Having opened it doors about seven years ago, Filini is a grand matron of Abu Dhabi’s off island Italian dining scene, a lot has changed since then. Flashy rivals have opened up all over town, but Filini is unfazed; it continues to do what it does so well and is rewarded nightly with a buzzing terrace of regulars.
It’s so buzzing that the night that we choose to try it, the outdoors terrace is full, despite there being the odd potential for rain.
We sit in a two-seater with a sweeping view of the city’s skyline. A server named Rose, whose exemplary service begs a mention, greets us immediately. She knows her menu well and helps us navigate the Italian menu.
Chef Luca also comes around and weighs in. Understanding our preferences, the two guide us toward a small array of “nibbles” (the starters before the starters), starters and mains. If Italians are known for tables that runneth over with food, this two-seater is going to be too small for what we just ordered.
And so it begins. Filini’s service team brings an array of small bowls. It’s readily apparent that we are taking a culinary tour of Italy, one bowl at a time. The bowls contain bresaola, cheeses, marinated octopus, calamari, clams, mussels, green salads and ceviche. There is also a plate of garlicky flatbread. We dive into the tapas; almost forgetting this this is just the nibble before the starter.
Chef Luca calls the gnocchi verdi (gnocchi spinach) in Taleggio and Gorgonzola cream sauce, “a stomach cleanser.” It’s a little daunting, after all those nibbles, but once we have a taste we have no choice but to savor every bite. The sauce is tangy and the gnocchi are firm and fresh.
For our mains we thought we had ordered a simple salmon and sea bass, but this main is plated on a lacy bed of octopus carpaccio. The fish is grilled to perfection and the octopus bed is flavorful and elegant.
The lamb chops and beef filet medallion are served with three different sauces: red grape sauce, balsamic sauce and a garlic sauce. The sauces are almost an afterthought as the meat is so perfectly cut and cooked.
Two more plates wiped clean and just when we thought we were done, Rose asks us what we’d like to try for dessert. Out instincts are to quit while we are ahead, but Rose’s dessert descriptions have us drooling.
Against our better judgment, we are coaxed into a chocolate fondant and a tiramisu. They arrive quickly. While we intend to just have a taste of each the oozing perfect little pudding, the molten chocolate erupts and we feel compelled to lap it up.
On the other hand, the cool tiramisu is a velvety pick-me-up. We are compelled to dig deep through the creamy mascarpone layer for the coffee sodden ladyfingers.
Taking a meal at Filini is akin to travel. The restaurant features different regions of Italy from month-to-month, but the standard menu is rife with delicacies from the entire country and one would be wise to approach the menu nibble by nibble, heeding the advice of the well-informed and fun staff.
Filini, Radisson Blu
02 656 2000