When Al Meylas, the lobby lounge at the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi announced earlier this month that they were introducing a raw vegan menu, we didn’t know what to expect! Our experience of vegan food is limited to a couple of unsuccessful attempts at following the Avant-Garde Vegan’s YouTube recipes and a pre-conceived expectation of food that’s ultimately bland and lacking in texture.
Having achieved great success with vegan cookery classes at the Four Seasons Bahrain Bay, Mexican born Chef Christian Buenrostro joins the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi in the position of Executive Sous Chef, bringing his unique culinary sensibility to the UAE capital. Yet it’s the methodology and intricate culinary techniques involved in constructing such a unique and on-trend menu that is to be applauded. For according to the kitchen rules of raw cooking, the food is heated or “cooked” at temperatures no greater than 47 Celsius to preserve nutrients and enzymes, diminish the energy used for cooking and keep food in its most natural form.
As huge carnivores – you’re more likely to find us dining at Butcher and Still than the central meeting point of Al Meylas – we’re clearly not the target demographic for a raw vegan menu but were pleasantly surprised by trio of starters, mains and desserts that now sit proudly on the first page of the restaurants gold embossed leather menu.
Inspired by a commitment to fresh local ingredients and a desire to cater to an array of healthy lifestyles, the raw vegan menu at Al Meylas begins with simplicity in dishes such as the raw kale Caesar salad (AED 90) before building like a crescendo into far more complex territory. Taking inspiration from Europe, Asia and Latin American the eclectic range of dishes belie the notion of vegan food being flavourless and uninspired. With a collection of raw vegan baby gem tacos (AED 65) substituting the expected ground-beef filling for a sunflower seed paste with guacamole daintily wrapped within quaint lettuce leaves. While the mixed field mushroom ceviche (AED 75) combines six species of mushroom with avocado and fresh jalapeños. Each dish boasts a robust flavour profile, with undeniable citrusy notes and a sweet aroma from the ceviche and an earthy freshness for the tacos.
While we may not have loved every dish, we can certainly appreciate the techniques and admire the ambition that goes into the conceptualisation of such a menu. For us, the Pad Thai (AED 75) couldn’t quite replicate the complexities of the popular Thai staple despite a well-rounded ingredients list of zucchini, carrot, red cabbage, bean sprouts and cashew nuts.
However, for those perturbed by raw vegan, we challenge you to try the raw vegan pizza (AED 90) and not be impressed! Utilising macadamia spread for the crust the Italian inspired pizza comes generously topped with sun-dried tomato pesto, Heirloom tomatoes and Rocca leaves in a dish that’s an absolute triumph!
A portion of the raw vegan nachos (AED 110) is another must-order with the ‘tortilla’ chips meticulously crafted using a complex dehydration process that takes approximately 48 hours to complete. Providing diners with an added appreciation as they tuck into a fiery mix of spicy beans, guacamole and Pico De Gallo Sauce.
Three desserts are uniquely different and include an undeniably light blueberry cheesecake (AED 60) with a base made from a combination of walnuts and dates. Chocolate lovers will likely be happy with the fudge choco cake (AED 60) that veers away from richness thanks to the brownies.
While our summer in Hawaii left us addicted to Hualai Banana Cream Pie, you can imagine our disappointment to find there’s no close substitute here in the UAE. Everything changed with the arrival to the table of the Banana Pie (AED 60) crafted by the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi’s Assistant Pastry Chef Rasika Mahina. We’re not going to lie – the tropical flavour of the pie put a HUGE smile our face! Featuring a macadamia nut crust and a light banana and coconut crème filling, the dessert alone is enough to encourage repeat visits to Al Meylas (we even got the recipe from the chef, which we will attempt to make at home).
The raw vegan menu proves that Four Seasons Abu Dhabi is once again paving the way when it comes to culinary innovation in the capital and judging by the amount of DMs we’ve received on Instagram concerning this menu, there’s a clear niche in the market that has been tapped. The nine vegan dishes not only set a new standard in healthy hotel dining but are generously portioned and prove that vegan food can be both innovative and exciting.
Looking to try out the vegan raw menu at the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi? Use our exclusive Careem promo code OUTANDABRUNCH for 50% credit back on rides to and from the hotel until December 30th 2019.
Out & About UAE were guests of Al Meylas and all views are our own.