Tucked away in the private enclave of Saadiyat Beach Residences lies a new Mexican cantina. Identifiable via it’s vibrant signage, rainbow colored furniture and twinkling fairy lights, Little Mexico is breathing new life into the dining scene of exclusive Saadiyat Island.
Little Mexico’s poolside location within a private gated community, may not be the beaches of Cancun but picturesque Saadiyat is certainly a great substitute. Entering into the compact restaurant, the space has been designed extremely well, with a long central table flanked by colored wooden bar stools and long benches running along the perimeter. A large mural spans the entirety of the righthand wall and features Mexican inspired motifs of piñatas, chilli peppers and the skull symbols associated with Día de los Muertos (Mexico’s day of the dead).
Minute details like sombreros and potted cacti add an additional element of fun and the quaint and colorful outside terrace, would be our preferred location during these cool winter months.
Mexican food if notoriously difficult to come by in the UAE and most Mexican restaurants we’ve tried, have been relegated to the soulless food courts of Abu Dhabi’s numerous shopping malls. Little Mexico bucks this trend by offering good food in a welcoming environment that is extremely family friendly.
Is the food authentic? Having never visited Mexico, we can’t be 100% sure but the food does taste really good. Everything is made fresh in house (including the flour tortillas and tacos) with the majority of ingredients are sourced locally, aside from a few minor exceptions, such as the green tomatoes which has been specially imported from Mexico.
Perusing the menu of Mexican favourites, the first thing you’ll likely notice is the reasonable prices, which are not only unheard of on Saadiyat but offer exceptional value for money. Crisp corn tortillas (10 AED), swordfish tacos (34 AED), cheese quesadillas (22 AED).
Settling down with a sombrero on our heads and a Mango Margarita (fresh mango puree, Mexican lime juice and virgin triple sec) in hand, we really appreciated the community embedded nature of the project and from the influx of diners, it certainly seems to be proving popular.
The sizzle of thinly sliced beef, onions and capsicum signaled the arrival of our Beef Fajita. A generous offering presented in a piping hot skillet and accompanied by refried beans, Mexican rice, lettuce, cheese, salsa and cream. The three flour tortillas initially seemed too few but transpired to be the perfect number for the amount of meat provided.
Fajitas are likely the most obvious choice at a Mexican restaurant and stuffed to the brim with a number of toppings, we truly felt as though we were on vacation as we devoured these street food favorites with our hands.
Two Pulled Chicken Tacos followed in quick succession and again provided a plate full of flavour, like a Mexican fiesta in our mouths! The fire of fresh jalapeños, the zest of coriander and a distinct contrasting smoothness from the crema fresca, make for one impressive plate.
Based upon the prices, it’s obvious to assume that this is a fast food joint but this isn’t the case. Little Mexico may follow a competitive pricing structure but there is a significant reliance on quality. With each dish freshly prepared on the premises, the assumption that this is quick, cheap food would be entirely wrong.
We have often struggled with Churros here in the UAE. Good quality churros are difficult to come by and we’re often disappointed by an overly greasy and soggy result. The churros at Little Mexico are their signature dish and it’s easy to see why. All churros are made to order, meaning that they arrive to the table piping hot, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and accompanied by lashings of dulce de leche (if available), chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. With a crisp exterior and the soft doughy interior, Little Group’s Executive Chef Ruben Rebuffo, certainly knows his stuff and despite not being Mexican (he’s Venezuelan) the Latin spirit and fiesta flare certainly come through in a dish that is the high point of any meal at Little Mexico.
These churros are hands down the best that we’ve had in Abu Dhabi and we would happily drive out to Saadiyat just for more of them.
The only downside to Little Mexico’s concept may well be their lack of alcohol license. With a vibrant interior and glorious sun soaked terrace, it would be nice to sip Corona, Sol or perhaps a tequila shot (complete with worm) to wash down the tasty tacos while you nibble on nachos. Unfortunately this is not to be and the option of alcohol would certainly add to the appeal of a place like this, especially due to its expat-centric location. Even stepping aside from the alcohol issue, a traditional Horchata (a rice, cinnamon, vanilla and milk drink) would be a wonderful addition to the beverage list and something that Little Mexico should really consider adding.
On Fridays, Little Mexico offer BBQ platters on the terrace with meat prepared in their special smoker that’s been imported from Texas to provide diners with the most flavorsome of meat. Making it worth the drive out to Saadiyat, or if you’re lazy like us, they deliver throughout Abu Dhabi.
Little Mexico is just the start of things to come. It marks the first concept to come from parent company ‘Little Group’ whose aim is to bring a number of themed outlets to Abu Dhabi in the coming months. The brainchild of chief culinary office Thomas Gebler, the belief is that it’s the “little things that matter the most.” So aside from the cafe themed Little Paris, which opened in the Meera TIME Residences on the corniche last month. Abu Dhabi diners can expect Little Roma, Little Mumbai, Little Tokyo (specializing in sushi), Little Shanghai (specialising in dim sum), Little Mykonos (finally some good Greek food in the capital), Little New York and Little Bangkok to appear soon.
A slew of these will appear as a cluster in World Trade Centre Mall, meaning that groups can go out to dine together, no matter what their culinary preference. Making for an eclectic dining experience in which everyone will be catered for but can still dine in unison without the need for compromise. Based upon our experience at Little Mexico, we’re excited to see this expansion and greatly look forward to watching the brand grow. If the pricing structure continues, then it’s likely to be a sure fire win!
We were invited to dine at Little Mexico. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE with the exception of the featured image, provided by Little Group.