Hakkasan has long been one of our favorite spots to impress guests from out of town. The Cantonese restaurant with a coveted Michelin Star in London is about more than just excellent dim sum. Situated in the East Wong of the majestic Emirates Palace the location alone makes Hakkasan’s outpost in the capital worth a visit.
There’s little doubt that Hakkasan Abu Dhabi presents a stunning venue blending opulence with the distinctly Asian ambiance of a Chinese tea house. Wooden screens and carved lattice work separate the bar and dining areas, replicating the iconic decor of the flagship London location, a modern-ethnic styling if you will. Sleek steel mixed with backlit blue glass are signifiers of the bar area which is one of the longest and best-stocked in the capital.
Previously known as the Hakka Brunch, Hakkasan Abu Dhabi have recently revamped their Friday brunch concept, bringing it into line with the Hakkasan Dubai located at Emirates Financial towers (review here). This is not the only new addition to Hakkasan in the capital who have recently opened an expansive terrace, wrapping around the back of the venue and mixing together wooden bridges with cabanas and stunning skyline views.
Brunch at Hakkasan begins with a simple Crab and Sweetcorn Supreme Soup a dish that offers robust flavours but is probably not the best means of wowing first time diners to the restaurant. Thankfully the dim sum follow in quick succession with a selection of steamed and fried intricate parcels brought to the table.
The concept of dim sum originated in Southern China as an accompaniment to yum cha (tea drinking). Travellers on the ancient Silk Road would stop at roadside tea houses and consume dim sum as a snack to accompany their tea. Things may’ve progressed somewhat since then, but in essence the idea remains the same. The selection at the Hakkasan Brunch includes Szechuan style wontons swimming in a spicy sauce, the traditional and rather delicate Shrimp Har Gau, pan-fried tarot cake, crystal Wagyu beef dumpling, chicken floss triangle and the Mushroom dumpling with a purple colouration that’s just as startling as the flavours.
Dim sum have always been the strongest selling point for Hakkasan and we can still recall the Crispy Sea Prawn with Foie Gras from our last Hakkasan brunch almost two years ago. As a firm favourite we’re pleased to see these are one of the few items that remain from the original concept and they compete for our attention with the new Wagyu Beef and Mushroom Puff, presenting somewhat of a textural oddity resembling the bandaged wrappings of an Egyptian mummy but delivering an impeccable taste.
The Golden Fried Soft Shell Crab is our favourite of the new additions. Served with red chilli and showcasing a light texture that seemingly dissolves in the mouth, it’s a careful choice that works to highlight one of the most significant dishes from the a la carte menu and acts as a means to encourage a return visit for dinner.
The signature Peking Duck is also front and centre in the brunch and can be found as a live station in the centre of the restaurant. Dependent on the brunch package there’s also an option for the Applewood Smoked Peking Duck presented under a dome of whimsical smoke. This smoked version makes for an interesting alternative, filleted rather than shredded and presented in similar fashion to a vol-au-vent than the expected rolled pancakes.
Moving away from the buffet element of the brunches’ previous guise is a smart move, making for a more upmarket and refined experience. Stir Fried Black Pepper Rib Eye Beef and Steamed Wild Prawns are both lighter than expected but as we have often found with Hakkasan, the main courses (aside from the aforementioned duck) struggle to make the same impact as the dim sum. No doubt a showcase of quality ingredients and masterful flavoring but we would’ve liked to see more innovation in terms of both presentation and the main course selection.
Desserts arrive on a traditional tea stand and forgo the usual Chinese desserts (banana fritters anyone) in favour of less gelatinous items such as macaroons, truffles, cheese cake and fresh fruits.
Thankfully, the problematic service issues that plagued the Hakkasan Dubai brunch preview have not translated to the capital. We struggled to find fault as plates were cleared and drinks re-filled without us noticing. Service is first class and discreet helping to amplify the sophistication of the experience, while Executive Chef Lee Kok Hua brings a personable element to brunch, roaming the restaurant floor and engaging with guests in a bid to explain the essence of what makes Hakkasan so special.
Hakkasan has long been a name associated with the highest levels in fine-dining, serving Cantonese specialities to an upmarket clientele in global locations such as New York, Miami, Shanghai and Jakarta. As a brand, Hakkasan has long been held in high regard, forging a strong worldwide reputation and garnering a number of accolades in the process, including the elusive Michelin star for their flagship London location.
Hakkasan continues to set the bar for Chinese cuisine and a sense of sophistication here in the capital and returning to Hakkasan has provided us with inspiration for a new section to the Out & About website. One where we look to compare the original flagship locations of popular brands against their UAE counterparts (patent coming soon). How do these ‘franchised’ outlets compare to the coveted original? Can they do the brand justice or are they just taking the name and reputation to make a quick buck?
We can feel our trip to London this summer culminating in the first of these posts – Hakkasan, Asia De Cuba, Coya, Lima – let us know which one you’d like to see here on Out & About UAE as a comparative piece.
The Hakkasan Brunch is available every Friday from 12pm – 4pm:
AED 318 (non-alcoholic)
AED 438 (house beverages)
Location: Emirates Palace, Corniche Road, Al Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook / Twitter
Hours: 3pm – 2am
Phone: 02 690 7739
Out & About UAE were guests of Hakkasan. All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE.