July 5, 2016 / Leave a Comment
DIFC, home to some of Dubai’s best and most talked about restaurants, has welcomed a new Peruvian purveyor to the fold – Totora Cebicheria Peruana.
A locale loved by financiers and foodies alike, DIFC hosts heavyweight culinary competition in the form of Zuma and LPM, both just scraping into this year’s World’s 50 Best 51-100 list. In a market some might say overloaded with Peruvian and Pan-Latin restaurants, does the new kid on the block hold it’s own?
What we ordered:
Champiñones – 45
Button, eryngii and enoki mushrooms, lime juice, inka corn, coriander
Cebiche De Barrio – 65
Octopus, shrimps, sea bass, boiled cassava, chulpi corn, rocoto leche de tigre
Empanadas – 35
Beef, aji panca, chimichurri sauce
Anticuchos De Carne – 70
Ribeye, grilled potato, choclo corn
We started with ceviches of the seafood and vegetarian variety – and one thing we notice about both is Totora really wants you to experience the authentic Peruvian way of doing things – and that seems to be with hefty doses of lime juice. The seafood was top notch and of very high quality, this pescetarian variation containing tigre leche, or tiger milk, making it creamier and more mellow than the mushroom counterpart, which was lime all the way. For me, this vegetarian take was too heavy on the lime note, making it too sour on the palate. Personally I would have liked some more sweetness to balance out the flavour profile. I was informed however that they are importing the majority of their ingredients from Peru, and once they have the variety of limes they want arriving at the degree of ripeness they want, that this sharp edge might soften.
The next stop on our Peruvian culinary tour encompassed two personal favourites of mine, empanadas and anticuchos. Both widely showcased in Dubai, I was curious to see how Totora’s versions would stack up against the pan-Latin posse. The empanadas were a winner, quite sweet to the taste which was a nice and unexpected counterpart to the forthcoming wave of chili heat, and the pastry was stunning. Very well executed. They were decently priced at 35dhs, but I’d prefer to see them prepared in a serving size of four rather than three – bit of an odd number especially if you’re a party of two or four.
The anticuchos had nice spice and the aji sauce was pleasant too, but the meat was a bit tough for my liking. I asked if they would be able to use the same meat from the lomo saltado (more on why soon) but I was told this is a different cut, rib eye vs tenderloin. A little less time on the grill perhaps and I think these would go down a treat. It’s another dish I’d prefer to see in a serving size of four rather than three (and omit the potato discs if need be) as it’s tricky to split an anticucho between diners.
They are served with a smattering of kernels of an amazing variety of corn I’d never tried before, Choclo corn. Wikipedia tells me it’s also referred to as Peruvian corn or Cuzco corn, and it’s a large kernel variety from the Andes. It has a great chewy texture and the way in which it was served to us at Totora made it taste like aniseed – amazing! Rather perplexing for the tastebuds to reconcile at first, and though my dining companion wasn’t a fan, I absolutely loved it. I’m a liquorice addict though, so this was bliss – I even asked for an extra bowl of the delicious golden nuggets and they kindly complied. Heaven! I love discovering new-ish foods and this one was certainly relevant to my interests.
Next up was the main event, which always makes me a little nervous – Dubai has a habit of producing great starters, but often falls down when it comes to main courses. I needn’t have worried, as Totora passed this section of the dinner with flying colours. Dishes are served sharing style (I’m not sure there’s any other way these days) and here’s what we decided to try:
Quinotto – 95
White quinoa, portobello mushrooms, aji amarillo, white wine, parmesan cheese, black truffle oil
Arroz con Pato – 95
Duck, aji amarillo, aji panca, rice, coriander, dark beer
Quinoa Salad – 60
Red quinoa, mixed lettuce, asparagus, avocado, cherry tomato, baby spinach
Lomo Saltado – 130
Tenderloin, baby potatoes, cherry tomatoes, dark soya sauce, coriander, onion
My favourite of the main courses had to be the Arroz con Pato. Yes, sure – I love duck, that’s a known commodity – but this dish was definitely delish and surprisingly, some serious comfort food. The duck breast was beautifully tender, but my favourite part of the dish was the super juicy boneless duck leg. Paired with rice that was soaked in what was explained to us as coriander water, it was a winner.
Totora’s Lomo Saltado I have to say was the best I’ve had to date in the UAE, with beautifully tender and juicy beef. That’s why, as I mentioned earlier, I longed for this meat to be used for the anticuchos as the difference in mouthfeel was rather noticeable. Totora’s version of the classic Peruvian dish was very enjoyable and fans of Lomo Saltado should enjoy it immensely.
Quinoa, the Prom Queen of ancient grains, makes more than just a cameo on the Totora Cebicheria Peruana menu. We tasted two savoury dishes featuring the fashionable super grain – dishes that were worlds apart despite featuring the same key ingredient. The salad was full of delicious veggies, asparagus and avocado among them – but like the cebiches leant much too heavily on the sour side with an rather enthusiastic dose of tart lime juice that overpowered the dish. The Quinotto on the other hand, was smooth, creamy and ultra rich. Definitely a dish for sharing. A great variation on a risotto, the truffle oil and parmesan are such a classic combo – not sure if it’s exactly an authentic Peruvian dish, but who cares – it was delicious. On to the even more sinful side of Peruvian cuisine…
Tres Leches – 45
Sponge cake, evaporated and condensed milk, whipping cream, berries
Lucuma Andean Cereals – 45
Lucuma mousse, quinoa, sesame, linseed, chocolate pisco sauce
Dessert can be scary territory when you’re trying to showcase ingredients native to the country of origin of the cuisine to an audience that may be unfamiliar with them. Totora executes the closing act of their menu particularly well however, so for that I applaud them. Their Tres Leches, a sponge cake soaked with three types of milk (evaporated, condensed and cream), was delicious and had a more pleasant, smoother texture than others I’ve sample in Dubai. A great choice for those who like indulgent vanilla flavours!
The Lucuma Andean Cereals was a great introduction to a fruit that is wholly Peruvian. Featuring lucuma, a fruit wiht a taste that could only be described by our server as ‘it tastes like lucuma!’, my best description would be mashed banana crossed with papaya. The dessert also featured sesame, linseed and the house fave, quinoa, making up the ‘cereals’ of the dish. They really added some great crunch as a contrast against the smooth lucuma mousse. The chocolate pisco sauce was good too – but also reminded us sadly there could be no pisco in our glasses due to the absent alcohol license!
Speaking of alcohol, Totora doesn’t have it’s license yet, which is a shame as the food on offer is screaming for a worthy counterpoint in the form of some creative libations. Word is however that they are expecting this to be resolved by mid August ’16, and when this happens I think the downstairs lounge section will really come into it’s own – I only saw it when empty, but once it’s full of dining and imbibing Dubaians, this is a venue that seems like it would go off – I have to say the music on offer the night we dined was great.
Totora Cebicheria Peruana is a venue where Peruvians and global citizens alike will find a new favourite from their extensive menu. I can’t wait to see what their drink creations do to enhance the experience even further! They may be the newest addition to Dubai’s Pan-Latin scene, but given some time to put down their roots I think they are going to grow into a worthy match for their established Dubai stablemates.
Overall Rating: 7.8/10
Gate Village, Building 7
Dubai International Financial Centre
Tel: +971 (04) 399 9666
Sat – Wed: Noon – Midnight – last orders at 23:45
Thu & Fri: Noon – 1am – last orders at 00:45