Review: Why Waka could be Dubai's hottest new Latin offering
In a sea of Peruvian, can this colourful eatery stand out from the crowd?
Greeted with pulsating rhythms and a live saxophonist as we walked into Waka, we had to work hard to suppress a shimmy.
Dubai’s latest Latin American offering, located on the lobby level of The Oberoi, serves up the region’s mouth-popping flavours with a side of street party.
It’s a vibrant space, divided into a casual bar and lounge area, and dining room. Bold artworks adorning the walls and exposed brickwork bestow an almost hipster vibe on the restaurant. The result is a highly Instagrammable, visual feast – and that’s before you’ve even seen what’s on your plate.
The uninitiated may need some help decoding chef Roberto Segura’s creative menu, described as a “fusion of Latin American flavours combined with Japanese seasonings, using French techniques”. Fortunately, wait staff seemed passionate about the cuisine and eager to recommend their favourites.
Our waiter pointed us towards the Waka Caliente (Dhs68), a signature dish of snapper, scallops and prawns, cooked over hot stones in a small pot at your table. The earthy red aji panca broth was bursting with tangy flavour, and we enjoyed the novel presentation of the dish.
We were warned that diners either “love or hate” the Conchas y Coral (Dhs60), a colourful plate of raw Japanese scallops. Challenge accepted. The main problem was, it looked too beautiful to eat – but that concern quickly dissolved as the paper-thin morsels danced across our tastebuds, with rocoto and leche de tigre providing some delicate zing. We were firmly in the “love it” camp.
There was nothing delicate about the Spare Ribs (Dhs120), which can be found on the “Chifa” section of the menu – Peruvian ingredients mixed with Cantonese elements. Deliciously juicy, slathered in a sweet hoisin-style sauce and paired with a tangle of kimchi, we could easily have gone for a second round, but gracefully resorted to licking our fingers clean instead.
What came next was almost the death of us. The Chocolate Bomb (Dhs95) was one of the most impressive dessert experiences we’ve ever had. A chocolate sphere the size of a newborn was presented before us, then smashed open like a pinata to reveal a mess of sorbet, berries, meringue and brownie bits. Be warned, you’ll need at least three companions to polish this one off.
In a city saturated with Peruvian restaurants, to stand out, you have to bring something quite special to the table. Waka did just that, and we say it’s a welcome addition to the dining scene.
Waka, The Oberoi, Dubai, Saturday to Wednesday 6pm to midnight, Thursday and Friday 6pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 444 1455. Metro: Business Bay. waka.ae
*Please note, some restaurant timings may be affected by Ramadan. We recommend calling before visiting.