Today’s post is about Cho Gao – an Asian fusion restaurant housed in the Crowne Plaza, Abu Dhabi. Showcasing Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and Indonesian dishes, Cho Gao will take you on a tantalizing taste-bud tour of the very best of South East Asia.
We have dined here a few times as a couple as well as with friends and family and every single time we walk away wondering why we don’t eat here more often. It is one of those Abu Dhabi gems that have stood the test of time by consistently serving up classic favorites.
A couple of friends and I decided to have a birthday lunch at Cho Gao the other day. We did have some trouble getting through to the restaurant to make the reservation but once we arrived at the restaurant it was all smooth sailing.
Now let me warn you that Cho Gao can get rather loud for an intimate dinner on a weekend but the afternoons almost make you feel like you are in another restaurant. The place is calm and soothing, with its wood decor and warm lighting enveloping you in a welcoming embrace. I love the little decor elements like the dainty wooden cages and embroidered Chinese symbols. We were quickly seated and handed the menus to make our choices. Service throughout was prompt and attentive without being overbearing, a delicate balance that Cho Gao seems to have mastered.
For our starters we opted for the Rice Paper Rolls – Vietnamese rice paper rolls stuffed with julienned carrots, cucumber, some herbs and glass noodles. If I am being completely honest, this particular dish was a bit of a letdown. I have had such Vietnamese rolls several times before (including in Vietnam itself where we actually took a cooking lesson on how to make these!) and I have always associated these rolls with an airy, refreshing taste packed with crunch and moisture. While the Cho Gao rolls scored in the crunch department, maybe something about the leaves used in the roll lent an almost peppery, weighty taste to these rolls that just dragged down the fresh-and-light factor. Also the cherry tomato perched on top of the rolls really did nothing for me. That being said, those who enjoy a twist on the classic roll may love these. But my disappointment was soon to be wiped away with our other courses.
Up next was the salmon and mango maki rolls from the new Taste of Japan menu and oh man, this has got to be one of the best rolls I have had in a while! The presentation was faultless, a sheer joy to the eye. The fish was sliced generously and tasted of sheer perfection. The roll was larger than normal and rather than being filled with copious amounts of rice, it was packed with crispy crab, tempura shrimp and cucumber. The pairing with the fresh slivers of sweet, juicy mango was sublime! Every piece was an explosion of flavors that rocked your taste buds and left them longing for more.
Next we moved to the main courses. We opted for the chicken and seafood “pillows”. The dish is cooked in a large foil packet that bubbles up with the heat and seals in the moistness and flavor. The staff sliced into the large foil bubble releasing a steaming aroma that stopped us in our tracks. Both dishes were flavorful with a light, silken gravy that we really wished there was more of. I was definitely leaning more towards the seafood pillow which was laden with fish, calamari, shrimp and scallops. It was a tad bit on the salty side for me but that didn’t stop me from savoring every bite.
By this point we were pretty stuffed but of course it would have been sacrilege to leave without sampling the desserts. We chose the melting chocolate ball which you can see for yourself below.
And we also had the fried ice cream. And Oh.My.Goodness! Drop everything you are doing, go there right now and order one for yourself. You can thank me later. No seriously, what are you still doing here?
A perfectly crisp, doughy ball hiding its pearly treasure of coconut ice cream (where have you been all my life, coconut flavor?) nestled on a layer of diced tropical fruit. Everything about this dish screamed style and sophistication and yet the flavor somehow managed to be comforting and homey at the same time, like a treasured old friend. I loved every single element of this dish and it was one of those occasions where a Kiss the Cook apron would have been met with unabashed obedience.
I left Cho Gao with solemn promises to myself to return soon and sample more of the Taste of Japan menu. Let’s see how good I am at keeping that promise.
My one big gripe is that Cho Gao is no longer featured in the 2017 Entertainer Abu Dhabi. Such a shame as the Entertainer really helped me feel less guilty about the occasional splurge on a meal at Cho Gao. Please go back on the Entertainer Cho Gao, please!
Have you ever visited Cho Gao before? What did you think?