I got a bit of a sneak preview of JW Steakhouse when I filmed a recent episode of What’s Cooking UAE earlier in the year (you can see the whole thing here, should you be interested). At that time, I met Chef Stephan, one of the more dedicated and enthusiastic chefs in the country. He showed me a brief preview of the Chef’s Menu, which had me thoroughly impressed (and I hadn’t even had a bite!). Although I intended to return in September, life got in the way, so for early November, I was happy to be invited back to the restaurant. For those who have not visited previously, JW Steakhouse is the premium dining outlet at the Marriott Downtown Abu Dhabi, located on the first floor of the hotel. While the primary focus of the venue is, of course, steak, I jumped at the chance to review one of the only tasting menus in the capital, and I would encourage you to do the same…
- A truly creative menu. I love the unexpected! Certainly, while dining at a steakhouse, I wouldn’t expect to find an eight-course Chef’s Menu, and yet here one is. I don’t want to give away too many surprises. However, I will say that you should expect a ‘journey’ of some kind (and yes, that journey does include delicious beef). The menu is well paced, with portion sizes where they need to be, the presentation of the plates on point, a variety of ingredients, and plenty of attention to detail. Overall, I enjoyed all of the dishes, and would only make minor changes to a few of the courses.
- Value for money. Show me somewhere else in the UAE where you get a multi-course meal for AED250. While the wine/beverage pairing is only another AED100 (more on that below), even if diners chose their own bottle of wine to split (my recommendation), this still averages to one of the best meals for money in the capital.
- Outstanding service. Unlike some of the ‘fine dining’ venues I’ve visited this year, we never had to once ask for a course, tell the kitchen to slow down or really, mention anything! With highly experienced servers looking after the dining room, guests will feel entirely welcome. Furthermore, I always like to see chefs out of the kitchen, and Chef Stephan is one of those who checks in on his diners.
- Intimate setting. Honestly, with so many hotels overdoing restaurants and allowing seating for over a hundred diners, I loved that this venue was smaller. With less than 50 covers, this is an excellent location for a small gathering with close friends, or a special anniversary. I would love to see more restaurants follow this style.
- All the carbs. Okay, this is a particular ‘pro’ for me, but when there are three kinds of freshly made butter to accompany an incredible selection of freshly made bread, then I will always be a very happy diner.
- A beverage pairing that makes little to no sense. I can forgive a lot when it comes to alcohol. I mean basically, my question is usually, is there an alcohol content of some kind? There is? Great! Let’s keep going… And while I also applaud creativity, I think sometimes these ideas can use some editing. In this instance, the starting cocktails were nonsense. I really wanted to like them, but felt they were both a miss, both in regards flavor and as an accompaniment to the dish served. Similarly, the wine choices were equally confusing and did not do much to highlight the food. As we only enjoyed the wines at the end of the meal, I am happy to report that the team professionally received our feedback. Honestly, while the menu is lovely and absolutely worth trying, as of now, I would highly recommend choosing your own wine or cocktails.
So, would I go back? Absolutely! If I were in the mood for steaks or a unique multi-course menu, this restaurant is definitely worth making a reservation at. While Catch and Butcher & Still maintain their top spots, once this venue sorts out their drinks, I would place JW Steakhouse well towards the top of the ‘best of Abu Dhabi’ list.
Is there a tasting/Chef’s menu in the city I should know about? Please let me know in the comments.
A to Za’atar was a guest at JW Steakhouse. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.