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Full of Eastern promise

Published: Saturday, October 01, 2016    



Foodies will rejoice to know that cuisines from right across the world’s largest continent are available at Hili Rayhaan’s Elements restaurant every Wednesday at Asian Twist Night

There is no better promise of good food than being met with mouth-watering aromas wafting in from the kitchen of a restaurant you’ve just arrived at.

And so it was with big smiles that my fellow dinner companions and I walked into Hili Rayhaan by Rotana’s Elements Restaurant on a Wednesday to try out their Asian Twist Night.

This particular theme kicked off in September of last year under the watchful eyes and experienced hands of Syrian Executive Chef Louay Saegh, who has been heading the hotel’s kitchen since May 2015, and holds over 16 years of experience in the culinary feld.

“One thing I always hold on to as a Chef is to keep striving to go up – the standard of cooking can never drop, only get better,” he said.

“And I’ve received great feedback from dining guests and even hotel staff, who say the dishes remind them of home, and this makes me really happy to hear.”

With his culinary skills lying in multiple cuisines such as Irish, Italian, Thai,Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Fusion food, Chef Louay prepares a wide array of cuisine for each week’s Asian Twist Night, with the day of our visit featuring Indian, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian and Japanese fare – dishes which change weekly, showcasing different regions of Asia each time.

The restaurant features a low-light warm atmosphere, with tables for small gatherings placed spaciously around the venue creating an intimate, quiet setting, almost creating an illusion of personal bubbles around each dining station.

The buffet spread lies at the far end of the restaurant, stretching around a cooking area where diners are met with various sounds of clattering and sizzling as dish upon dish is prepped and served.

With the UAE’s weather being as warm as ever, I passed on the heated starter soups – lemongrass-infused Thai and Indian lentil – and dove straight into the salad bar, to which not one, or two, but three sections had been dedicated.

Besides the set, generic salad of everyday vegetables, and Middle Eastern salads including sweet and crunchy fattoush as well as tender and crispy potato tangine, the third section consisted of an assortment of Asianthemed salads such as Indonesian Gado Gado, Potato Chat, Thai Beef, and Asian Seafood.

And of course, no Asian buffet is complete without everyone’s favourite “salad” addition: Japanese sushi.

Prepared last-minute to serve it at its freshest, the range featured caviar sushi stuffed with crab as well as sweet pink, and nori (seaweed) rolls of vegetarian sushi, placed next to their other halves, soy sauce and wasabi.

Back at the table, my plate piled high with various shades of green, I sampled the crab and vegetarian sushi; each was soft, chewy and extra sweet as I’d mercilessly dipped them in my bowl of soy sauce, the combined mixture pleasantly peaking as I tossed sushi in my mouth, one after another.

The piquant Asian Seafood Salad featured sweet shrimp, and was extremely palatable with the spicy Indian Potato Chat – nice warm ups for the main course ahead.

With recipes rotating weekly to serve up dishes from different regions of Asia, my dining companions and I got the chance to sample Eastern, Southern, and Southeastern fare.

Crispy tempura shrimps, peppery fried noodles topped off with chili beef, and hot-out-of-the-oven tandoori naan (bread made in a tandoor: round oven) with spicy tikka consisted my main meal - which resulted in a combination of sweet and spicy ?avours, each bite complementing the previous morsel.

Other dishes included Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice), Butter Chicken, Biryani, Veggie Spring Rolls, Mutton Masala, Beef Vindaloo and Okra with Curry - all seasoned with their regional herbs and spices.

Table conversation shifted to what was on each person's plate, and each bite of food that passed our lips was followed by appreciative looks and comments.

Chef Louay disclosed that the recipes he uses stay true to its original, as his aim is to serve dishes as authentically as possible, albeit with a more contemporary presentation.

After tucking into a continuous blend of sweet and spicy, it was high time for dessert.

I begrudgingly walked past the alluring, yet sweet, banana fritters, blueberry panna cotta, mahalabia and Umm Ali in search of a milder taste like the surprisingly light hazelnut chocolate cake, and delectable Thai rice cakes dusted in coconut.

It was a pleasant evening with palatable and fresh food, which was presented quite appealingly. The restaurant is decked well for family meals as well as more intimate settings, with an attentive staff and a team of 18 chefs at the helm constantly deep frying, steaming or stir-frying generous and delicious helpings of food – defnitely worth going back to for seconds.

“Chef Louay prepares a wide array of cuisine… with the day of our visit featuring Indian, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian and Japanese fare”
 
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