Azkadenya is a modern/retro Arabic restaurant that serves the traditional dishes of the good old days but with the modern day twist. It is the group’s third outlet in the UAE, but first in the capital. With the tagline of “Plates from the Middle East,” this place attracted us initially with its nice decorations & cozy seating arrangements from the moment we spotted it during one of our movie night at the mall. It is conveniently located next to Vox cinemas in Marina Mall Abu Dhabi and is the most beautiful venue that I have visited recently.
With purple and yellow painted walls, the place has recreated the tint and charm of long-gone days in Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt, with pictures of old movie stars and bottles of Vimto, printed tissue boxes, etc. Flashy flag tags on dishes and idiom painted plates with many Arabic quotes like “Saha wa Afiah” meaning health and wellness are kept on the table to eat and not just as show plates.
Coming to the food, we started off and first tasted Date Salad. The salad was scrumptious & appetizing; it’s a mixture of dates, feta cheese, sliced red onions and walnuts on a bed of lettuce and rocca drizzled with their house special balsamic vinaigrette. Cold Mezzeh Sampler (Starters) were brought to our table by the attentive staff, including a tray of 8 Appetizers; Classic Hummus, their famous Pink Hummus (beetroot based), foul, Muttabal, Muhammara, sweet & sour plus crispy eggplant, Olives & pickles. They all tasted average except unique crispy eggplant & Beetroot hummus which was exceptionally well.
What I was super glad about was my hot appetizer choice i-e Falafel Sliders with a large and chunky piece of fried falafel presented in a soft bun with tomatoes, pickle, and tahini sauce. It was a dream kid on the menu and a must-try. We also tried Musakhan rolls with shredded chicken, sumac, and onions as main ingredients mentioned on the menu. Chicken, however, appear to be deficient plus its tad bit oily may be due to fried thin bread.
From entrees, we tried Beef Shawarma served enchiladas style. Yes, it came in a striking presentation over the table with brimming hot Smokey beef shawarma stick served over our table over charcoal with Saj bread and an interesting mixture of onion and parsley mix. I didn’t feel the need to stuff it in Saj though as it was more convenient to just taste the chunks off the skewers by itself alone.The meat was flavorful, succulent and juicy, but make sure to remove from heat to avoid becoming a little tough, you will find it different than machine grilled Shawarma hence I didn’t compare it with that style preparation of the dish.
From Sawani section we tried Chicken, garlic, and Zaatar. Sawani, the plural of sinayet, means trays in Arabic, and it refers to the cooking method which is usually seen at home. All the sawani are served with pickles, olives, and red radish. Gravy style food lovers will surely like this collection with aroma and taste both and yet been presented as a very simple dish.
Fattet Batenjan was my favorite from the day with fried egg plant, minced beef, yogurt and crispy fried bread although it gave tough competition to Fakharet (clay cooked pot) of Freekeh with meatballs. Hubby loved the base of delicious homemade tomato based stew, served with green freekeh while I enjoyed next Arayes from char-grilled Mashawi. Heady with charcoal this minced meat stuffed Arabic bread was served with cold yogurt instead of chunky garlic, which I did miss badly.
Last in Main dishes was Mansaf, an item from Tabkhat section. Tabkhat literally means home cooked dish or cuisine. This traditionally famous Jordanian dish is a true representation of Mansaf. Lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented, dried yogurt and served with rice and pine nuts. We over all loved the quality of meat in each dish. It was so tender and juicy and gave each dish an extra boost.
Dessert lovers won’t be spoiled for choice here since they have a limited selection. However, thanks to Restaurant supervisor’s suggestion I was happy with their homely selection of date pudding. I also tried Nutella banana monousheh offered to me. Believe me; you will love it if you have a sweet-tooth. The restaurant also offers breakfast items that include a selection of delicious manaeesh and ‘signature eggs’. It included items such as shakshouka, alongside fresh fruit juices and smoothies.
The modern yet retro, casual dining spot did gain our brownie points for its cool pop art décor. It has flamboyant twists on traditional Middle Eastern cuisine. We hope it will prove as preferred venue for Arabia food lovers in the Capital. Over all, our experience was satisfactory though, I wish to see a stronger choice on the menu. Prices are as well fair compared to the quality. Usually, it takes for any restaurant a period of 6 months to show consistency in quality. As well as in the selection of items on the menu. Hence we are looking forward to re-visit the place for our food-o-meter to go further high on taste palettes. The first impression is pretty good and striking. This place is gaining pace regarding popularity considering its full of Emirati and Arab guests.
Phone number – 02 6216525
Cuisines – Arabian, Middle Eastern
Cost (AVERAGE) – AED 180 for two people (approx.)
Cash and Cards accepted
Address – Level 1, Near Vox Cinema, Marina Mall, Marina Village, Abu Dhabi