There are now at least half a dozen Peruvian restaurants in the city – so do the new kids on the block have what it takes?
Can this Peruvian restaurant in DIFC really bring anything new to the table?
We know what you’re thinking – another Peruvian restaurant in Dubai? We had the exact same thought. But this new simple, casual dining restaurant tucked away on the podium level of Emirates Financial Towers promises to be the real deal.
The classic ceviche
It seemed appropriate to kick off with the classic ceviche (Dhs39) – white fish (freshly caught that day), marinated in lime, chillies and onion. The flavours were a complex balance of zest and heat, complimented by a garnish of smoky, crunchy choclo (Peruvian corn). A side of solterito de quinia (quinoa salad, Dhs35) was not the bland, sad desk lunch that these dishes can so often be, but fresh and satisfying.
For mains, we went meaty, with the seco de cordero (Dhs69), a tender braised lamb shank marinated in coriander sauce and served on a bed of buttery canario beans. Our date opted for the pescado a lo macho (Dhs59), a seafood medley of fish, mussels, prawn and octopus covered in a spicy, creamy sauce.
For the dessert, skip the semisfera de lucuma (lucuma ice cream in a chocolate shell, Dhs22), which was bland and boring. Instead, try the surprising suspiro a la limena (Dhs19), homemade dulce de leche topped with Italian meringue. Tooth-achingly sweet, it reminded us of a very posh butterscotch Angel Delight – in the best way.
Suspiro a la limena
Yes, the city may be overflowing with Peruvian venues, but it’s definitely not at the expense of flavour here. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that Ceviche has some of the most authentic Latin American cuisine we’ve tasted so far in Dubai. Peruvian food cynics who write this place off from the outset are certainly missing out.
Podium Level, Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC, Dubai, daily 11.30am to 10pm. Tel: (04) 3266333. Metro: Financial Centre. cevichedubai.com
Totora Cebichera Peruana
The Peruvian onslaught continues. Can this Gate Village venue stand out?
The Culinary Institute Of America called 2014 the ‘Year Of Peruvian’ food, and two years later the Dubai restaurant scene well and truly has the cuisine covered – well, apart from the guinea pig.
So what makes a Peruvian restaurant worth visiting? The ceviche has to be fresh (which it is at this new DIFC spot), the empanadas crisp and buttery (they are here), there needs to be plenty of quinoa (check) and a smattering of Japanese influence (there’s a large Japanese community in the Latin American country).
Totora Cebichera is spread over two elegant floors in DIFC Gate Village (in a space that used to be an art gallery). There’s a chic lounge bar below, and a teal-coloured restaurant up above. From the exposed concrete walls to the faux rope bridge that leads you from the door to the reception, the interiors are a talking point, which isn’t a surprise considering they’re the brainchild of architect/star designer Fadi Sarieddine
What about the food? Star dishes included the ceviche de barrio (Dhs65), a hearty portion of octopus, shrimp, sea bass and cassava corn cured in a tart blend of lime and chillies. This was a diverse plate with plenty of texture on offer rather than just some limp fish in lemon juice.
Another favourite was the lomo saltado (Dhs130) – like a Peruvian stir-fry, the beef was wonderfully tender and the sauce a cross between soy and gravy (a welcome fusion).
The desserts were both outstanding – the tres leches (Dhs45) was an exemplary take on the classic Latin sponge cake. Doused in evaporated and condensed milk, this is clearly calorific but totally worth it.
Meanwhile, the Lucuma Andean cereals (Dhs45) was an unusual, not-too-sweet dessert with a tangerine-coloured mousse made from the Peruvian lucuma fruit, crunchy pieces of puffed quinoa, and a deep, dark chocolate sauce. We would order it again.
Lucuma Andean cereals
The not-so-successful plates? Well, while we hear it’s a fan favourite, we weren’t blown away by the chicken ‘aji de gallina’ sushi roll (Dhs45), which is basically egg sushi covered in what reminded us of shredded coronation chicken. And, while it’s a great option for vegans, the raw mushroom ceviche (with button, eryngii and enoki fungi, Dhs45), was just too healthy for our taste. It’s essentially raw mushrooms in lime juice – not exactly the type of dish we dream about.
Aji de gallina
That said, the thing we’ll remember most about Totora (and probably the reason we’ll go back) is the service – it was informed, caring and attentive without being cloying, which is a hard balance to strike.
Gate Village Building 7, DIFC, Dubai, daily noon until midnight (bar until 1am). Tel: (04) 3999666. Taxi: DIFC Gate Village. totora.com
Atmosphere: Party & smart