Our initial review of the Abu Dhabi outpost of Coya occurred during the restaurants opening week. Flash forward almost two years (and numerous visits later) and we are pleased to note that the quality and consistency of the popular Peruvian restaurant remain.
Undoubtedly Abu Dhabi’s best Latin American restaurant, dining at Coya is a colourful experience in terms of both décor and flavours and we can’t help but be impressed all over again as we descend the stairway into the vibrant restaurant space just as the sun begins to set. Coya is a multi-dimensional venue that transitions fluidly between three distinct spaces – restaurant, terrace and Pisco lounge.
We begin in the lounge where we’re enraptured by the view as our gaze drifts out across the water towards the glittering skyscrapers that make up the capitals skyline. An excellent spot for sundowners, the lounge area is warm and inviting and while many establishments in the city have curated elaborate collections of juniper based beverages, here at Coya it’s all about Pisco. No visit to Coya is complete without indulging in a Pisco Sour or two, available in a variety of flavours and paying homage to a cocktail originally invented in Lima (the capital of Peru) in the 1920s.
Moving into the dining room, splashes of colour are found in the upholstery and textiles. A small ceviche bar is surrounded by an abundance of vegetation and takes on a jungle-esque feel, as if waiting to be discovered like the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Reflecting a distinct cultural element which forms part of Coya’s undeniable charm.
Peruvian food is the original fusion food, according to Coya’s Culinary Chef Sanjay Dwivedi, with the cuisine drawing influence from the flavours of Japan, China and Spain. We begin our meal with the homemade guacamole (AED 53) a smooth and creamy mix prepared table-side. It’s the quality of ingredients that’ s immediately evident and the accompanying gluten free tortilla chips are refilled regularly.
Ceviche is Peru’s national dish and Coya are rightfully very proud of their iteration of raw fish cured in citrus. Having worked our way through the majority of the ceviche selection offered by the restaurant, we find ourselves returning to the Mixto with its smoky prawns and fiery citrus-like aji limo. Similarly, the Bao de Ternera have become our go to dish on the Coya menu, taking the fluffy Asian bao and stuffing them with a delectable combination of veal, cabbage and aji amarillo that are consistently excellent. We also enjoy the Trio de Maiz a dish that is essentially corn prepared three ways and brings a nice textural element to proceedings.
For the mains we enjoy the Lomo de Res a beautifully cooked spicy beef fillet served with garlic and crispy shallots and the Escabeche Peuano, chargrilled sea bream in banana leaf. The cooking process of the later with tamarillo and aji panca results in an aromatic and flavoursome piece of fish and one that’s beautifully tender. All of Coya’s dishes revolve around a small plate concept ideal for sharing.
We share the chichi morada for dessert. Usually consumed as a drink, here the Andean beverage made from purple corn is transformed into a granita which makes for a light and refreshing end to the meal which is also gluten free. The Coya experience though, is about more than just food and dining becomes a fully immersive experience taking in everything from art to music. With exhibitions and live performances often held within the restaurant space.
The tide of Peruvian restaurants that flooded the UAE dining landscape of 2015 seems to be subsiding. Much like a survival of the fittest situation only the quality establishments remain with Coya leading the pack front-and-centre. Having opened in London, Monte Carlo and Dubai, Coya’s carefully planned expansion looks to bring quality Peruvian food to the masses, showcasing a varied cuisine that takes in influences from the Andean Mountains to the Amazonian rainforest and the coastal plains.
Out & About UAE were guests of the Coya All views are our own and photographs are © Out & About UAE