Walk into Ciprianis Abu Dhabi and you are transported to a time and place where food is loved, prepared and served with the care and attention your parents provide. This is the story the highly trained waiting staff explained to us as they guided us on a gastronomic journey during an incredible evening crammed with food of the highest quality luxury but devoid of pretense. Ciprianis carried on this tradition which was started by Harry Cipriani when he opened Harry’s bar in Venice in 1931.
In the 80 years since it opened, Ciprianis has continued its tradition of serving distinguished customers from Kings and Queens to Hollywood legends and has a loyal clientele who appreciates attentive service, fine cuisine and a special atmosphere. Ciprianis Abu Dhabi continues to demonstrate Cipriani’s 4 pillars:
Simplicity – does this perfectly
Service: to love is to serve
Pure: use the best ingredients
Freedom: choice without coercion
The interior of the restaurant is spacious and has wide sails like a sailboat, a fitting motif considering its location on Yas Island. The lines are clean and the spaces are open but the placement of tables in the massive 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 pretty glass tables modeled after the original Harry’s Bar in Venice. Harry Cipriani’s room is an exclusive room with views of Yas and excellent for receptions. Dignitaries can enjoy the Crown Prince’s Room, which seats 20 people and is crammed with books. The Venice room has a cabaret setting with sliding doors separating it from the restaurant. And then there’s the amazing Terrace, which overlooks the Marina and the Yas circuit.
Despite its size, Ciprianis Abu Dhabi manages to create and maintain an intimate feel in several unique ways. The first is to use small and low tables and chairs. I instantly felt connected to the experience and to the food to come. Smaller furniture creates a smaller personal space in a large restaurant while emphasizing the simplicity that the restaurant prides itself on. Another reason for using a small table size is that Harry’s original bar was small and there was very little space. Another quirky touch: tables have 3 legs rather than 4. SO Ciprianis maintains a real connection to Harry’s bar, which has an uneven floor so 3-legged tables are safer.
These stories were shared with me by the fantastic staff, which is yet one more reason why Ciprianis maintains his intimacy. I entered and was greeted by maître Dee who introduced us to our server who then asked if we knew about Ciprianis. He then proceeded to share his storied history and introduced us to an expert Sommelier, who delighted us with his knowledge and keenness for wine and food. He focused our attention on the combinations and used easy rather than pretentious language to describe these combinations.
But let’s speak about the food, luxurious and easy. The first dish we tasted was Tuna tartar with tomato sauce and Mache salad, which was fresh and light. The Carpaccio alla Cipriani was paper thin but unlike the sometimes stringy run of the mill Carpaccio this literally melted in my mouth. Giuseppe Cipriani especially made this dish for Countess Amalia Nani Moncenigo after learning that his doctor had forbidden him to eat cooked meat. Inspired by Vittorio Carpaccio, a Venetian painter admired for his red and white tones. Have you ever eaten something very light but abruptly become very rich and filling? If not, try Burrata in Foglia which seems easy. Burrata is an imported Italian cheese that has a solid mozzarella outer skin while inside there’s soft and creamy mozzarella. Served with Taggiasche tomatoes and olives originating from Liguria, the coastal region of Northwest Italy. I wasn’t sure how Ciprianis would prepare the Chilean Sea bass better known as “Alla Carlina”, but any worries I had were put to rest when I took my first bite of this dish, prepared with just 4 ingredients. It’s perfect. Sea Bass is followed by a conventional dish – grilled white tagliolini with turkey ham. This dish is probably the most famous dishes from Harry’s Bar in Venice, tagliolini with thinly sliced turkey ham topped with béchamel sauce and baked with grated parmesan and butter Salty Turkish ham complements the soft cheese crust and easy soft pasta underneath. Divine.
Finally, our ambrosial meal ended with a powerful espresso and a slice of the famous vanilla meringue cake. Nice experience as if we were transported to Italian Venice where it all started at Harry’s Bar in Venice. Enjoy your meal