Toro Toro is out. Can VaKaVa go the distance?

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers set tongues wagging last month when it welcomed an exciting new restaurant to its repertoire. Latin restaurant VaKaVa is the mischievous twin sister of long-standing UAE favourite, Toro Toro.

Both restaurants are the brainchild of Mexican celebrity chef Richard Sandoval and while closely related to Toro Toro, VaKaVa is described as more well-travelled, with a passionate personality. The new restaurant has replaced the same spot held by Toro Toro, in the two-storey spot next to Etihad Towers’ stunning infinity pool. A big white bull still marks the entrance, followed by fanciful artwork and rich decor in tones of saucy orange and red.

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Many of the pan-Latin dishes are served as sharing platters, so we dove right in. The smoked guacamole (Dhs60), which is becoming ubiquitous in the capital but superior here, is zesty, creamy and served with deliciously salty tortilla chips. Don’t miss a ceviche, either: we sampled several but were blown away by the sea bass coconut (Dhs75), each morsel of sea bass infused with coconut milk and topped lovingly with sprigs of coriander, thinly sliced red chilli and sprinkles of black sesame. We also sampled the cachapas (Dhs65) and were glad we did, because the exotic mix of flavours and textures in the Venezuelan sweetcorn pancake with halloumi and sour cream were a delight.

We chose to go all-in for the Rodozio family style free flow of meat from the Brazilian charcoal grill for (Dhs430 per person with sides; for parties of four or more). We valiantly kept our meat cards on green until we had tasted everything: Brazilian-style picanha steak, Wagyu rib eye, beef tenderloin, Australian lamb chops, tender prawns and earthy, peppery achiote marinated chicken thigh. As for sides, grilled cauliflower with sweet anticuchera sauce (Dhs50) and steamed asparagus with truffle oil and hollandaise (Dhs50) do nicely.

For dessert we went for the decidedly exciting La Bomba (Dhs90): a chocolate sphere with lucama mousse, chocolate fudge cake, almond cookie and fresh berries. We don’t want to ruin the surprise, but the presentation veers towards the theatrical.

Welcome to Abu Dhabi VaKaVa; we always prefer the mischiefs.

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, Mon to Wed 6pm to 2am, Thurs & Fri 6pm to 3am. Tel: (02) 811 5666.

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Images: Supplied