When a restaurant opens from Chef Virgilio Martínez, it’s time to take note! Lima Dubai marks the third international outpost of Martinez’s Lima brand and it stands beautifully in Dubai’s fast-growing City Walk.
Ideally situated in The Square, a new fully-licensed dining courtyard in the City Walk development from Meraas, Lima’s restaurant space may be relatively small by Dubai standards, yet the interior makes up for it. An effortless transition from the outdoor terrace through to the tribal-style dining room which is accentuated by a wooden staircase resembling Amazonian hanging vines. Upstairs is the bar area, decked out in swinging chairs and walls featuring colourful murals of flying birds.
Lima Dubai’s menu has been specially created for the Middle Eastern location and the selection stays true to traditional Peruvian dishes in comparison to Central, Martínez’s showstopping restaurant in Peru, whose ‘altitude menu’ is inspired by the biodiversity of Peru, taking items from the Peruvian ecosystem and serving them up on a plate. It would appear that Dubai diners aren’t quite ready for such an avant-garde approach to dining and the logistical issues of sending such unique produce to Dubai would be unfeasible. While many of the ingredients such as Andean potatoes have been specially imported to Lima Dubai, the dishes don’t disappoint and despite the notable absence of Chef Virgilio Martínez (he’s set to return to Dubai at least three times a year to oversee the restaurant), Head Chef Diego makes for a worthy replacement.
We’re at back at Lima for the second time in six months and this time it’s for the newly-launched Friday brunch comprising of a set-menu highlighting some signature dishes and a number of new additions. With the sheer amount of food available, the choices are lighter and skew more towards international territory than the a la carte offering.
Brunch begins with a Pisco Sour, the classic Peruvian cocktail of Pisco, lemon and egg white, adorned with an edible ower – it marks a beautiful start to our Peruvian culinary journey. Bao’s are the first dish to arrive, a little larger than expected and crammed with slow cooked beef, duck and a tangy rocoto sauce made from red chilli. It’s the contrast between the filling and the pillow-like softness of the bao which makes these an instant winner.
Armed with a glass ceviche bowl and small silver spoon, we’re presented two ceviches. The catch of the day is the superior choice, soaked in tiger’s milk and utilising Cancha corn for texture. With Dubai’s current fixation on all things Peruvian, we thought we knew ceviche – that is until we dined at Lima. The salmon ceviche is an altogether different beast and decorated with crisp asparagus tempura; it’s a vibrant dish, colourful in both presentation and flavour.
The chicken causa provides the only disappointment in Lima’s brunch selection. Coming across somewhat bland and with too much of one texture, it’s a startling contrast to the phenomenal salmon causa found on the a la carte menu, which marked one of our favourite dishes of 2017. Tequenos provide golden pockets stuffed with the traditional Peruvian limo saltado (stir fried beef with chilli) and are artistically presented on stones that draw immediate links to the mountainous Andes. Prawn Anticucho’s reinterpret the traditional street side BBQ into something more akin to fine dining with prawns marinated in Inka Panka chilli and displayed with corn cakes as if a mountainside meadow has been re-created on the plate.
During the course of the Lima brunch, the only choice diners need to make is between the three main courses. The Lamb Seco (a dish we remember favourable from our previous visit) presents slow cooked lamb rump, served with pumpkin two ways and Kiwicha (a flowering plant from the Andes), while the Chicken Breast Pachamanca (an Andean dish where the meat is cooked with hot stones) is complemented by purple Andean potatoes and a sweet corn brulee, similar in style to cornbread. There’s also a seafood rice option.
After the hearty main courses the desserts are sensibly restrained, with a selection of sorbets dipped in chocolate and a corn creme brulee that is light and not too sweet despite a caramelised top.
Service comes from a truly global team and the service style is proficient with a personal touch. The individual ingredients and concepts for each dish are thoroughly explained and help to heighten the Lima dining experience. This Peruvian Expedition brunch is a reflection of Peru’s gastronomic revolution and comes with a live band and energetic after-party. It’s a sure-fire way of enticing diners back for the a la carte offering.
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of FACT Magazine.
Out & About UAE were guests of Lima Dubai. Views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.