Abu Dhabi’s Palate Pleasers: Top 5 Dishes You Shouldn’t Miss

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, boasts not just of rich history and culture, but mouthwatering cuisines as well.

Many of its most famous restaurants offer a taste of the world – from Asia’s Korean and Japanese favorites to the different specialties that tickle the Russian palate. Of course, your experience wouldn’t be complete if you don’t sample local staples that the Emirate is proud of.

Aside from visiting every famous tourist spot in the city, you owe it to yourself to taste both local and international cuisines offered in Abu Dhabi. To help you get started on this journey, here are our top five picks for the best dishes in the Emirate:

1.   Seafood Platter

Served at Eastern Mangroves Boa Steakhouse at the heart of the UAE, the infamous Seafood Platter can rouse the inner seafood lover in you. With a delicious lobster as its primary attraction, this tasty tower of goodness gathered from the sea presents the best-tasting shellfish money can buy.

Representing the crustaceans is a snow crab with its meaty claws spread across the dish. Mussels, oysters, and massive clams and prawns are also part of the show, all of which are served fresh with slices of citrus to enhance their flavor.

2.   Al Harees

Al harees is a traditional Emirati dish made from meat and wheat. Preparing this local dish takes a while, but is definitely worth the wait.

Served during special occasions like weddings and Ramadan, this dish is prepared using similar methods as that of a pulled chicken meat dish. However, this dish traditionally requires the use of a clay pot, which will then be buried on hot coal-filled soil to help it cook further.

Of course, many restaurants no longer follow this method and have replaced hot coal soil cooking with using a more modern clay oven. Once it’s ready, you can sample its salty, rich taste that came from the combination of wheat and meat, with salt to taste.

3.   Salmon Carpaccio

Served at a popular Japanese restaurant within the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, the Salmon Carpaccio is a dish tailored from the traditional Nordic staple called “gravlax.” Comprised of thinly sliced salmon, this version of the Nordic recipe replaces salt curing with a special ponzu sauce that effectively cuts the oiliness of the fish.

Boasting three different flavors (sweet, salty, and sour), the sauce lends the classic dish its Japanese identity and offers much more with its careful plating. Arranged in a circle, the slices of fish are drizzled with the ponzu sauce, sprinkled with fine bits of chives, microgreens, and truffle, and glazed with several drops of truffle oil.

4.   Tuna Tartare

Another fish-based delicacy you should try when in Abu Dhabi is the Tuna Tartare. Described as a light and refreshing dish, this mouthwatering offering is made from Sri Lankan sashimi-grade tuna and mashed avocado. It is then drizzled with a dressing made from brine-soaked lemons that have been pureed to perfection.

The zesty dressing enhances the rich taste of the tuna while keeping the dish pleasing to the eye. The tuna tartare also offers a bit of crunch, thanks to red quinoa grains that are puffed and fried.

5.   Shawarma

Famous for its cameo in several blockbuster movies, and a mainstay in food stalls around the world, shawarma is another dish you have to try when in Abu Dhabi. Dubbed as the most eaten food in the UAE, this bread-wrapped package of mouthwatering goodness is also a favorite snack across the globe.

Shawarma can be made in a lot of different ways. Aside from the choice of lamb, chicken, or beef, this dish can also be enhanced using a variety of spices, garlic sauce, tomatoes, and pickles. It even tastes great when combined with a famous American favorite snack: French fries. Wrap all that together in Arabic Roti, and you have an enticing kebab-like sandwich.

Despite being prepared in many different ways, shawarma shows no signs of decline in popularity in the UAE. In fact, it continues to become more sought-after than ever, especially when offered with refreshing drinks made from fresh fruits like banana and strawberry.

Local and International Flavors Meet

Like its sister Emirate, Dubai, Abu Dhabi is home to many delectable dishes that combine local tastes with flavors from all over the world. These palate pleasers represent only the tip of the iceberg of the gastronomical vacation that awaits you when you visit this city.


Chiara Bisignani is the F&B Marketing Executive at Saadiyat Beach Club. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations of KOI Restaurant & Lounge, Boa Steakhouse and Caramel Restaurant and Lounge in Abu Dhabi.