Brunch review: Tasca by José Avillez
A Michelin Starred menu and stunning setting make this one of the chicest brunches in the city…
It’s hard not to be bowled over by the views at Tasca. Every time I enter, I’m mesmerised by way the shimmering infinity pool melds into the Arabian Gulf and the blue skies beyond, instantly transporting guests from the sixth floor rooftop of the chic Mandarin Oriental, Jumeira to a charming oceanside tavern. This warm, inviting feeling extends from the setting, where wooden tables benefit from either the aforementioned pool views or a front row seat to the bar, into the new brunch menu, which we’re here to try.
Across five courses, Tasca promises a foodie flight across Portuguese flavours, all masterminded by chef José Avillez. Dishes are all designed for sharing, and are inspired by signatures on the a la carte menu at Tasca as well as the chef’s celebrated Lisbon-based restaurants.
In the first round of starters, we’re delighted to see this includes the flavour-packed tuna tartar cones, an ode to Portugal’s strong Japanese culinary influence with spicy sauce and kimchi mayo. While the textures of the explosive olive don’t leave us hungry for more, the innovatively served apple margarita on a bed of crushed ice with chili salt and mint do. As to the ever-so-lightly battered and oh-so-tasty tempura cod cakes, which top a generous dollop of garlic and lemon emulsion that we finish every drop of.
Continuing this flavour flight down the Portuguese coastline, the hot starters arrive swiftly afterwards, and our standout dishes are the clams and prawns, both flown in from the Atlantic Sea and both simply seasoned with coriander and garlic. A surprise hit is the cherry gazpacho, a unique mix and sweet and savoury that shouldn’t work but does, given bonus points for the table-side pouring of the thick cherry gazpacho around the neat sphere of pureed avocado.
As mains come out, as do a live duo, singing soulful renditions of crowd-pleasing classics. It’s a windy day on our visit, and their poolside positioning makes it hard for those further inside the restaurant to hear it. But those closer to the action look to be enjoying it.
Where Tasca shines is in seafood, further cemented by the Lagereiro octopus with and potatoes roasted just the way we like them. We’re less enthused by the Piri-Piri chicken, which is a little dry, although when paired with the Algarve tomato and cucumber salad, it’s well balanced.
It’s not common for a brunch of this style to include a cheeseboard as part of the dessert offering, but we’re glad Tasca does. Their trio: one cow, one sheep, one goat cheese are all from Portugal, and all pair perfectly with the sweet fig compote.
A parting gift, Tasca’s signature homemade pastel de nata – custard tarts in delicate flaky pastry cases and sprinkled with cinnamon – are brought around on a large wooden tray. They’re a treat for even the fullest of stomachs. To ensure it’s an authentic end, it’s paired with a shot of Ginginha, a traditional sour cherry liqueur that should be sipped, not shotted.
Tasca by Jose Avillez, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai, 12.30pm to 4pm, Saturdays, Dhs450 soft, Dhs550 house, Dhs750 Champagne. Tel: (0)4 777 2231, mandarinoriental.com