Review: A.O.K Kitchen at Riyadh's King Abdullah Financial District
A very welcome addition to KAFD, which already feels like a neighbourhood favourite…
Our entire job revolves around recommending restaurants, but even we find it a nightmare choosing somewhere that will cater to everyone. You’ve got your gluten-free folk, your vegans, your vegetarians, your spice lovers, your spice haters, and the list goes on…
But A.O.K Kitchen, which has recently opened its doors in the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), has countless options for all of the above and, importantly, has a vibrant menu that stems from the idea of comfort food.
To endow the KAFD address with the identity of A.O.K, the same tenet and ethos of the original location in London have been created to carry forward the experience and the name.
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Specialising in dishes free of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar, Riyadh’s new must-be-seen-in restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can spend an entire day in A.O.K enjoying the stylish and buzzy ambience of the bright and open space, or you can opt to dine alfresco for when the weather gets cooler by the end of the year.
Part of the A.O.K experience also includes the restaurant’s chic décor, with a “feel-good fun for all” atmosphere. Guests walk into a dramatic setting of magical mystery thanks to the imposing vine and blossoms trawling across the entire ceiling.
Comfortable banquettes line the perimeter of the cosy establishment, complete with neatly arranged tables. The nooks and corners are connected to the central restaurant space, ensuring that every section has privacy while being a part of the main zone.
The well-maximised space is tied together by the mirrored bar, surrounded by plush bar stools. Hand-painted silk wallpaper, dark wood tables and leather dining chairs, complemented by earthy hues, are elements that complete the enchanted garden aesthetic.
As for the menu? It is just as whimsical as its setting, with dishes bursting with vibrant colours and Mediterranean and Californian flavours.
We begin our meal with a pair of nibbles: the grilled Padron peppers (SAR32) and the sourdough flatbread, peppered with generous shavings of summer truffle, parmesan and rocket leaves (SAR72), whet the appetite while we await our appetisers.
First-time diners to A.O.K should give the lentils and roasted carrots (SAR72) a try – simply seasoned, light, and tasty. The beef tartare served with olive bread crostini (SAR120) is also a good one, particularly with the gooey Onsen quail egg.
Onwards to the mains, we sample a few protein dishes. The BBQ lamb chops with piquillo peppers and chimichurri sauce (SAR172) is a generous plate but lacks that punch of a flavour.
Meanwhile, on a bed of green beans and watercress, garnished with fresh, bright, and zingy tomatoes and aged Parmesan, a dish of juicy, chargrilled sirloin Tagliata (SAR176) is impressive to behold – and delish, nonetheless.
The grilled wild tiger prawns (SAR195) are truly an understatement – the dish pleasantly surprises with a generous serving of three very large prawns cut into halves, well marinated in spicy chermoula. The taste simply grips you right from the get-go – from the tender texture of the prawns to the rich chermoula sauce, it is the perfect indulgence for fans of seafood.
Sides of charred broccolini (SAR42) and sauteed potatoes (SAR38) make the perfect accompaniments to our main dishes.
After a perfectly round gluten-free baked chocolate mousse served with homemade vanilla ice cream finishes off our lunch, we’re left feeling comfortably full without any sense of over-indulgence, despite eating every morsel on each plate served.
Our overall verdict? We’d say A.O.K proves to be just as agreeable as its name would suggest, plus it definitely has a feel-good fun vibe all around.
A.O.K Kitchen, KAFD Wadi, 6469 Northern Ring Rd, Al Aqiq, Riyadh 13519, daily 8am to 11.30pm. Tel: 9200 25304. @aokkitchensaudi