There’s nothing quite like a business lunch to provide a taster of what a restaurant is like, without having to spend astronomical amounts of money in the process. Rarely publicized, business lunches in Abu Dhabi not only offer excellent value for money but the opportunity to sample an establishments signature dishes before deciding if you want to return.
With Peruvian flavours sweeping Dubai, it appears as though Abu Dhabi has been somewhat left behind when it comes to representing the cuisine of South America (with the exceptions of BU and Limo) but this is all set to change with Coya. Located next to the Four Seasons on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island, Coya Abu Dhabi is the latest international outpost of the original Coya London which opened in 2012 and has spread globally from Miami to Dubai. Despite all of the hype and accolades surrounding the brand we were a little weary after our recent visit to sister restaurant Rüya where excellent food is severely let down by poor service.
First impressions of Coya are better, our telephone reservation is handled promptly, with a friendly demeanor and startling efficiency for a restaurant that’s literally been open a day or two. From the outside Coya appears understated and apart from the Inca-inspired designs etched in gold on the wooden doorways, there’s nothing to indicate the spectacular interiors within.
By-passing the security team (is security really necessary on a quiet weekday lunchtime?) we’re inside and slightly underwhelmed. Passing through corridors of terracotta coloured walls and black and white portraits of Peruvian tribes, we get the distinct impression that we’ve somehow slipped behind the scenes of the operation and into the administration offices for the establishment. This may have something to do with the fact that we’re directed to the lifts rather than the sweeping stairway that decends into the restaurant space. The lifts are the only giveaway to the fact that this is a new operation (the hoarding has not been removed inside) but from the moment we exit into the downstairs dining room the experience is seamless.
Much like Rüya the interiors are superb. Splashes of bright colour are found on the upholstery and textiles, while the bar area takes on a jungle-esque feel. As if waiting to be discovered like the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Coya is a multi-dimensional venue that transitions fluidly between three distinct spaces – restaurant, terrace and Pisco bar. For those who’ve ever dined at Maryah Island before, Coya’s terrace boasts those impressive waterfront views over the city skyline.
You’ll need a few moments to take it in and let the Incan inspired decor wash over you. Coya provides a stark contrast to Limo (Abu Dhabi’s only other Peruvian restaurant) which feels stark, cold and altogether soulless in comparison. The interior design team at Coya have fully embraced the Latin American spirit and have run rampant across the 120 seater venue.
Service is strong throughout our business lunch and shows few signs of teething issues, though we would note that our waiter was perhaps too keen to clear away plates and his interjection would generally be abrupt enough to stifle the conversation at the table.
For AED 130 per person (including infused water) the business lunch at Coya offers a good selection of dishes and sits at a favorable price point reflective of the location and the establishments surrounding it (comparatively, the newly opened Roberto’s charges AED 119 and Zuma AED 140). The portions are not as small as one might expect and for three courses, the business lunch at Coya offers outstanding value for money.
We begin with Salmon Nikkei which provides a fusion approach to Peruvian food, coming from the Japanese influence on Peruvian cuisine (recently done to startling effect at Dubai’s Aji). The dish offers diced salmon cubes in a celery juice, with ginger, daiko and a wasabi tobiko making for some of the better ceviche we’ve had in the Emirates. Better still is the Dorada Criolla of sea bream, aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow chilli pepper), crispy corn and coriander. Beautifully fresh and enough to impress our Peruvian dining companion.
Each dish from Coya’s kitchen is beautifully conceptualized and plated. The Causa de Beterraga subverts the expectations of a beetroot salad by offsetting the sweet and earthy taste of the beet with the intense flavour of goats cheese. Rolled into small bite-sized balls with walnuts, radish and apple, it’s not only a pretty plate but one of extremely pleasing textures. Amongst the remaining selection of salads and corn based dishes, we select the Anticucho de Pollo. A typical Peruvian dish of marinated meat roasted upon a skewer, in this case offering a particulalry sweet flavour to the chicken.
We also order the tender beef fillet which is again marinated to achieve the fullest possible flavour and the Salmon a la Brasa. Arriving with rolled cucumber and topped in a layer of chopped mint, the delicate flesh of the fish hasn’t been compromised and feels somewhat lighter than the accompanying rice.
Having been open for less that a week, Coya has us captivated. So much so, that we’re already planning to head back (perhaps for Out & About’s upcoming birthday brunch) to sample the remainder of the menu. That’s exactly how a business lunch should work, showcasing the product in a bid to entice repeat business. At Coya it totally worked and we felt transported from the mundanity of the working day to colourful Peru, if only for an hour.
With Al Maryah Island slowly becoming THE place to dine in the capital, Coya is a welcome addition. Outside of the Four Seasons and the Rosewood hotels, there have been a glut of new openings in recent months, including Mexican favourite Loca and Nusr-Et (#SaltBae). What Coya have done is to cleverly positioned themselves as Abu Dhabi’s hottest dining destination, but with the impending opening of Le Petite Maison in the same location, will Coya retain this title? Only time will tell…
All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.