When Mariam first told me about her new favorite restaurant 18 Degrees, I was a bit skeptical. Abu Dhabi hasn't had the best reputation when it comes to culinary delicacies. I experienced this first hand when I was part of the judging panel for the Gourmet Abu Dhabi Star Awards this past February. I was in charge of reviewing and ranking several different food outlets in the area, and sadly had to report my disappointment. There were a few good ones, but my expectations were much higher. Since the awards ceremony, this new restaurant came onto the scene, and I haven't stopped hearing about the impression that it's left on people all around town.
The name is most intriguing, 18º, which refers to the building it's located in, which also happens to be tilting at an 18º angle (the Hyatt Capital Gate Hotel in the ADNEC building). The view from the restaurant is spectacular, and really makes you feel like your enjoying this phenomenal meal in a heavenly cloud on top of Abu Dhabi.
As we sat down at our table with a view, we were served a rich olive duo consisting of kalamata and pimiento stuffed green olives. Already off to a good start, these olives were some of the best I've tasted, and have set the bar very high for the rest of the meal to come.
Next up, we enjoyed this tender, and flavorful Octopus Carpaccio. The thin layers of octopus lay gently covered with EVOO, fresh basil, and olives. The gorgeous Mediterranean medley suited my palette and hit the mark for the an appetizing but not filling starter.
The char-grilled Beef Kabaobs with a cheesy eggplant puree, smoky tomato sauce and vegetables seemed like a "must have" item, and indeed it was! The beautifully cooked and seasoned meat paired well with the flavors and textures of the eggplant puree, and to complete the dish, the smoky tomato sauce really brought it all together. My tolerance for spice is high, so I rather enjoyed the beautiful chilli sitting on top of the meat, the perfect condiment for this hearty combination of flavors.
To balance the the kabob dish, we opted for something on the lighter side, and the Sumac Roasted Tiger Prawns seemed like the correct choice. Grilled to perfection with a tangy tomato and onion salad, this captured the essence of modern Middle Eastern cuisine.Delicately cooked prawns were so juicy and tasty, Mariam and I had to fight about who would have the last one.....I won!
I'm going to have to skip right to dessert because this is something that I had been waiting for. Mariam informed me prior to our meal, for dessert we would be enjoying a date creme brulee. The unique combination of one of my favorite custardy treats infused with dates, or what I like to call them, Middle Eastern "nature's candy". The flavors were well balanced, the texture was velvety, and the sweetness was just right. The chef admitted she didn't actually add any sugar to the custard, just a little on top for the brulee. Now does that count as low fat? Well, in my book it does! This was a perfect dessert for a perfect meal.
Whether you are in the area or not, this restaurant requires a special trip, and make sure you bring your appetite!