It has been almost three years since our last visit to The Grill and the Marriott Al Forsan and to be honest, we’re not sure why. Perhaps, living downtown we are spoilt by several excellent steakhouses right on our doorsteps. With the likes of Butcher & Still and The Oak Room making the drive out to Khalifa City feel rather unnecessary.
Abu Dhabi’s dining scene has been inundated with steakhouses in the last decade. South African, North American and British steakhouse concepts represent the signature B&F outlets for many of the capitals five-star hotels. In recent months we’ve begun to see casualties in the sector with the closure of 55 & 5th at the St. Regis Saadiyat (to be replaced by a Greek concept) and the false-start for a South American steakhouse in the Grand Hyatt which has apparently been converted into a Club Lounge.
While steakhouses are notoriously for falling on the more expensive side of dining out, steakhouses throughout Abu Dhabi have begun introducing promotions and slashing menu prices in a bid to get people through the door. Three years after opening The Grill has come back from a brief summer hiatus with a new menu and new pricing structure to remain competitive.
A new menu isn’t the only new thing at The Grill as the restaurant has undergone a slight refresh in terms of decor with new artworks and a free-standing sculpture of a cow – standing proudly at the door, displaying the various cuts available. Forgoing the usual masculine connotations of dark wood and leather furnishings, The Grill is sleek and clean and features a modern design that draws diners attention towards the central show kitchen. Seating comprises comfortable booths separated by chained curtains to maintain privacy.
The one-page menu offers little in the way of surprises which is a shame as differentiation and some unexpected menu choices would help The Grill to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive marketplace. Despite the missed opportunity, all the expected steakhouse favourites are present and correct including burrata and pan seared scallops or foie gras.
Opting for the Creole lump crab cake (AED 95) we’re suitably impressed by the construction of the dish which doesn’t scrimp on the crustacean. We’ve seemingly become so accustomed to restaurants bulking out their crab cakes with an abundance of potato that the light and creamy texture from the sheer abundance of crab, lightly fried to a golden brown colour, leaves us scraping the plate. No doubt bountiful and flavoursome, the crab cakes lacked the fiery Creole flavours we were expecting.
The Grills Wagyu Beef Tartare (AED 99) is a strong dish and a definite must order. Prepared at the table, we witness a vibrant green parsley oil mixed into the chopped beef, quails egg and horseradish. Bringing a nice heat to the cool meat when slathered across the accompanying thin toasts. This element of dinner theatre has become prevalent in recent years but is utilised at The Grill as far more than a presentation gimmick. Providing diners with insight into how the dishes are prepared and the chance to question the team about the intricacies of the textures and ingredients.
When it comes to the meat, The Grill offers a variety of cuts from Argentina, Australia and the USA. The options of ladies cuts and larger cuts for sharing are very appealing especially in a steakhouse environment where diners are often perturbed by the choices on offer. For us, the USDA Fox River (we can’t help by associate the name with television show Prison Break) Prime Grain Fed Tenderloin is the ideal choice. Priced at AED 235 for 220 grams and cooked to a beautiful medium-rare temperature. The meat is both tender and nicely seasoned, accompanied by an array of side dishes and sauces.
Desserts take an exciting turn into unexpected territory and although only three choices plus a cheese board are offered, there is not a New York Cheesecake in sight! Instead, we’re delighted by the 12 hours braised spiced pineapple (AED 45) which has been entirely undersold by the menu description. An egg of coconut sorbet, dusted in chocolate and sitting within a ‘nest’ of pineapple carpaccio flaying out beneath is more than just a visual treat. The dessert is light and full of tropical flavours thanks to a sharp mango and passion fruit coulis that cuts through the sweetness to bring the dish together.
The Araguani Chocolate Soufflé (AED 45) is certainly one for chocolate lovers. Bringing together the 72% Valrhona Araguani chocolate from Venezuela with a lovely Madagascan vanilla ice cream. It’s a match made in heaven, even though the soufflé is slightly denser than expected.
Service throughout is friendly and engaging though perhaps not as assertive as we would’ve liked considering the calibre of the restaurant. When asking for menu recommendations, we have to rely on a list of the most-ordered items rather than an in-depth knowledge of the product.
With so many steakhouses in Abu Dhabi, The Grill’s location is going to be an advantage or disadvantage depending on where you live in the city. Conveniently close to the Khalifa, Al Raha and Yas residential communities – there is probably no better restaurant in the vicinity. Yet for those of us that live downtown, the distance and sheer abundance of alternative options along the way is likely to be a factor. The beef tartare is worth it though!
Location: Marriott Hotel Al Forsan, Street 12, Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi
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Phone: +971 2 201 4000
Out & About UAE were guests of The Grill and all views are our own.