An influx of Latino venues made this 2013's biggest food craze
If you had to summarise Dubai’s biggest food frenzy in 2013, it would have to be for Latin American cuisine. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen no fewer than ten new openings, spanning Peruvian, Brazilian, Mexican and even Cuban cooking. Now, there is one more in the pipeline, with the Madinat Jumeirah’s new Mexican eatery Tortuga due to open (in its soft launch) this week. Amid all this loco Latin American food fever, it is arguably Peru (with its capital Lima, often dubbed the Paris of the Americas for its cooking) that has been the epicentre of the culinary revolution. Proving the point, this month Peru was awarded as the World’s Leading Culinary Destination at the World Travel Awards 2013. As the Latin American scene continues to grow, and shows absolutely no signs of abating, we take a look at Dubai’s latest wave of Latin American dining.
Café Habana This dim and sultry Cuban-themed spot is part restaurant, part bar, and gets lively later in the evening. Opened earlier in the year, Café Habana offers a largely Mexican menu, including tacos, grilled Mexican-style corn and enchildas. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 422 2620).
Cafe Martinez The Argentine-inspired café has two branches in Dubai (location in Business Central Towers and Wafi Mall), with yet another under construction in Dubai Marina, near to the Le Méridien Mina Seyahi. Alongside classic café-fare, you can also sample such cute delights as dulce de leche cheesecake, alfajores (Argentine shortcake as well as sandwiches) and empanadas. The Dubai Media City branch is even the site of sporadic milonga and tango classes. Business Central Towers, Dubai Media City (04 442 8760). Other location: Wafi Mall, Oud Metha (052 929 5711).
Chamas Churrascaria and Bar Following on from Fogueira, Fogo Vivo and Frevo, Dubai’s latest take on the churrascaria concept opened in October. It offers a similar selection of hot appetisers, all you can eat salad and cold appetiser buffet, plus grilled meats served in a rodizio style, as well as plenty of Brazilian beverages. Crowne Plaza Dubai, Sheilk Zayed Road (800 276 963).
IZEL Newly opened in November, and dubbing itself a Latin supperclub, IZEL is one of the hottest Latin tickets this year. As cavernous as an Aztec ziggurat temple, the space includes a stage, where Cuban bands perform, and an al fresco terrace. Truly pan-Latin, the menu is an extensive tour of the entire continent, offering ceviche in the style of four countries (Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile), as well as signature dishes on offer from other cuisines seen far less often in Dubai such as Colombian arepas. Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 444 7111).
O Cacti This Mexican eatery and bar offers a menu devised by a chef who has trained with the likes of Rene Redzepi and Alain Ducasse. The tight menu hits many classic notes, such as tacos, quesadillas, queso fundido and fajitas, although you can also find a few unexpected items such as a tuna tataki in lemon. Pier 7, Dubai Marina Mall (04 452 6699).
Story Rooftop Lounge Part lounge bar and part Peruvian dining experience, this new, graffiti-adorned spot is already proving popular with a more clued-up after-work crowd. While you’ll see tiradito and anticuchos, the Peruvian menu is also littered with fusion twists, signified by recipes such as the lomo saltado spring rolls. Holiday Inn, Knowledge Village (04 365 9911).
Tortuga Launching now in the space that was The Wharf British gastro pub, new Mexican eatery Tortuga promises an award-winning Mexican chef. Expect a tortilla cooking station, molcajete (melted cheese), churros and more. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).