Saturday, February 1, 2014

Around Abu Dhabi Review: Koi At The Collection

It's officially February, and we all know what that means. Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and in a city like Abu Dhabi there are no lack of choices. Allow me to make a recommendation if you are looking for something new to wow the love of your life.

Koi Restaurant and Lounge, a chic Japanese eatery born in LA, has found its way to Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. My husband and I were lucky enough to enjoy a magnificent meal at Koi a few nights ago, and I have to admit it exceeded my expectations. Koi is far from your everyday Japanese establishment, it is truly a culinary experience that will delight your senses.

I felt we were in for a treat the minute we walked into Koi welcomed by large flickering lanterns outside inviting us into a dimly lit sanctuary pulsing with up tempo music. We were given the option of relaxing and having a drink in Koi's swanky lounge area upon entering, but we both were famished and opted to go directly to a table instead. I contemplated the lounge, but feared I may get way too comfortable on one of the many cushioned sofas that dotted the room and not want to move.

We instead were taken to a lovely table that allowed us to soak up the ambiance and mystique that is Koi. Our server, Liz, was prompt to welcome us and offer to set our experience off with one of Koi's signature cocktails. I opted for a pomegranate and raspberry concoction called a Berry Bliss while my mango obsessed date opted for a more tropical Koi Fling. Both were delivered within what seemed only a few minutes, and they were as delightful as we had hoped and helped set the tone for the culinary carnival that ensued.

Berry Bliss
At first glance of Koi's menu, one may feel overwhelmed and find themselves in a quandary over which of several appealing dishes to order. Now for the best part, one does not need to settle on merely one entree at Koi. Instead you can design your own feast choosing several options from the menu as portions are modest and meant to be shared. This is perfect for someone like me who tends to have trouble narrowing down my selections. Still we couldn't order the entire menu, so Liz who seemed to have extensive knowledge of the menu was able to help us narrow down our selections.

At Koi your dishes are delivered as they are finished, so the table becomes an every changing smorgasbord of fresh food. I'll refrain from listing every tasty morsel we devoured that night, but would like to highlight a few gems. A particular favorite of mine was a Lobster Avocado Salad with a wonderfully fresh tofu-lime dressing and generous portion of succulent lobster.  Paired with a Viogner from Australia it is like summer wrapped into a salad.

We also both were surprised by two of Koi's Signature Rolls we tried. The Dragon Rolls had me a little leery at first, because I'm not a fan of eel. I blame that on an experience I had catching one in the water behind our house back in Virginia. They just aren't the prettiest of creatures, and when I see it on a menu I flash back to the creature I accidentally reeled in one night behind our house. Sorry, I digress. The point is, I wasn't really keen to try a dish with eel, but with a little coaxing I did. I'm glad I didn't let the images in my head get the best of me, because the Dragon Rolls were absolutely delish. Stuffed with shrimp tempura, baked crab, and yes eel they come with a generous topping of tempura that can be a bit messy, but add a nice crunch and compliments the warm baked seafood. We enjoy laughing at ourselves, so having a competition to see you who can make less of a mess just added to our experience.

The other Signature Rolls we tried were the Rok N' Rolls which stopped us in our tracks when presented, because these little beauties come adorned with real flakes of gold. A gorgeous dish that you ponder rather you should dig in or take a picture. I confess, we took a picture before devouring them. These rolls are a treat wrapped into each delicious bite featuring a nice slice of toro and avocado that that is like the icing on the cake for these seafood laden rolls.
Dragon Rolls
Rok N' Rolls
Lobster Tacos
Another favorite of mine for the night were the mini Lobster Tacos. Like the Lobster and Avocado salad they were delightfully fresh, and in my opinion anything with mango salsa and guacamole has to be good which was my logic when ordering these crispy crescents. They most definitely did not let me down. They in fact were so go good I have been craving them ever since.

My husband's favorite for the night were the Sauteed Tiger Prawns that came glazed with just the right amount of sweet and then spicy to counterbalance. I enjoyed them as well and the warm heartier dish added some variety to our meal.

Koi is a Japanese restaurant, so I would be remiss not to mention its sushi and sashimi. Both were fresh and flavorful, and did not disappoint. My favorite was the tuna sashimi, but after having the toro on the Rok N'Rolls I may opt for toro sashimi next time we visit.

We did squeeze in some veggies enjoying sea salted edamame, a must for me at any Japanese establishment. Even something as common to any Japanese menu like edamame was above average at Koi. The Japanese grilled eggplant was sweet and almost dessert like in my opinion, but was a nice contrast to the edamame.

Given the size of our feast we normally would have passed on dessert, but we were so impressed by the culinary show Koi gave our taste buds, that we just had to know what was in store for dessert. Leaving without dessert would be like walking out on a concert or play before the final act. Staying with the Japanese theme, I opted for the mochi plate with various flavors. My husband decided on what I thought would be a run of the mill chocolate brownie sundae. Our desserts were delivered, and this chocolate loving girl had a true case of dessert envy. While the mochi was good, it did not hold a candle to the chocolate banana creation that sat before my husband. Luckily for me the sundae portion is generous, and he was willing to share.

Koi Sundae
I would like to stress that in addition to an excellent meal, we also received impeccable service. I was in the restaurant industry once upon a time, so I can be a little critical when it comes to service. The staff at Koi are friendly and welcoming. They are knowledgeable, and more than happy to assist with helping you make choices that suit you and even in my case helping you step out of your comfort zone a little to discover something wonderful. We had the pleasure of meeting the manager, Irfan, a very hands on guy that works the room assisting his staff and checking on guests rather than hiding in the shadows as I have seen in other establishments. Koi seems to not only have a winning menu, but a winning team of professionals that are passionate about their jobs.

So if you want to impress your Valentine this year, I highly recommend a romantic dinner at Koi. I'm told the Chef has lots of delicious culinary surprises planned. After the amazing meal we had, I couldn't help but inquire as to what Koi is cooking up for Valentine's Day. So here is a sneak peek at the performance they have planned for Valentine's Day:

Amuse Bouche

Uni Truffle Chawanmushi
Aloe-Green Tea Dashi / Edamame / Crispy Gobo / Chive Sprout

First Course

Hamachi Carpaccio
Elderflower-Yuzu Essence / Green Tea Panna Cotta / Pickled Baby Carrot /
Shaved Celery

Second Course

Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup
Brioche / Comte Cheese / Pickled Red Pepper / Micro Borage / 
Five Spice Port Wine Reduction

Third Course

Sushi Tasting
Choice Of Chef's Selection

Forth Course

Choice of

Pan Roasted Chilean Sea Bass
Boursin Miso / Tomato Confit / Compressed Cantaloupe / Fava Bean


Pan Seared Wagyu Strip
Chocolate Miso / Crispy Yuba / Creamed Morel Mushroom / Baby Turnip / Strawberry Balsamic Coulis


Strawberry Mango Duet & Red Velvet Cake
Chocolate Mousse / Glazed Pistachio / White Chocolate Flakes

5 course set menu with a French bubbly cocktail on arrival AED 400
5 course set menu with a bottle of selected grape AED 550
5 course set menu with a bottle of selected French bubbles AED 650

For reservations: Email:
                              Phone: +971- 2 678 3334

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