the bases. A Risotto Ai Funghi Porcini (AED 65) comprises a rich blend of mushroom, parmesan and butter, topped with slices of fragrant truffle. It’s a well-executed dish with the risotto rice maintaining the right balance between tender and firm.
The Tagliata Di Filetto Con Rucola Scaglie E Balsamico (AED 75) is a steal and makes for one of the cheapest in the city. Sliced Angus beef sits on a bed of Rucola salad and certainly looks the part but is cooked more than our requested medium rare and ultimately fails to make an impression. A sign of good service, the outlet manager immediately picks up on the fact and asks us for feedback and improvements on the dish. A rarity on the UAE dining scene and one that we greatly appreciated.
Parmigiana’s pizza is likely the highlight. A crisp golden base is packed full of bold flavour thanks to the inclusion of garlic oil. We sample the traditional Margherita (AED 60), a vibrant Frutti Di Mare (AED 68) sprinkled with mixed seafood, the signature Napoli (AED 60) topped with anchovies and capers and the Verdure Al Griglia (AED 60). A good option for vegetarians that’s piled high with grilled vegetables.
Regular readers will know about our obsession with Tiramisu (AED 45) and Parmigiana’s doesn’t disappoint. A literal slab of coffee, mascarpone and Savoiardi biscuits that’s more than enough for two people, manages to bring the correct flavour profile to this traditional Italian dessert (an intense coffee infusion complemented by the freshness from the mascarpone). It’s proven difficult to find a good Tiramisu in Abu Dhabi (the alcohol, or lack of, is generally the problem) but Parmigiana have succeeded where so many others have failed.
Our dining companion selects the Pannacotta (AED 40), beautifully presented with a selection of fresh summer fruits to enhance the subtleties of the light vanilla mix.
Parmigiana is a welcome addition to the Sofitel’s dining repertoire. Offering competitive pricing at a time when diners are becoming more astute in their search for value for money. Having opened on the 9th July, Parmigiana has already struck a chord with young families and the business lunch crowd in the two months since opening.
We’d highly recommend grabbing one of the semi-private tables (with their slatted screens) which offer an extra level of privacy to marvel at those views. Parmigiana’s casual nature, uncomplicated food and hospitable service would indicate that you’ll leave feeling part of the family.
Location: Level P8, Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, Al Markaziya, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 12pm – 3:30pm / 7pm – 10:30pm (closed Saturdays)
Phone: 02 813 7777
We were invited to dine at Parmigiana. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE. Interior images used courtesy of Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche.