Ceviche: just another Peruvian restaurant?
For a Dubai market that is seeing an influx of Peruvian restaurant options, Ceviche caters to a more casual dining segment. Five months after opening, it remains non-licensed even though it hopes to serve alcohol soon. More on that later. Note, Ceviche Dubai should not be confused with its London namesake in Soho – a different operation.
Located in Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC, Ceviche was empty on a weekend; I put it down to the location in an office building and therefore only busy during the week. The earthy toned, linear restaurant resonated a South American vibe, especially the quaint wall-mounted image of tres mujeres Peruanas! (three Peruvian ladies; pardon my rusty Spanish). Initially walking into an empty restaurant seemed a bit daunting; the atmosphere was, at first sight, alarmingly absent, however the friendly service made up for the lack of ambience usually provided by the hustle and bustle of an occupied restaurant.
We were served by a lovely waitress who warmly welcomed us and furnished us promptly with tablet menus that had photos of all the dishes – helpful as I wasn’t entirely familiar with everything on the menu. She took great pleasure in explaining the dishes we enquired about with a solid command over each and every component, and without any hesitation, pleasantly elaborated on ingredients and cooking style.
The drink we were recommended was quite interesting – chicha morada – which our waitress painstakingly explained with much detail – a purple Peruvian drink deriving its colour from Peruvian corn. Had I been any more enthusiastic, the dear waitress was willing to bring out the corn so that I could see it first hand!
We settled on a selection of chicharron de calamari and tiradito de aji amarillo. The deep-fried calamari squid was cooked perfectly with just the right balance of crunch and juiciness, and complemented by a zingy rocoto sauce. This dish was swiftly devoured. The tiradito (similar to sashimi or carpaccio) consisted of expertly sliced slivers of white fish (sea bass I think) smothered in a velvety aji amarillo (chilli) sauce and balanced out well with the textures and flavours of onion, crunchy corn kernels and fresh bean sprouts. An interesting and refreshing combination.
For our mains, my companion selected the classic Peruvian dish – aji di gallina, a spicy creamed shredded chicken – drenched (a bit too much, we both agreed) in creamy aji amarillo sauce topped with the traditional toppings of olives, that cut through the creaminess of the sauce, and a beautifully poached egg.
I opted for the lomo saltado; a stir-fry of beef tenderloin with onions, tomatoes and yucca fries (I asked for these instead of potato fries). Although the flavours were on point – salty, spicy and the lovely char of the grill, the beef was sadly a bit tough – quality of the meat perhaps? The yucca fries were chunky and a tad bit too greasy, for my liking.
At this point I was too full for dessert, but for the purpose of reviewing and upon the insistence of my dining companion who has a sweet tooth, we ordered the semisfera de lucuma; a lucuma ice cream covered in a chocolate sphere. The flavour of this native Peruvian fruit, which is a unique combination of maple and sweet potato, did not shine through the ice cream, unfortunately (could’ve fooled me as a vanilla scoop).
The highlight of the meal was the wonderfully chatty waitress who made us forget for a while that we were the only diners there. In Dubai, Peruvian cuisine (by and large) comes at a fine-dining price. So, AED130 per person is hugely affordable for a decently authentic three course meal. I have had a very similar dinner, home-cooked by a Peruvian friend, so I claim this with confidence. The ambience is lacking, however the service is friendly and knowledgeable, and in most parts, the reasonably priced food is delicious.
AED35 for a perfectly good tiradito – how can you go wrong with that? Or can you? WHY is it that nowadays quite a few restaurants in Dubai destined for a licensed concept don’t seem to acquire their licence prior to opening? I understand the licensing application process is not particularly streamlined, so if restaurants run the risk of not getting a licence, perhaps they should hold off opening. Shame, a pisco sour would’ve complemented our meal oh-so nicely.
Until next time,
Who is FooDiva’s guest reviewer? SN works as a chef in Dubai and believes that we live to eat and not vice versa. She has travelled the world exploring culinary delights including, most recently, a memorable dinner at Eleven Madison Park.
— FooDiva (@FooDivaWorld) September 28, 2016