No lesser name than Alain Ducasse claimed that “Peru will become one of the leading actors on the global culinary scene” and London has been getting excited about Peruvian cuisine for some time now.
Coya was one of several places that helped kickstart that Peruvian food trend a couple of years ago and now Dubai can get in on the South American cuisine de jour as it opens a branch at Four Seasons Resort, Jumeirah Beach.
This modern take on Peruvian comes from the Zuma co-founder Arjun Waney and from the outset it shows. The seating is packed in pretty close so you can very clearly hear the conversation from the diners next to you. This is the same thing that people love or hate about Zuma — either great atmosphere or just grating — and it’s hard not to feel semi-involved conversations (private or otherwise) taking place in touching distance.
The sharing concept is also one that hugely divides opinion. Often it means you end up ordering too much or too little and left with the feeling you’re paying too much for too little. What is near indisputable though, is the food is largely very good.
The Rollitos de Pescado — Chilean sea bass spring rolls, with red chilli and spring onion — are indeed spring rolls, but are cut down into six sushi-sized pieces and presented as such. They’re fantastically inventive and up there with the very best things we’ve eaten in the last 12 months.
The yellowtail with green chili and radish was again excellent and delicate little slivers of fish packed wonderful flavour and wouldn’t have been out of place on the Zuma menu. Peruvian asparagus with tomato dressing was fine, but nothing special, while the chicken skewer was the only disappointment of the night – nothing more than just than the type of little chicken skewer you get in a Thai takeaway, and at Dhs38 you’d expect a bit more.
Spicy beef fillet with crispy shallot and garlic tasted sublime with just enough spice to give it a kick but not to overpower the meat, but we should mention that it was a fairly small sharing portion (as opposed to a regular-sized main course) and at Dhs180 it didn’t come cheap. At the current exchange rate that’s £32.72 in sterling, but before you cry “yet another Dubai rip off” it’s worth noting that the London branch of Coya charges £32 for the same dish. Coya is globally expensive, but it’s good to see the reported quality from the London original has translated to the UAE venue.
The Tiger prawns with chilli salsa was either a kitchen mistake or menu misprint because the prawn arrived in the singular. It was sizable, and what there was of it tasted great but again at Dhs150 it was a hefty amount to pay for a prawn.
The popcorn ice cream that rounded things off was a nice nod to the Peruvian corn staple, rich, creamy and (with actual popcorn) it’s a great dessert that you don’t find elsewhere. It’s things like this that will help Coya stand out from the slew of other high-end restaurants all running the high-price small-sharing-portion concept.
The terrace will soon be open and for those who pay Dhs7,500 membership — after being vetted as suitable, of course — you can join the member’s club and dine in the little room next door, which has live music and a lovely bar.
Afterwards, we can recommend going into the hotel and having a nightcap at the new Hendricks Bar. They do a smoked Old Fashioned (with actual smoke from cherry wood) that you should probably try, if you like that sort of thing. And you should, just as you should try Coya, but be prepared to pay for the undoubted pleasure.
For Esquire magazine