Bar of the Month: La Carnita, Yas Bay
It’s all the in-crowd are taco-ing about…
Before you, there are two tacos. If you take the blue taco, it’s delicious by the way, you can stop reading at the end of this paragraph, and wake up in your bed tomorrow morning safe in the knowledge that La Carnita is just another, albeit a particularly good, Mexican restaurant. If you choose the red taco, you stay in Wonderland, and we show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
The Yas Bay incarnation of La Carnita is a more grown-up, more polished version of its Dubai sister, but don’t let its sophisticated facade fool you. It’s founded on the same set of shared principles. Authentic Latin flavours, an all-vibe soundtrack, fuego nights and… la pasión. Which is precisely why it has found its way into our Bar of the Month spotlight.
Sssh it’s a secret
We’d long heard rumors from multiple sources that La Carnita is ‘the’ latest hot spot for late night revelling in the capital. It makes sense, since opening just over a year ago — the entertainment gravitas of Yas Bay has pulled a significant number of casual and committed merry-makers away from their traditional haunts into this new orbit. And within these sorts of migratory patterns, there’s always at least one hub that ends up as the defacto ‘Studio 54’ of the displacement.
In our position as unofficial investigators of vibe in Abu Dhabi, we’ve parked ourselves in a breezy waterfront booth at the trending Mexican cantina-with-benefits. The music is a brilliant blend of bass-heavy bangers, there’s an amber glow from the above-bar neon gothic arches and despite it still being relatively early — the moon is full tonight and escalation is in the air.
The menu is comprised of street food style dishes, and more substantial plates. We’ve ordered tacos, because that feels like the spirit food of this particular engagement. We’ve strapped in for achiote chicken, carne asada and Mexican chorizo (all Dhs22 for one or Dhs58 for three). There’s a real variety of Mexican food experiences in the UAE, it’s often Tex-Mex labouring under the banner of authentic Mexican – but the dining here passes the Mex-Mex test. Messy mouthfuls of meat and tortilla enlivened with electric-citrus marinades and spicy salsas.
If you come for the eats, you’ll stay for the beats, for people getting out of their seats and dancing like they’re on the streets of Cabo. La Carnita has an attraction to it that can’t be cultivated without sincerity — people see through gimmickry and move on if there’s nothing meaningful behind it. Add to that, promotions such as Tuesday’s taco and margaritas night (Dhs250), Thursday’s ladies’ night (which also comes with bottomless margs), the Saturday brunch (soft Dhs199, house Dhs299) and the Monday to Friday 4pm to 7pm happy hour and the canvas on which La Carnita’s popularity is painted on comes alive with colour.
Verdict: We realise saying somewhere is ‘the’ new place to be on the nightlife circuit, has the same effect as screaming confided secrets into a podcast mic. The moment it leaves your mouth is the moment it ceases to be so. Which is why we won’t say that. But you can read between the lines.
Yas Bay, Yas Island, daily midday to 2am (Sat 1pm to 2am). Tel: (050) 185 8068, @lacarnita_auh