To say Abu Dhabi has a plethora of Lebanese restaurants is potentially the understatement of the year. From fast-food shawarma spots to five-star restaurants putting a contemporary spin on the cuisine, there’s something for everyone.
One of the things I love most about Lebanese restaurants is the atmosphere as they fill up
with friends out for a good meal in a casual and social setting. It’s exactly what I find at Dahab, a sprawling restaurant, terrace and lounge that has surprisingly remained a hidden gem despite its vastness.
Perched atop Miraj Museum behind Hilton Capital Grand, it’s not the type of restaurant you’d ever stumble upon, nor is the signage particularly visible. But as you walk up the stairs (and past the shawarma station), you step out into an expansive terrace that’s dotted with rattan sofas and chairs and lit with heaters for the cool winter night.
Indoors, an equally spacious dining area features glistening chandeliers, velvet embroidered chairs and ornate gold frames displaying photos of Arab celebrities. Arabic music sets the soundtrack throughout the venue.
But it’s not only the décor that’s noteworthy: the food is everything I’ve come to know and love about Lebanese cuisine. The menu features the usual selection of salads, mezzo, manakeesh, grilled dishes and desserts.
The food is all fresh and vibrant, particularly the fattouche salad, comprised of crispy lettuce and cucumber,sliced radish, chunks of juicy tomato, and a sprinkling of fresh mint and pomegranate pieces with a sweet and tangy pomegranate molasses to bring it all together.
The baba ghanouj dip is smoky and smooth, the roasted aubergine blending well with small pieces of onion and bell pepper with a drizzle of sweet pomegranate molasses.
For something a bit different, try the shanklish, a salty, crumbled cheese mixed with herbs, capsicum and onion, served in a whole tomato.
For hot mezze, the chicken liver is surprisingly good. The meat is well cooked with mushroom and onion, served in a sweet balsamic sauce.
Meat lovers will also enjoy the Dahab mixed kebab kofta. Served on a raised gold platter fit for royalty, the plate comprises a spiced chicken kebab, lamb kebab and lamb kofta. The meat is all well cooked and moist served with a mild garlic dip and grilled onion and tomato.
If you have space for dessert, try a traditional one. The halawet el jibneh is an authentic plate of sweet cheese and semolina rolls filled with cream and topped with crushed pistachio and sugar syrup.
As we eat, the terrace fills up with more friends out for a mid-week meal. By the time dessert comes, the DJ has hit the decks, the disco lights have come on and it’s clearly time to wrap up dinner and sit back to soak up the atmosphere.
Abu Dhabi may have its fair share of Lebanese restaurants but there’s always room for more, especially ones like Dahab.
Need to Know
Location: Dahab, behind Hilton Capital Grand, Airport Road
We say: Authentic Lebanese food in a great atmosphere
Cost: AED 310 for two
Opening times: Daily noon-3am
Contact: 02 667 4446, dahababudhabi.com
WORDS Rachael Perrett