ITALIAN INDULGENCE

When Roberto’s Abu Dhabi opened at The Galleria on Al Maryah Island, it changed the entire landscape of high-end dining. Where few venues have managed to capture the ultralavish package of setting, service and quality of food, Roberto’s showed real promise in ticking all of these boxes. Three years on, FACT’s Shabana Adam revisits the restaurant to put all of this to the test…

Roberto’s Abu Dhabi is one of the city’s most exciting dining destinations that well and truly epitomises the concept of fine-dining and high standards. Presenting itself as a luxury hotspot, Roberto’s is the result of a contemporary concept meets polished interiors. With both indoor and outdoor seating – making Roberto’s ready for each season – even when the place is full, it feels comfortable and discreet.

Located on the ground floor of The Galleria, the best way to reach Roberto’s is via the Rosewood hotel’s lobby and an elevator going down. On approach, you’ll never guess that the inside is a sprawling area with a lovely, large dining room dubbed Il Ristorante, a long marble Crudo Bar (where live seafood preparations can be seen), the climate-controlled outdoor terrace and a modern bar-cum-lounge called Salotto where the crowds gather for inventive mixology and sophisticated nights out. It’s basically for revelers who want to keep their food and the party in one place.

Start off with a fruity mocktail (or whatever happens to be your liquid kryptonite) at Salotto. The moodlit area creates an intimate setting, ideal for evening dates or more private gatherings. Take a seat at one of the elegant tables in Il Ristorante and get ready to be wowed by the menu. With 2 Michelin star Chef Enrico Bartolini as the dedicated Chief Culinary Advisor to Roberto’s, the menu here has remained a classic tribute to Italy with creative cooking methods and modern-day presentation. Il Ristorante’s signature white marble Crudo Bar can be found artfully displaying a hand selected array of seafood, to be prepared before your eyes. Being the complete food connoisseurs that we are, we got straight to it.

During this tasting of signature menu items, we begin with some familiar dishes – which turned out to be far from simple. The Carpaccio Di Manzo is beef carpaccio with wild rocket and parmesan shavings. In a dish as modest as this, high quality (ideally grass-fed) beef tenderloin is a must for its fresh, pure, meaty flavour. At Roberto’s, it’s sliced paper thin and practically melts in your mouth. The Tartara Mista Di Pesce is an amalgamation of tuna, salmon and sea bass tartare with pomelo and grapefruit, and sesame carta musica crisps. Not only is the plating made for an insta-worthy shot, the taste is everything we could have hoped for. Our favourite seafood coated in citrus excellence makes for a refined choice indeed.

The most pleasant surprise of the evening came from a dish that is present on countless menus across the city. However, it is simply outstanding at Roberto’s. We’re talking about the humble golden fried calamari with its incredible crispy texture. We’d happily eat this like popcorn at the cinema. SO good. The creativity continues into the Polpo, Cacio E Pepe, E Carciofi, which is slow-cooked, roasted octopus. Our waiter tells us that it’s a tribute to Abu Dhabi, mingling modern techniques with Ancient Roman ingredients: artichoke and cacio e pepe sauce, made of Pecorino cheese, milk and black pepper. Hands down, it’s the best octopus dish we’ve tried in the entire region. With a charred smokiness on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside – it’s a revelation.

The Marinated Black Cod is unlike anything we’ve ever come across. Cooked in a banana leaf, the smoky smell it emanates hits our senses before we even see the fish. Unwrapped at the table, our knives cut through it like butter. Retaining a nice silky bite, the only thing you’ll be left saying is HELLO. THANK YOU. GOODBYE. The Ossobuco Tradizionale Con Risotto Allo Zafferano is the dish of the night. The saffron risotto is a nod to the local palate, whilst the slow-cooked veal is like a warm hug from a loved one – rich and flavour-packed, complementing the risotto flawlessly.

When it comes to dessert, there’s plenty to please every stomach. Chocolate fondant with raspberry lemon thyme sorbet and yuzu jelly is a reliable and delicious option whilst Roberto’s Ciocco Colato is a plate of warm 72% dark chocolate foam with hazelnut ice-cream – magic for those with a genuine sweet tooth. The menu here is a match for its dining counterparts in terms of quality for your money’s worth. Service, attentiveness and the knowledge demonstrated by staff also adds to the wholesome experience. The experiment, intrigue, and passion for good food and drinks is what has helped to keep Roberto’s Abu Dhabi at the top of its game. ✤


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