Nestled in the Venetian Village at the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Punjab Grill is a far cry from the usual opulence and colour seen in Indian décor. Relatively small, it’s done up in creams, ivories and hints of dark brown. The ambience is light and airy, with gold draperies to match the chandeliers. Make sure you look up, as the glittering fixtures are offset against a latticework ceiling, making for an impressive sight.
Upon being seated, flutes of a pomegranate drink, called anaar, meant to cleanse the tongue and prepare the palate for the culinary bliss to come are presented, and we’re ready to eat!
We munch on a platter of crackers, poppadum and masala bread paired with five dips as our food is being prepared. Be sure to try the labneh! For starters, a watermelon slider comes first. A cube of seedless Australian watermelon topped with a spicy spinach chaat, it’s an explosion of spices in our mouths. Just as it becomes a little too much, the watermelon kicks in, soothing the senses. Definitely one of the most unique and flavourful starters we’ve ever tried.
Next, an assortment of vegetarian kebabs, consisting of spinach, beetroot, yoghurt and lentil offerings. We recommend the yoghurt, it’s paired with tamarind chutney and a slice of orange, which according to our server Saurabh, is an ideal pairing, and we agree.
A seafood offering completes our starters. Jumbo shrimp marinated with saffron and Indian spices, served with tomato hummus and rocket leaves. The hummus is one of the best we’ve tried, and shrimp the biggest we’ve seen.
By now, we’re craving for some meat, and the next course is probably the star of our meal. Australian lamb chop with a side of spinach, topped with pine nuts. Juicy, tender, melt in your mouth meaty perfection, we have no words.
Head Chef Sandeep has recommended this next dish personally, a South Indian prawn curry, cooked in a coconut and served with a portion of rice topped with clarified butter. My dining companion makes sure to commend him personally on this one once we’ve finished our meal. The sauce is creamy and the prawns have just the right kick to them. Our servings are doled out of the coconut itself, making for quite the authentic experience.
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A date sorbet is presented next, to cleanse our palate in anticipation of our final course, chicken biryani. Saffron rice with a trio of spiced chicken pieces. Indian spices, mint and coriander and finally, a cream and yoghurt offering. The mint and coriander definitely stand out.
By now, we’re bursting but of course, there’s always room for dessert. We have what’s called a decadent chocolate cake, and it was just that. A classic Indian dish, ras malai is also presented, but in a form that is anything but classic. It arrives in a martini glass topped with rose petals. We are of course, Snapchatting throughout our meal and receive this gem of a comment, “This ras malai looks like it’s just returned from a semester abroad.” It tastes phenomenal though, just the right amount of milky and sweet.
If you’re looking for 5-star Indian dining with a contemporary twist, Punjab Grill is the ideal place. Some insider advice? Be sure to ask for Saurabh, it’s his impeccable service that made our meal all the more enjoyable.