Walk into Ciprianis Abu Dhabi and you are transported into a time and place where food was loved, prepared and served with a care and attentiveness that your parents provided. This was the story the superbly trained wait staff explained to us as they guided us on a gastronomical journey during an incredible evening filled with food of the highest sumptuous quality but lacking any pretentiousness. Ciprianis carries on this tradition started by Harry Cipriani when he opened Harry’s bar in Venice in 1931.
In the 80 years since its opening, Ciprianis continues the tradition of catering to distinguished patrons ranging from Kings and Queens to Hollywood legends and has a devoted cliental that appreciates attentive service, good cuisine and a unique atmosphere. Ciprianis Abu Dhabi continues to demonstrate the 4 pillars of Cipriani:
Simplicity – doing this perfectly
Service: to love is to serve
Pure: use the finest ingredients
Freedom: options with no imposition
The restaurant interior is spacious and has wide sweeping curves much like a sailboat, an appropriate motif given its location on Yas Island. The lines are clean and the spaces are open yet the placement of tables in the otherwise large space still gives each space an intimate feel. You can start, or as I did, end the evening with a cocktail at the Bellini Lounge, which features high bar stools and a beautiful glass countertop modeled after the original Harry’s Bar in Venice. The Harry Cipriani room is an exclusive space with Yas views and perfect for a reception. Dignitaries can enjoy the Crown Prince Room, which seats 20 and is well stocked with books. The Venetian room has a cabaret setting with sliding doors separating it from the restaurant. And then there is the stunning Terrace, which overlooks the Marina and the Yas circuit.
Despite its size, Ciprianis Abu Dhabi manages to create and maintain an intimate feel in a number of unique ways. The first is by using tables and chairs that are small and set low. I felt immediately connected with the experience and with the food to come. The smaller furniture created a smaller bubble of personal space in an otherwise large restaurant as well as emphasized the simplicity upon which the restaurant prides itself. Another reason for using diminutive tables the size is that Harry’s original bar was small and there was scant room. Another unique twist: the tables have 3 legs rather than 4. SO Ciprianis maintains a real connection with the Harry’s bar, which had an uneven floor and so 3 legged tables were more secure.
These stories were shared with me by the superb staff, which is another reason why Ciprianis maintains its intimacy. I walked in and was greeted by the maître Dee who introduced us to our server who then asked us if we knew about Ciprianis. He then proceeded to share the storied history and introduced us to an expert Sommelier, who delighted us with his knowledge and passion for wine and food. He focused our attention to combinations and used simple rather than pretentious language to describe these combinations.
But lets’ talk about the food, which is sumptuous and simple. The first of our tasting menu was Tuna tartar with tomato sauce and Mache salad, which was fresh and light. The Carpaccio alla Cipriani was paper-thin but unlike run of the mill Carpaccio which is sometimes stringy, this literally melted in my mouth. Giuseppe Cipriani specifically created this dish for Countess Amalia Nani Moncenigo after learning her doctors had forbidden her to eat cooked meat. Inspired by Vittorio Carpaccio, a Venetian painter admired for his shades of red and white. Have you ever eaten something that’s really light but then suddenly becomes very rich and very filling? If not, try the Burrata in Foglia seemingly simple, the Burrata an Italian imported cheese which has an outer shell that is solid mozzarella while inside there is soft mozzarella and cream. Served with tomatoes and Taggiasche olives which originate from Liguria, a coastal region of North Western Italy. I wasn’t sure how Ciprianis would prepare Chilean Sea bass better known as “Alla Carlina”, but any concerns I had were laid to rest when I had my first bite of this dish, prepared with only 4 ingredients. It was perfect. The Sea Bass was followed by more traditional fare – baked white tagliolini with turkey ham. This dish is one of the most famous dishes from Harry’s Bar in Venice, tagliolini with thinly sliced turkey ham lightly topped with béchamel sauce and baked with grated parmesan and butter The salty Turkey ham complemented the creamy cheese crust and the simple soft pasta underneath the crust. Divine.
Finally, our ambrosial meal came to an end with a strong espresso and a slice of the famous vanilla meringue cake. A gustatory experience as if we were transported to Venice Italy where is all started at Harry’s Bar in Venice. Buon appetito