As Abu Dhabi continues to grow, restaurants that previously would look no further than Sheik Zayed Rd in Dubai, have decided to make the trek across the sand to the Capital. One of those is Azkadenya, a retro modern all-day Arabic restaurant in Marina Mall. The eatery is very popular in Dubai, so it was immediately welcomed with familiar fans in Abu Dhabi. The restaurant is colorful and light, allowing diners to eat in peace behind the intricate Arabic trellises, separating the bland mall lighting from the bright and cozy interior. You might be able to avoid the crowd by going for an early weekend lunch, but they are open for a very popular breakfast, and have a fairly steady clientele all day long.
The menu reflects favorites of Arabic specialties with a few excitingly modern twists, like the creamy Muttabal Beetroot. The beautiful, naturally neon pink dish is served in a contrasting bright blue bowl. The lentil Mujadara is made with protein rich quinoa instead of rice, and the signature salad features large chunks of avocado. The Spicy Falafel plate is an adaptation to the standard with a thin, peppery, tomato- based filling in the center.
However, for the true traditionalist, the staples are standbys. The beef Shawarma platter is served piping hot on a metal skewer, staying warm over hot coals. While it is served with saj bread and a few accoutrements, the meat is flavorful enough to enjoy on its own. The Grilled Seabass is another specialty. It is simple and healthy, rubbed in coriander chili paste before being seared. It tastes like it was cooked on a charcoal BBQ next to the ocean.
Azkadenya also manages create a few excellent desserts. The ultimate is the Sticky Date Pudding which is served sizzling in hot caramel sauce and topped with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream. The Osamaliyah is also a good choice. A version of an Arabic ice cream sandwich: crunchy Kunafeh topping sandwiches three scoops of perfectly cold ice cream (your choice of flavors).
Like most Arabic cuisine, Azkadenya is best shared with others. The tables were filled with families, couples and friends stopping in for everything from a quick shawarma to a more leisurely multi course traditional lunch. The service is welcoming, quick, and well experienced with kids. Abu Dhabi is lucky to have another great option for experiencing some of the best of the region’s cuisine.
*The edited version of this article first appeared in Dining & Nightlife Abu Dhabi.