Restaurants in Dubai follow a rather strange business model. They don’t necessarily aim to fill a niche, but rather catch the wave of a trend. It’s a shame, because the result is a rash of restaurants serving up near-identical food in near-identical surroundings.

So when a new venture promises to offer something that’s truly in short supply, it’s an exciting prospect. Loca has wisely sought to cover two gaps in the market: good beer and authentic Mexican food. Several tables boast their own beer spouts, and the drinks menu has brews imported from pretty much everywhere. This, along with the breathy tunes spilling out of the speakers, has cinched this place as a very popular hangout joint once folks get wind of it. Still, for me the big draw was the promise of a proper enchilada executed by a chef who genuinely hails from Mexico.

Ceviche was the real test. It is a dish ubiquitous in Latin America, with each country having its own spin. The basics remain the same, though: it’s raw fish marinated in citrus juices, and when done right, it’s heavenly. But until this point, I’d never had it done right in Dubai. Loca’s version, however, was divine.

It was adjusted a little (made with hammour instead of the more traditional tuna or prawns), but by and large it stuck pretty close to tradition, incorporating soft cubes of avocado and ripe mango. I beg anyone not familiar with ceviche to get familiar at Loca – you won’t be let down.

Guacamole was good, too, though this shouldn’t be a problem with any Mexican restaurant worth its salt. It’s made tableside and mixed with a healthy helping of minced onions, tomatoes and coriander (the staff knew enough to incorporate all the ingredients that mattered). The dip also made a good accoutrement to my date’s enchiladas de mariscos, which came stuffed with fluffy shards of hammour, prawns and crabmeat and were covered in a gooey froth of Oaxaca cheese.

While her main was good – subtle and decadent – it was still no match for mine: an order of thick, tender pork ribs basted in a sticky, smoky barbecue sauce. The portion was easily large enough for two filling meals (oh yeah, I took the leftovers home without shame) and the meat between the bones was startlingly plump. I experienced a kind of comic amnesia between bites, so that every time I ripped off some flesh I was caught unawares by the beauty of the dish and let out a series of startled sighs.

We finished off the evening with an excellent flan – the consistency perfectly dense and the sweetness laced with that sensual charred undertaste emblematic of Mexican desserts. We also split a slice of tres leches cake, which was wet and creamy, but a tad too rich and too sweet for one person to eat without feeling a little nauseous. But this was the only complaint in what was an otherwise excellent meal.

What made the evening, though, wasn’t just the quality of the food – it was the relaxed environment in which we found ourselves. On the night we visited the restaurant was sparsely filled, but it will no doubt
become a lot more popular once word gets out. Best book your table early while there’s still room.

The bill (for two)

1x Large Aquafina water Dhs22
1x Ceviche Dhs52
1x Guacamole Dhs39
1x Ribs Dhs82
1x Enchiladas de mariscos Dhs78
1x Flan Dhs28
1x Tres leches cake Dhs28
Total (prices include 10 per cent service) Dhs329