The celebrity chef brings terrific tapas to Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers.
It’s time to say hola to José by Pizarro Abu Dhabi. The Spanish chef has made his UAE debut in Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, and brings terrific tapas to the capital. First things first, if you’re expecting a big, bustling restaurant – José Pizarro is a celebrity chef, after all – this is a charming spot, tucked away near the lobby. And, it’s all the better for it.
José hails from Talaván, a small village in Spain. He was born into a family of farmers, and grew up producing vegetables, meats and dairy products. Despite training to be a dentist, food was in his blood, so he swapped the scaler for a spatula.
José by Pizarro Abu Dhabi pays tribute to his background. Black and white photos of his family line the wall, and there are nods to his mother on the menu. The result is an intimate space, where food is at the heart of the experience. Great for date nights or catching up with friends, guests can sit side by side (and hear each other) as they share dishes.
On the opening, José said: “Abu Dhabi is a place that’s incredibly passionate about great food, art, and culture, and Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers is the most iconic hotel in the city and one of the UAE’s leading culinary destinations. Together, I think we make the perfect match.”
When we enter, we are met with smiling staff and a Spanish soundtrack. The venue is home to 46 seats, from high tables with stools to sofas with square tables. The modern décor boasts brown, red and terracotta touches across the banquettes, chandeliers and walls. Plus, there is a sleek bar at the back.
José by Pizarro Abu Dhabi showcases some of José’s signature dishes across a sharing concept. The chef prides himself on sourcing local ingredients, and using traditional Spanish cooking techniques. The menu spans snacks, tapas, mains and desserts. At times it can be tricky for vegetarians, but the staff are happy to improvise.
The Aceitunas Gordal Rellenas de Naranja olives stuffed with oranges (AED 25) worked wonders. So much so, this is how we’d like all of our olives served. The bitter yet tangy starter was finished within minutes. Plus, they were dressed in José’s mother’s special marinade of oregano, salt and pepper.
The Pan Anchoas Catalina Reserva (AED 40), which is an anchovy and smoked butter on brioche bread, could have done with more anchovy and less bread. The anchovy had been salted for two years, and was a bold, juicy delight in its own right.
We lapped up the Albondigas de Ternera con Salsa de Tomate Picante (AED 70), which includes beef meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce and orange. The dish comes with eight meatballs, each separated by a slice of orange. The result: soft meat, rich sauce, and a sweet yet spicy kick.
Don’t leave José by Pizarro Abu Dhabi without ordering a paella. The Paella De Pollo (AED 315)comes with a chicken on top, but the staff placed this on the side, so that my veggie guest could dig into the dish. Served as they do in Spain, it comes hot in a pan. Tip: make sure you get to the crispy bottom, and savour the smoky taste.
We ended on a sweet note with the Tarta De Queso Vasca Con Fresas, a basque cheesecake tart with strawberries. Scorched on the top and soft on the inside, it was a great gooey finish.
The cocktail list includes classics such as a Mai Tai, Martini and Sangria, and marvellous mocktails are made with Lyre’s. The Lyre’s Old Fashioned, which includes American malt and aromatics bitter is served with a chunky block of ice. It is worth raising a glass to, as it is an excellent non-alcoholic alternative.
On our visit, it may have been a little quiet, but the food did all the talking. We imagine it won’t be long until word gets out, as good news (and food) is worth sharing. Abu Dhabi, José is in town.
GO: Visit https://josepizarro.com for more information.