Even if your nickname for you is ‘The Stomach’, you’re probably not going to be able to do true justice to Taste of Abu Dhabi (for short, Toad… we know!) For starters, there’s 75 different dishes being served up at the weekend-long eat-a-thon, which kicks off at 4pm today, Thursday November 9, and runs until 10pm on Saturday at Yas Island’s Du Arena.
Nineteen international chefs — from Michelin-starred restaurants and television — are flying in for demonstrations and to cook alongside visitors, including Richard Sandoval, Sanjeev Kapoor, Reza Mohammad and Jenny Morris, Tony Lo Coco and Nicola Fossaceca. Then there’s more than a dozen local restaurants serving up tasting portions of their regular dishes — including Flooka, Sho Cho, The Grill, Bu!, Melius, Hickory’s, Leopold’s of London, Catch and Original Fusion. For more food, an Italian pavilion will teach burrata making, and there’s plenty of gourmet shopping to be had. Those on weird diets can pay for their sins by listening to Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley, DJ Goldierocks, or any of the strong line-up of local acts.
Still not convinced it’s worth the trip (No, there are no frogs’ legs!)? We feel your pain. So we put some questions to Anju Chadda, director at Turret Events, which organises the whole shebang.
What’s new at TOAD this year? Why should I drive down from Dubai? Is it really that spectacular?
This year, we will host the biggest line-up of chefs whose restaurants have Michelin stars, we have an exclusive VIP family are at The Carriage Premier Lounge, and for the first time, we have a dedicated pavilion to Italian cuisine. We also have 1,000 free parking spaces close to du Arena on Yas Island, so there is no excuse not to drive down from Dubai and join us.
But it’s the same weekend as Party in the Park! Is it better than Liam Gallagher?
We know, but it’s ok because Taste of Abu Dhabi is on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, so why not go to both? And as for Liam, you’d have to ask Noel about that!
Oh wait… I can’t drive back because zero tolerance. So are you laying on public transport?
We’re not laying on public transport but we have partnered with Careem who are offering 20 per cent discount off all Careem taxis to and from du Arena. Simply add in the promo code TOAD.
If there were only three restaurants to order food from, what would they be — why?
For me, this year, I will be heading straight to sample dishes from the menus being served up at Toro Toro, Roberto’s Cafe and Milano. There will be over 75 signature dishes to try and I am going to samples as many of them as possible over the three days.
With so much food on offer, am I likely to get indigestion at TOAD?
At Taste, it’s about enjoying a little bit of everything so you shouldn’t get indigestion but then again it depends how much you indulge… have a bottle of Gaviscon handy!
So what are masterclasses? What can I do there? And whose should I attend?
We have a full schedule of masterclasses in the Etihad Taste Kitchen and Italian Pavilion which will host five Michelin chefs. So, there will be skills to learn from across the culinary spectrum and sure to be something for everyone — you can find the full schedule on our website.
Who are you personally most excited about meeting? Why?
Well it has to be Tony Hadley, he’s an ’80s icon and I have to admit I grew up dancing to Gold and True — I am pretty sure I am not the only one who will be taking a journey down memory lane when he takes to the stage!
I can’t abide Spandau Ballet.
On come on… don’t be like that? Gold? Well you could always head for some food or go to the toilet? The good news is we have the best local bands from the UAE as well as 4 The Music, The Maplejacks, Jaye & Foe and Down Home so there will be something for everyone.
From previous shows, who’s the most affable celebrity to grab a selfie with?
It has to be Jenny Morris and Reza Mohammad, who have been joining us at Taste of Abu Dhabi for many years. When they aren’t taking on visitors to the show in the Ali Ain Dairy & Ikea Cooking Challenge — they will most definitely up for a selfie with you — they love it! Just FYI — Reza is a total poser!
It’s November, I’m trying to save up to fill Christmas stockings. What’s the cheapest ticket going? And what do I get for it?
