The Kosher Place: Kosher food in Abu Dhabi - review

If you’re planning a vacation to Abu Dhabi, no need to pack those cans of tuna or mana chama (instant noodle soup) anymore

 The Kosher Place (photo credit: Michael Hawila)
The Kosher Place
(photo credit: Michael Hawila)

The rivalry between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is a little like the rivalry between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Dubai is glitzier and more focused on partying. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have already visited Dubai, and you can hear Hebrew everywhere you go. Abu Dhabi is more laid back, has more historical sites and is more conservative. There are almost no Israelis in town – which some might say is a good thing.

Abu Dhabi has been much stricter with Covid rules than Dubai and until now has made it much harder for tourists to visit. I am currently here for three weeks teaching at NYU-Abu Dhabi and I still need to wear a mask to teach (not easy in 40°C heat). But now it is open as long as you are vaccinated and have a negative PCR result from within the past 30 days.

Until now, the kosher scene has been focused on Dubai with four kosher restaurants (and Elli’s Café due to open soon) and three kosher caterers (who can also deliver to Abu Dhabi). If you’re in Dubai for Shabbat I recommend Minyan on the Palm, a small, friendly modern-Orthodox shul in the very fancy St. Regis Hotel run by the energetic Ross Kriel, where kiddush lunch is followed by drinks in the St. Regis Bar. Now that’s one way to get people to come to shul!

But when it comes to Abu Dhabi, the kosher scene has lagged behind.

The spectacular Abu Dhabi skyline (credit: WIKIPEDIA)The spectacular Abu Dhabi skyline (credit: WIKIPEDIA)

A new kosher restaurant

Now a new kosher restaurant has opened next to the Ritz Carlton Hotel, which is itself worth seeing, with a giant chandelier and marble as far as the eye can see. Go through the hotel and out the back door and you find yourself in a “Venetian Village” complete with a lagoon surrounded by restaurants. One of these is the Kosher Place, an Israeli grill restaurant with food as good as you’ll find in any “steakiyah” in Israel.

The restaurant is also less than a five-minute drive from the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the blindingly white huge mosque that can fit 40,000 worshipers, and is especially impressive when it is all lit up at night.

“This really shows the message of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi of being open to all of its guests,” said Rabbi Levi Duchman, the founder of the Emirates Agency for Kosher Certification and the first resident chief rabbi in the UAE. “It means that Jewish people, whether they come from Israel or anywhere in the world, can have kosher food while they are here and feel comfortable here.” 

In fact, he said, the Abu Dhabi government has made a decision that kosher food will be available in all hotels throughout the country. He then affixed a mezuza and The Kosher Place was open for business.

The restaurant looks more like a fine-dining establishment than a casual grill place, with tables spaced far apart and seating in comfortable armchairs.

We started our meal the same way every good grill restaurant in Israel does with a selection of salads (AED 58 per person). AED by the way is the Emirati dirham which is 3.67 to the US dollar, just slightly more than the shekel. That makes it easier to understand prices.

The salads are almost identical to those served in Israel including red cabbage with mayonnaise, fried eggplant egg salad and beets to name a few. They are all fresh and good although not outstanding.

I was more impressed with the hot appetizers which are listed in the menu as “Our Specials,” especially a veal cigar (75 AED – $20.40) which was a spring roll pastry stuffed with veal, eggplant and pine nuts. I also liked the Arais (65 AED) grilled pita stuffed with ground beef and pine nuts alongside a spicy tomato sauce for dipping.

But my favorite was the “Roll Pastia” (AED 55) a spring roll pastry stuffed with pargiyot, with raisins and almonds in a sweet potato cream.

While there is a factory for kosher chicken in Abu Dhabi, all beef must be imported and prices are high. The Kosher Place serves kebab (AED 65), pargiot (AED 60) and entrecote (AED 125). These prices are for one skewer and do not include side dishes. They are actually quite reasonable prices in comparison to restaurants here; the owners say they wanted to make a place where whole families could go out together.

Other dishes including a pargiot steak (AED 89), lamb chops (AED 225) and a hamburger (AED 95) do include a choice of chips, mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes. There is even a children’s menu with a hamburger and chips (AED 55), pasta with tomato sauce (AED 45) and shnitzelonim with chips (AED 45).

So if you’re planning a vacation to Abu Dhabi, no need to pack those cans of tuna or mana chama (instant noodle soup) anymore.

The Kosher PlaceVenetian VillageRitz-Carlton, Abu DhabiSunday – Thursday: open for lunch and dinnerFriday: lunch onlyShabbat closed (except for groups who pre-register)

The writer was a guest of the restaurant.