The spice route
Lauded for its spectrum of exotic flavours and expert use of spices and sauces, the nuances of Indian gastronomy are as varied as the country’s regions and states. As everything from cultural traditions to geographical location plays a pivotal part in each region’s distinct affinity for taste and seasoning, Indian cuisine is often one of the most exciting to explore. What was once considered the de facto choice for street food vendors and casual meals has now become the cuisine du jour at many of the world’s most exclusive restaurants.
The UAE capital is home to several upmarket eateries that are dedicated to paying homage to India’s renowned skill for complex flavour pairings while still echoing the emirate’s fondness for luxurious settings and unforgettable locations.
From a location point of view alone, Angar holds an undeniable attraction. Set within the distinctively curved confines of Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, on Yas Island, the hotel not only boasts standout architecture and design but also the best views of Yas Marina Circuit, home to the famed Formula 1 Eithad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Now that the capital is enjoying cooler climes, Angar’s outdoor terrace is a fantastic spot to appreciate the stunning Yas Island setting.
Inside, the restaurant radiates a sophisticated glow thanks to vivid hues and warm lighting. Keeping up with its modern surroundings, menu highlights include the delicately poached saffron coconut scallops to start, lemon chilli lobster curry and machchi mappas – a traditional Keralite coconut fish curry – and Indian-style couscous. Angar also champions healthy living with lighter options such as the quinoa gol gappa where flour-based crispy shells are stuffed with spiced quinoa. However if the fiery Goan favourite of lamb vindaloo proves too tempting to pass up, a delicious medley of refreshing mint and pistachio, masala chai and thandai ice cream is on hand to refresh the palate.
Along with a penchant for dairy products, north Indian cuisine is revered for its generous use of spices like saffron and garam masala. Fortunately for lovers of this regional fare, it’s exactly this exciting mix of flavours Indigo celebrates at Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi. While the menu is peppered with authentic treats such as street-style chaat snacks – think beautifully presented dahi bhalla, pakoras and samosas – Indigo’s culinary team also put a modern spin on several standout dishes including tender tandoori lamb chops and rich butter chicken. Other highlights from the menu include tandoor roasted chicken and pear salad which is ideal for a lighter meal, although a visit wouldn’t be complete without tucking into the restaurant’s signature dish of sikandari raan. Generous enough for two, the succulent pot-roasted leg of lamb is stuffed with prunes, pickled onions and cheese, and then baked under a pastry cover. Diners can also choose to have this dish served flambéed. The weekly Saturday brunch presents the perfect opportunity to sample many of Indigo’s best-loved dishes including a selection of curries, biryani and chaat alongside Indian beer and tangy cocktails.
An idyllic retreat from the bustle of the emirate’s busier quarters, Danat Al Ain Resort, in Abu Dhabi’s second largest city, boasts lush green gardens and glorious mountain views. It’s here that the hotel’s Indian restaurant Tanjore seeks to take its diners on a gastronomic tour of India. From the eclectic décor right through to the comprehensive menu and hospitable service, every aspect is aimed at creating a memorable experience. While Tanjore may be the former name of Thanjavur city in south India, the restaurant seeks to please all palates with a wide range of tantalising dishes. Along with a host of tandoor options that have been expertly prepared in a traditional clay oven, highlights include the flavoursome fish tikka biryani, paneer dilruba, Tanjore’s popular chicken chettinad curry and dakshin shorba, a south Indian shrimp soup. This charming space also regularly hosts food festivals. From October 4th to 18th, the Punjabi Festival will pay tribute to the vibrant city of Punjab with an à la carte menu of dishes that are native to the northern state.
For those seeking tasty, traditional Indian fare in a contemporary setting, Rangoli is just the ticket. Located within Yas Island Rotana, the restaurant impresses with its dramatic contrast of dark wood fixtures and high-octane hues. Fusing north Indian favourites with south Indian staples the menu speaks to the restaurant’s exotic vibe. As each artfully presented dish goes to show, Rangoli prides itself on its creative culinary offerings. Discover regional specialities such as the succulent Lucknow chicken korma from the capital state of Uttar Pradesh, a fragrant prawn curry inspired by the coastal flavours of Alleppey in Kerela and the tiger prawn parda biryani, served enclosed in an aromatic fennel and melon seed pastry. The dessert offerings are equally as tempting. Standout choices include the masala chai brûlée, served with brioche biscotti and molten milk ice cream, and classic rasmalai where cottage cheese dumplings are infused in saffron milk. Savour Rangoli’s most popular dishes every Tuesday evening at the Taste of India celebration with a feast of curries, tandoori meats and vegetarian delicacies.