We’re pleased to announce that Emirates NBD are offering buy one get one free to their debit or credit card holders which gets you into the festival for Dh70, including a free starter or desert and access to the golden circle for Tony Hadley performance. Alternatively check out TasteofAbuDhabi.com to buy your tickets. We promise this won’t affect your Christmas stockings!
Oh wait. I could buy Christmas gifts at TOAD?
You certainly can! You will be able to shop for all things culinary in the Taste of Abu Dhabi shopping village where you’ll find the latest kitchen products, homeware, and food goods on offer.
I’m a lonesome Joe who’s just moved to Abu Dhabi and I spend far too much time on social apps. Am I likely to meet interesting people there?
You most definitely will, don’t forget to come say hello to our organising team, lots of interesting folks looking for new friends. If you don’t, at least you will have lots of amazing picture to share on Instagram. Forks at the ready and see you at Taste!
Don’t miss it!
Taste of Abu Dhabi takes place November 9-11, from 4pm to 11pm on Thursday, noon to 11pm on Friday and noon to 10pm on Saturday. Tickets, starting at Dh65, are available online at TasteofAbuDhabi.com.
3 ways to meet the chefs at 'Taste of Abu Dhabi'
1. Food face-off
Fancy yourself as a chef? Put those skills to the test in a competition with other wannabes in the Al Ain Dairy and Ikea Cooking Challenge for a chance to win prizes and cook alongside chefs such as Sanjeev Kapoor (pictured below), Reza Mohammad, Jenny Morris and Shelina Permalloo.
2. Eat the world
Etihad Airways has flown in a slew of celebrity chefs for the finals of the Taste of the World cooking competition. Among them are Dean Parker from London restaurant The Manor, Hong Kong eatery Cafe Gray Deluxe Eric Raty (pictured below), Gregory Marchand from Paris’ Frenchie restaurant and Nathan Sasi from Sydney’s Mercado who will be plating up their best dishes.
3. Go Italian
Fancy yourself as a burrata connoisseur? Six chefs whose restaurants have Michelin stars are bringing their skills to the capital this weekend, in the show’s new Italian Taste Pavilion. On the list are Tony Lo Coco, Rosanna Marziale (pictured below), Errico Recanati, Paolo Gramaglia, William Zonfa and Nicola Fossaceca. And if they’re boring, there’s plenty of Instagrammable content with Italian food artisans including fresh pasta makers, an acrobatic pizza chef, burrata making and lemon sorbet producers.
Top five dishes to try at 'Taste of Abu Dhabi'
Restaurant: Toro Toro
If you’re the misguided type that likes chicken, you’ll love this Peruvian street food-inspired boneless chicken skewer with Peruvian chillies and miso served with creamy sweet potato purée and pickled cucumber. Apparently it’s one of Richard Sandoval’s personal favourites
Restaurant: Leopold’s of London
What’s a picnic without burgers? And this being Abu Dhabi, they’ve got to have truffles. This dish comes with truffle oil, truffle mayonnaise, Portobello mushrooms, melted brie and caramelised onions. There’s a beef option or a mushroom version for vegetarians.
Restaurant: Desert Lotus
Tuna and avo is one of those classic combinations, but throw on some in ebiko or shrimp roe and a tempura topping, and you’ll appreciate just why this fusion maki roll is this restaurant’s best-seller. It’s named after chef and owner Buaban Tucker.
Restaurant: Café Sushi
This one might be served by a sushi restaurant, but with Wagyu beef as the main ingredient, it’s the one place you’re likely to spend all your vouchers. The meat is paired with sweet and medium spicy cream cheese, pickled radish, avocado, and topped with crispy tempura flakes for a luxury take on maki.
Lamb chop teekha
Chef Aditya Kumar Jha has been making waves since Tamba opened at Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Center, and we’re told his spicy lamb chops were TOAD’s best dish last year, selling out every day of the show. These honey-and-chilli-marinated chops are flame-grilled on a robata and finished with coriander dust and pickled carrot and cucumber. We’ll let you know what we think.