While enjoying a recent family staycation at the fantastic Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, we had the distinct pleasure of dining at Zaitoun, the hotels award winning Italian restaurant. We were so impressed that we decided to give the restaurant a separate blog post all of its own… it was that good!
Situated on the ground floor of the resort, Zaitoun is not in keeping with the rest of the hotel. The hotel has a distinct underwater theme that is all about family inclusion and although children are more than welcome to dine, there is little doubt that Zaitoun is a more upmarket affair. The type of place you would go for a special occasion or a date and one that feels somewhat exclusive.
Abandoning the ocean theme of the hotel lobby, Zaitoun features plush furnishings and an abundance of dark wood. It is a space that oozes class and sophistication, with perfectly white upholstery and green curtains, wine racks feature prominently and guests could be mistaken for falling under the illusion that they were inside a Tuscan villa.
The name Zaitoun is the Arabic word for olive, a staple ingredient of Italian cuisine. Though the Arabian influence doesn’t end with just the name, with flourishes of Arabian inspired decor interspersed throughout the dining area, from traditional lamps to the cushions and other soft furnishing. Like the rest of the hotel, the front of the restaurant features spectacular floor to ceiling windows that provide exceptional views across the hotel grounds to the glittering waters of the Arabian Gulf.
For those seeking extra privacy, there is a beautiful private dining room featuring a mural of an Italian beachside scene that could be the Amalfi coast or the beautiful island of Sicily. Large mirrors punctuate a space filled with a large rustic dining table suitable for up to eight guests. The entirety of the restaurant promotes comfort and sophisticated elegance, with private alcoves illuminated by candle light, it is unfortunate to note that the restaurant is only open in the evenings (and closed on Saturday nights).
Dining at Zaitoun there was not a pizza in sight! Instead guests are were offered the option of two menus, each displaying a three course meal. The menu’s change regularly to incorporate daily specials and reflect the season produce available to the chefs. Staff are very accommodating and allowed us to mix and match from both menus, to fully customise our own Italian feast. This was the first example of the impeccable service at Zaitoun, where the staff are really attentive while still allowing you the comfort of dining with privacy.
We loved the small touches throughout the dining room, such as the intertwined bottles of balsamic and olive oil and the splashes of vibrant colour that adorn the plates. Our meal began with an amuse bouche, a simple bite sized horse d’œuvre comprising a slice of cucumber topped with pastrami and a creamy sauce. Accompanied by freshly warmed breads, olives and dips of sun dried tomato and pesto.The bread was so soft (like mini pillows) that we couldn’t resist ordering extra.
Our weekend at Jebel Dhanna was one of excessive eating, so in a bid to be ‘healthy’ both myself and Mrs. Out & About, opted to begin with salad. I ordered caprese, the traditional Italian salad of tomato, basil and mozzarella. The version here at Zaitoun used bulbous mozzarella balls (as opposed to thin slices) that were stained with beetroot to provide a rosy pink colour resembling a dragon fruit rather than a dairy item. With a drizzle of aged balsamic, hardened bread croutons and delightfully sweet candied walnuts, there is little doubt that the presentation of the dish, complete with a lone slice of artichoke was impressive.
‘Insulate mista’ was a large portion with rucola, frisee and romain lettuce, artichokes, spring onions and cherry tomatoes. With an abundance of fresh crisp leaves, the balsamic dressing was a little sharp for our tastes.
Our main courses consisted of ‘Pesce’ a beautifully baked piece of fresh hammer with grilled zucchini, wilted spinach, roast new potatoes and a dill beurre blanc sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly to provide a soft flaky texture, while the spinach had the earthy flavour that you would expect and combined with the creamy dill sauce made for a delightful meal.
Having the little ones with us, I drew the short straw of ordering pasta to share with them (despite having my eye on the pan seared sea bass). To my surprise the ‘penne cacciatore salsa’ with chicken, mushrooms and olives and a homemade tomato sauce was pleasing with a nice blend of herbs and a powerful tomatoey flavour. Though with the kids delving in, I didn’t get to eat too much!
When it came to dessert the choice was easy. The light creme brûlée had a beautifully caramelised top, which once broken revealed the sweet and luciously creamy interior flecked with vanilla. The flavour was light and not at all overpowering and came with a generous biscuit to add additional texture.
We have proclaimed our love for tiramisu countless times on this blog, but its safe to say that after a run of failed attempts that we have sampled recently, the one at Zaitoun restored our faith in the UAE’s ability to recreate this Italian classic. With lashings of cream, biscotti and coffee infused mascarpone that packed a distinct punch, this was one of the better tiramisu’s that we’ve had here.
It’s such a shame that Zaitoun is so far from Abu Dhabi, a two and half hour drive makes it an unrealistic prospect for an evening meal, unless you are staying at the hotel, or you are a resident of the nearby town of Ruwais. The plush surroundings, award winning food and attentive service makes Zaitoun the standout restaurant of the four dining options available at the Danat Jebel Dhanna and one that guests should most definately seek out. It is without a doubt the best restaurant for several hundred kilometres.
Location: Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, Jebel Dhanna, Western Region, Abu Dhabi
Hours: 6:30pm – 10:30pm (closed Saturdays)
Phone: 02 801 2222
We were invited to dine at Zaitoun but all views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.
Read more from Out & About UAE at the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort: A Weekend Staycation At Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort