Abu Dhabi: A little bit of Cali, a little bit of Afghani and a whole lot of cool at Nolu's Downtown
As the culinary scene in Abu Dhabi still tries to find itself, there is a neighborhood café that meets everyone’s needs. Nolu’s Downtown combines healthful eating while hitting the comfort zone, and though it may look casual, it’s not casual when it comes to taste.
All of the items on the menu are created by Executive Chef and founder Marjon Ajami. Focusing on organically grown foods, she felt what Abu Dhabi lacked was a mid-range restaurant that you could go to five days a week. Originally concentrating on healthful recipes on the menu, she decided to include Afghan dishes, which add a traditional dimension to the casual cool California vibe of the place.
As you peruse the menu, you can munch on some Afghani bread with a side of spicy chutney, a recipe that has been passed down to Marjon from her mother. If you are new to Afghan cuisine, you must start with the mantoo. These minced onion and beef dumplings are cooked and served in a cast iron skillet while drenched in tomato and yogurt sauces.
There are more comfort food favorites, such as hearty soups and sandwiches. This blending of menu options is much like Abu Dhabi - a mix of different cultures and cuisines, both traditional and contemporary. The ambience literally has a homegrown feel, with touches of modern garden. Though no outdoor seating, the well-lit veranda gives you a beautiful view of the Al Maryah Island promenade and the Abu Dhabi Skyline.
The location in Abu Dhabi’s new financial district lends itself to a business clientele, though you’ll see all types from locals to travelers, as well as families and moms.
When I go, it’s usually for dinner with my family and we tend to order a little bit of everything. I order a Mantoo to start, and a flatbread pizza for the kids. My husband loves the Afghan side of the menu, while I prefer the curry pasta with asparagus and prawns, or the signature Nolu’s salad. Make sure you save room for dessert! Whether for their organic fig profiteroles or the gluten free brownie, all desserts are made in house.
When I asked Marjon what she likes to order she answers “Everything! But if I had to choose, the salads. “
Their breakfast menu is just as enticing. They make cold pressed juices on site, and have weekend brunches. Sometimes when I’m passing by I stop at Nolu’s On the Go for one of their in house made cold pressed juices. They also have an easily accessible oatmeal and salad bar.
It’s an Abu Dhabi original that captures the inventive and fused nature of the city. Whether you are there for a family night, liquid lunch or detox brunch, Nolu’s Downtown is definitely the place.