Abu Dhabi: Dining at an Indian restaurant has long been an exercise to appease the hunger pangs. I mostly rap out my customary orders without even breezing through the menu because I know my kebabs and curries as well as the dosas my mum makes.
But the moment I stepped into Ushna in Abu Dhabi, my “been there, done that” culinary complacence swiftly turned into a rousing anticipation.
Hosted in the Arab splendour of Souq Qaryat Al Beri in the Shangri La complex, this restaurant seemed nothing like what an Indian restaurant looks like. There were no gaudy relics from a bygone empire; vestiges of the majestic Mauryas or Moguls were not scattered around. No carved elephants and brass statues; no temple paintings or silver tableware. Yes, you got it: it had none of those ‘ancient India’ tags!
The swanky, spacious interior more closely resembled a fancy business lounge where high-up honchos fine-tuned business deals over a meal. When I stepped out to the splendidly laid out outdoor seating, the breathtaking views transported me to an exotic holiday destination.
Sandwiched between the iconic Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque overlooking the placid waters and the upcoming landmarks of a burgeoning city, the restaurant seemed to be perfectly positioned at Bain Al Jessrain, which means “between the bridges”, here Al Maqta Bridge and the Mussafah Bridge.
The pappads and the finger bowls arrived — a preview to the culinary passion flaming inside the Ushna Kitchen. The restaurant had a signature epicurean menu created by celebrity Indian chef Abhijit Saha, side by side with choice specialities from the regular menu.
Spoilt for choice, we decided to start with Machli Tawa Fry (Dh50) from the regular menu and the Saha-created Pashmina Chicken Supreme Kebab (Dh75). The fish was cooked to perfection with a layer of crushed and mildly flavoured spices that did not overpower the taste of the fish. The kebab plate looked more like an artwork in its presentation. The fine mace and cardamom marinated chicken tasted supreme with a dash of roasted pistachio and saffron cream on top.
Before we dug into the main course, Saha insisted we try his two special creations in starters: Assorted Spherifications (a culinary process of shaping liquid into spheres) of Jal Jeera (cumin water), mango lassi and tomato rasam (broth, Dh45) and the very Indian Gol Guppa or panipuri (Dh48) with a twist. Traditional potato and onion filling apart, the fried thin sphere-shaped bread came with hummus, tzatziki, muhamara tamarind and spiced pineapple juice. The mouth-watering experience tempted us to go for a second round of spherifications.
An aromatic and mildly spiced Malabar Prawn Curry and sizzling Gosht Khada Masala along with an assorted bread basket further encouraged our gluttony. For the biriyani puritans, we would advise to give it a miss as the preparation is undesirably bland for a seasoned Indian palate.
As we wrapped up with a few spoons of apple, coconut and rice payasam (sweet porridge), our after-dinner conversation invariably gathered steam over pencilling down our next visit. Soon!
Meal for two: Dh145 to Dh225
Location: Souk Qaryat Al Beri, Bain Al Jessrain, Abu Dhabi
Timings: Open 12.30pm to 3pm
Contact: 02-558 1769