Believe it or not, this is and was my first ever Zuma experience. A restaurant almost everyone I know has eaten at, except for me. But after finally getting to experience the brand, I can now tell you that I’m completely in love. Zuma Abu Dhabi is in my opinion the best high-end Japanese izakaya style restaurant in the UAE. While the menu certainly packs prices to match its reputation – it also packs some serious flavours, cocktails and magnificent views.
From the outside, Zuma is just a tiny glass cube and only a small seating area can be seen through the double glazing. But head downstairs and a Tardis like restaurant awaits you. A gorgeous bar, huge dining room, open kitchen and magnificent views from your seat across the Arabian Gulf. The restaurant is entirely indoors so for those seeking to enjoy a seafood extravaganza while their oysters bake in 40 degrees heat – look elsewhere.
Our Zuma journey started at the bar and from the moment you take you’re first sip from any of their classic cocktails – you just know it’s going to be special. My favourite was the refreshing Zuma gin and tonic with orange zest peel, the latter leaping out from the glass.
Seated to our table and decisions made from the very extensive menu, the first few dishes actually turned out to be some of my favourites. Sliced yellowtail with green chilli relish, ponzu and pickled garlic was a dish that could only be described as astonishing. Every mouthful was a flavour sensation and the pickled garlic a dream. Sliced seared tuna was another stunning plate of food, mixed into a chilli daikon and ponzu sauce. All of our food was paired with cups of sake and led us onto a journey of discover and sake pairings I never knew could be so good.
One of the most simplest, yet effective dishes was the thinly sliced seabass with yuzu, truffle oil and salmon roe. Very fresh and very juicy. All of the sweet flavours and balanced acidity quite literally left my mouth-watering in utter enjoyment.
Adding a little texture into our meal by the way of crispy goodness, we ordered what was probably the best variation of lobster popcorn I’ve ever eaten – served with a side of wasabi mayonnaise. A surprisingly difficult thing to cook so perfectly – but Zuma managed it. Even the gyoza were astonishingly good, filled with a prawn and black cod filling which packed out right to the edges.
Two dishes in particular done a brilliant job of showcasing the quality of Zuma’s ingredients. I’ve eaten beef tataki many times in my life, but Zuma take it to new heights with perfectly sliced wagyu beef in a ponzu sauce and shaved truffle. The smell, the flavors and the presentation – it couldn’t have been more perfect if it tried. And then there was the sashimi platter. The tuna was one of the finest examples I’ve come across and the scorched red snapper was a revelation. The first time I’ve had it this was before and it certainly won’t be the last.
Choosing what to eat at Zuma is always going to be a hard task, give it all being so amazing, but if time and money is on your side – order as much as you possibly can. Two more noteworthy dishes were the cod and beef. But this wasn’t just any cod or beef. The beautiful piece of miso marinated black cod is wrapped in a hoba leaf and served with a side of an unknown sauce (I shamefully forgot) – which took the whole dish to new heights. The piece of fish was even given a massage with ginger root which meant for a lovely aroma. Rib eye steak was cooked on the robata grill and came in a pool of wafu sauce. The latter a mixture of sesame oil and soy sauce. Something I’ll be putting on just about everything back home.
Believe it or not our meal got even better with the arrival of desserts. It’s my favourite part of the meal and one I always look forward to most. I can’t quite remember exactly what our gigantic, sauce dribbling first dessert was – but it was legendary. Scoops of home-made ice cream were covered in walnuts, chunks of toffee sponge and warm toffee sauce. Words can’t even begin to describe just how good it was. The praline chocolate fondant was also stunning. Perfectly runny and oh-so indulgent.
We finished up our incredible meal at the bar with some more incredible cocktails. This time is was my favourite – the classic Negroni. Using homemade infusions and quality spirits, all of the ingredients are mixed together and the empty glass first prepared by blow-torching a plank of wood till black, then placing the glass over the top to relish in the sweet smokey flavours.
If a Negroni is your thing, you won’t find better. Shaken, stirred, mixed, stamped and served on a wooden board with a slice of Zuma chocolate. I could have easily stayed and sipped on many more if I had the time. I’m so glad I finally got to experience Zuma Abu Dhabi and it’s only made me want to experience it right here in London. If you’re visiting Abu Dhabi and looking for an exquisite meal to truly enhance your experience – then look no further.