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Photograph courtesy of Karno Dasgupta

AD Secrets: Ortego’s Deli

Dive into unconventional Asian cuisine at Ortego’s Deli, a small spot for those wishing to escape the fast food craze near Al Wahda Mall.

Mar 16, 2019

Ortego's Deli is a little restaurant a few minutes away from Al Wahda Mall by foot, serving a selection of Asian cuisine. The quaint deli is the perfect alternative to those unenthused by the mall’s food court. With reasonably priced items and a menu of considerable breadth — ranging from Filipino, to Korean to Chinese — the location boasts something for any patron looking to grab a quick bite that is not fast food. The cozy space is bright and cheery, with warm lights, televisions showing the news and some pictures on the walls, all imbuing it with a personality beyond the regular, cookie-cutter café.
Far removed from the crowded seating at the joints in the mall, Ortego’s holds less than 50 diners when full. During my visit, I was pleasantly surprised by its design: one of a relaxed meal that does not sacrifice convenience for comfort. A midscale restaurant with a wholesome vibe and a mix of songs from the past two decades playing softly in the background, Ortego’s had me from the moment I stepped across its threshold.
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Walking in, I was immediately greeted by a friendly staff member who escorted me to a vacant table and presented a menu card. With a list of specials on the table, marked to reflect availability, there is a careful efficiency to the establishment. I flipped through its offerings, scanning the dishes while nodding to the beats drifting through the space. Within a minute or so of putting my menu down, I had a waiter ready to take my order — popcorn prawn, Korean roast beef and peach iced tea.
My server was quick to say that the food would arrive in 15 minutes before leaving with my menu. The lack of a Wi-Fi connection was unfortunate, but it also freed me up to pay attention to my surroundings. I looked at the bustling interior, with art on the walls and excited chatter among the diners. The deli fosters an intimacy through the way it is set up, a closeness between its clients arises from the homely atmosphere therein. My drink showed up on my table in a rush and the food followed soon after.
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My peachy drink came with a straw and was as refreshing as I could hope. Expecting a long wait, I sipped conservatively. Before I was halfway done with it, though, in came the prawns and the beef, both at the same time. I dug in. The prawns were light, with a cheesy aftertaste that paired well with the sauces that came alongside it. Mildly crunchy with a textured surface that soaked up the dips, I finished off the popcorn with glee. Satisfied with my appetizer, I was eager for more.
Next was the beef, placed atop some noodles and vegetables, on a wooden chopping board that gave it a likeable authenticity. Sliced thin with pieces of round bone clinging to the flesh, the dish was moist, with a tangy sauce that cut through the red meat and kept my taste buds intrigued. Eating it with its accompaniments mixed in, I was pleased with the tasty economy of the dish that elevated and centralized the beef without being boring. Though slightly uncomfortable to get to all the meat due to the way it was stuck to the bone, a bit of careful manipulation of cutlery meant I got to eat most of what was served.
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As I finished off dinner and asked for the bill, I felt content. Nestled on the sidewalk across from Al Wahda, the Deli is easy to spot and yet unassuming. Not difficult to overlook. I was happy to have found it — to have left the confines of the mall and discover a new restaurant. The food-court’s fast food had grown monotonous and this meal had been the perfect cure. Ortego's stands out as an example of simple food made well, and how fulfilling a little experimentation can be. When I saw how much it had cost in all, I was struck by how good a deal the meal had been. Two drinks, one starter and one main cost approximately 45 AED.
This city has a lot to offer, with a cosmopolitan conception that means every street-corner restaurant might boast a different cuisine to satiate one’s inner foodie. Such welcome culinary surprises fill me with an excitement to explore more, to find the local joints that light up Abu Dhabi’s food scene.
With Ortego’s Deli, I began my own journey to achieve this very goal.
Karno Dasgupta is a contributing writer. Email him at
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