With Abu Dhabi restaurants opening up once again for dining, David Tapley’s first port of call post-lockdown was Cipriani Yas Island.
It has been some time since our last visit to Cipriani Yas Island, the expansive Italian restaurant perched above the picturesque waters of Yas Marina and a venue that is clearly one of the most admired in the UAE capital.
Ascending the winding stairway that leads into the restaurant space we are greeted with a friendly “Ciao” before being led to a glorious table close to the floor to ceiling windows that flank the dining room and afford impressive views of the marina, where luxury yachts bob hypnotically on the water. Crisp white table linens and impeccably placed cutlery exemplify the grandeur of the Cipriani dining experience, representative of fine dining at its very best.
The expansive dining room gives the impression of dining on a yacht thanks to an abundance of glossy wood, blue upholstery, leather seats and grand mirrors, providing the restaurant with a nautical theme and one that feels undeniably classic. The dining tables wrap effortlessly around the central bar area, while at the figurative helm lies a sushi counter where fresh fish is sliced and prepared with impeccable precision.
Available year-round, Cipriani Yas Island’s à la carte menu has been built upon the concept of simple Italian food executed to perfection by a team of Italian chefs. Using a combination of local ingredients and premium products imported directly from Italy; everything from the pasta to the impressive desserts is made fresh daily in the Cipriani kitchen, adding authenticity to the menu.
Appealing to different tastes is key to the Cipriani experience and you’ll notice that the menu is divided into two distinct cuisines, with the left page offering exquisite Japanese choices and the right page dedicated to the Italian fare for which Cipriani has become synonymous. No matter which cuisine you decide upon, you’re unlikely to be disappointed – or do as we did and try them both.
We begin with a surprise amuse-bouche of Chicken Croquettes, which transpire to be the perfect precursor for the meal ahead. The golden parcels are beautifully rich in flavour and undeniably moreish, acting as the ideal accompaniment for one of the choices from the expansive beverage menu.
While we wouldn’t usually discuss the bread selection in one of our food reviews, the conical-shaped pastries that grace our side plate on this occasion deserve more than a passing mention. Light and buttery layers in the dough provide perfect lamination and are characteristic of a croissant, and we admirably resist the urge to devour more than one.
The appetisers provide an appealing selection of Italian favourites. While our eyes are immediately drawn to the Burrata and the King Crab, we decide to stray from what would be our usual choices and explore the menu more thoroughly. Opting for the Asparagus “alla Parmigiana” and the Carpaccio “alla Cipriani” we are more than a little delighted with our choices. The asparagus dish is ideal for vegetarians and offers a generous portion of vibrant green asparagus spears adorned with Parmesan cheese. At the same time, the thin slices of carpaccio are complemented by a spicy mayonnaise and simple green salad that allow the quality of the produce to shine through.
A plate of the Crunch Maki is also presented to the table so that we may indulge in the Asian side of the menu. The eight pieces of sushi comprise of crisp prawn tempura, yamagobo (a pickled Japanese root) and cool avocado. Presented amongst flowers carved from carrots, the execution is just as impressive as the European specialities, and it’s pleasing to see both cuisines represented so strongly at Cipriani.
With main courses drawing inspiration from classic dishes such as lamb chops, grilled salmon, black cod, Wagyu ribeye and chicken teriyaki. We have our hearts set on pasta and opt for the Homemade Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Butter and Sage and Spaghetti with Seafood and “Datterino” Tomatoes. The artistry in the creation of the pasta is immediately evident and the portions more than generous, with the stuffed ravioli boasting beautiful aromatics from the daintily produced parcels. The spaghetti is a revelation that perfectly balances the sweetness of the Datterino tomatoes with a slight heat and an abundance of tender lobster, shrimp and fish pieces. The al dente nature of the pasta provides the ideal texture, and the dish exemplifies the ethos of Cipriani to provide simple Italian dishes made from premium produce.
While the meal is undoubtedly hearty, there’s always room for dessert and espresso, and the desserts at Cipriani are not to be missed! All of the desserts are presented to the table in their entirety. Hence, you can feast your eyes upon the chocolate cake, mille feuilles and lemons tarts before making your selection.
Having spotted the Vanilla Meringue on Instagram before visiting, we knew we had to order it, and upon recommendation from the Cipriani team we also select the Vanilla Ice Cream freshly whipped “a la minute.” Both dishes live up the hype, with the Vanilla Meringue comprising of a light sponge slathered in Italian meringue that is glossy, marshmallow-like in texture and utterly indulgent. The ice cream, while far less restrained is no less delicious. Offering a smooth texture thanks to the fact that it was created mere moments before its presentation to the table, add a sprinkling of chocolate sauce and candied nuts and you have dessert perfection.
Dining at Cipriani Yas Island has always been a special occasion venue that ticks the boxes when it comes to food, drinks, atmosphere and service. The Cipriani team are well versed in the menu and become the “captains” of our meal. Dressed in white jackets, they are very dapper and profoundly proficient, helping us to navigate the menu and beverage list while accentuating the remarkable dining experience.
With a stunning outdoor terrace that wraps around the building and provides elevated trackside views, there’s no wonder Cipriani Yas Island is one of the most in-demand dining destinations in the city and one where guests feel welcome and at home. ✤