As the thunderous pulse of a surdo bass drum rumbled between the mockcolonial columns encircling the stage, a clump of firm, fresh avocado went into the mix 9 Reviews
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As the thunderous pulse of a surdo bass drum rumbled between the mockcolonial columns encircling the stage, a clump of firm, fresh avocado went into the mix. Then, as the crisp, dry jingle of a pandeiro tambourine dashed among the booms, shavings of spring onion and fleshy tomato were added. A shimmering burst on a cavaquinho guitar heralded a boost of zesty lime, vigorous coriander and biting jalapeño peppers. Then with a flurry of salt and sugar, the vibrant guacamole took shape before our eyes as the samba clattered seductively all around.
While our waitress concocted the tangy dip at our table, and the bawdy performance emanated from the stage, I started to wonder: what has guacamole got to do with Brazilian samba? With nearly 5,000 miles separating Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro, it’s like preparing Russian borscht while a troupe of English morris dancers wave their hankies around. Brazilians are more likely to turn avocados into sorbet or milkshakes than savoury dips but this is what Pachanga’s all about – a whistle stop tour through a Latin American wonderland that brings a melting pot of national cuisines to a sultry sizzle.
In all fairness, we had arrived on the very popular ‘samba night’, and although the dancing show was hardly a scene from the streets of Copacabana, the atmosphere was positively carnivalesque for a Sunday evening in summertime Dubai. So I munched happily on bewitchingly fresh guacamole and tortillas until my gossamer-thin venison carpaccio with caramelised onions arrived. My friend rather daringly opted for the nopales cactus salad, which offered nothing spikier than a charged avocado salsa and refried beans, and the right to brag about eating the disappointingly bland plant.
Then I unleashed the Carioca in me and got stuck into the churrasco, which wasn’t so much a main course as an assault course. The relentless barrage of impossibly juicy lamb, moist sirloin, gloriously marbled rib eye and tender chicken was carved expertly from the skewer at the table, and only ceased when I was well and truly spent. My companion’s paella – though teeming with plump but rather dry prawns, a pair of unspectacular mussels, a medley of seafood nuggets and heavily saffron infused rice – was like a light snack in comparison to my Sugarloaf Mountain of meat.
Momentarily hopping back to Europe, my expansive crème brûlée was as wide and crisp as a glacier, and shattered to reveal lusciously creamy depths, while my friend’s flambéed mango and chocolate ice cream brought us back to more exotic climes with its artfully presented but disappointingly flat fruit. Which all serves to illustrate that Pachanga – with its disparate influences, variable food and incongruous juxtapositions – is almost as full of beguiling contrasts as the continent that inspired it.
The bill (for two)
2x mineral water Dhs42
Venison carpaccio Dhs47
Nopales salad Dhs39
French fries Dhs15
Crème brûlée Dhs32
Flambéed mangoes Dhs32
Total (including service) Dhs550
Time Out Dubai,
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