Ají is one of several beach-facing restaurants at Palm Jumeirah’s Club Vista Mare. And while many of them are on our recommendations list, if you’re after some stunning, upmarket dishes, Ají is the one to visit.
The Japanese-Peruvian Nikkei restaurant manages to balance creativity, palate-thrilling execution and, perhaps most significantly, value for money.
Try starting with shiromi tacos, filled with a sea bass and yuzu ceviche, and the oributako causa, one of the menu’s more classically Peruvian dishes. While the former are light, zesty and packed with meaty fish, the causa owns the table.
Fat, tender slices of octopus line up alongside a dollop of dense, whipped (and slightly lemony) potato, all encircling a tangy, creamy black olive mayonnaise. The robalo – a medley of seafood served with a light, smoky sauce and a black rice fritter – are also a winner. Don’t miss the scallop ceviche, either, it’s top-notch. All dishes are presented beautifully, it’s as if you’re eating a work of art.
Enjoy the food, take in the sea views and make an evening of.
This Mexican restaurant and sports bar is a perennial favourite of many Dubaians. Its enduring popularity stems to its lively vibes in the evening, chilled vibes during the daytime, and brilliant food vibes the whole way through.
Perhaps unbefitting of its slightly quieter location, Loca is regularly busy (its five-hour Friday brunch deal is superb value) and attracts a very loyal customer base, and everyone we’ve known to visit this place has been bowled over by its brilliant range of rustic Mexican grub with an up-market twist.
Fajitas and enchiladas are order of the day here, and they’re awesome. (Vegetarians should head straight for the glorious mushroom quesadillas.) Get the guacamole, obviously, and see it being prepared at the table by the expert waiting staff. But don’t hang around before absolutely devouring this beauty, because it tastes as good as it looks.
This place also specialises in the Mexican mixed drink, with a dedicated menu where you can choose which flavour you want and how you want it.
With a gorgeous view out from the restaurant’s outdoors area, this is one you need to have on your list.
The bottom line
Super fun spot with great guacamole.
Mexican food is in danger of becoming the new Peruvian, such is the trend for all things taco. But whereas the Nikkei dishes of Peru were alien to many of us when they first appeared on the scene, Mexican has been around, in a more casual guise, for years and the familiarity has arguably made it more difficult for high-end Mexican restaurants to flourish.
Peyote is here to change our minds. Set in DIFC, where the underwhelming Marco Pierre White venue Wheeler’s once stood, the restaurant comes to Dubai via London’s Mayfair.
Prices here are towards the higher end of the city’s spectrum, but you’d expect that for the area. The food needs to be good to justify them, though, and we’re not convinced it all is.
On our midweek visit, the dining room is quiet and staff unhelpfully recommend pretty much everything from the menu, then fuss around us (but there’s no-one to be found when we try to get the bill).
A “sharing concept” (of course), we order six dishes in total and it’s the right amount for two people.
The cactus salad is one of the highlights. Cactus has the texture of green pepper but with a more earthy flavour, and comes mixed with a tangy Mexican cheese, queso fresco, that pairs well. The cheese also pops up again in the excellent sweetcorn salad that we pair with the superb piece of sea bass we treat as a main.
Our guacamole is disappointingly bland and is a stingy portion to boot. The prawns in the ceviche are top-quality, but there’s so much of the overpowering lime marinade that their sweetness is lost. The short rib tacos are forgettable, too.
Will Peyote be the restaurant to help Mexican cuisine muscle in on Peruvian plates? Not on this evidence.
The Bill (for two)
1x tiger prawn ceviche Dhs55
1x guacamole Dhs48
1x cactus salad Dhs45
1x short rib tacos Dhs65
1x sweet corn side Dhs40
1x Chilean sea bass Dhs175
1x large water Dhs30
The bottom line
Solid but doesn’t shine in DIFC.
When it comes to ordering a bunch of small dishes to share it can be hard to know just how many to pick. Sure, they say you can always add more as you go, but has anyone ever actually done that? We know we haven’t.
However, as we sit in Waka, the latest venue serving Peruvian-Japanese Nikkei fusion food (and other takes on Latin American staples) we feel completely at ease, such is our confidence in our waiter.
We order three small dishes, a bowl of guacamole and one main course. It’s certainly less than the tables around us, and it doesn’t seem like a lot. But we’re assured we’ll be fine.
If we weren’t already impressed by Waka, which has the feel of a cosy underground cantina, we are when the dishes come out. They all look fantastic, the pacing from the kitchen is spot on and, on the whole, they are excellent. It’s also the perfect amount (and allows for a dessert).
We told you about the salmon tiradito a couple of weeks ago. It’s a really strong dish, with a perfect balance of flavours and textures.
The Lima maki is a riff on Peru’s classic sea bass ceviche, and it works. A crispy prawn sits in the centre, while a silky sliver of fish is draped over the top, held in place by tiger’s milk mayo. Very clever.
Guacamole (or Wakamole, groan) arrives in a plume of smoke, which enhances the taste rather than overpowering it. There’s a good hit of chilli, too.
Waka’s quinoa risotto comes alive with the aroma of truffle, and the mushrooms running through it add bite. The prawn skewers, however, are largely forgettable.
Desserts are playful and our coconut mousse is great fun, lifted by a pineapple confit.
We like Waka a lot, but don’t just trust us, trust the staff, too.
The bill (for two)
1x salmon tiradito Dhs48
1x Lima maki Dhs52
1x tiger prawn anticucho Dhs52
1x Wakamole Dhs35
1x quinoa risotto Dhs90
1x coco loco Dhs40
1x large still water Dhs25
Total (excluding service) Dhs342
The bottom line
Latin dishes with style and substance.
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