The search for top notch Mexican food has long proved difficult for the residents of Abu Dhabi, but things changed somewhat with the opening of Loca in early 2017.
Loca brings authentic Mexican dishes to the upmarket dining enclave within The Galleria on Al Maryah Island (so don’t expect the emphasis to be on the Tex-Mex dishes that are often associated with the central American cuisine). Opening within close proximity to the likes of Zuma, Nusr Et and La Petite Maison is a definite gamble, but one that seems to have worked in favour of the fun and frivolous venue.
It’s all in the name really and the word “Loca” translates from Spanish as “Crazy” and this is exactly what guests will discover if they visit on a weekend evening or during the ridiculously popular Wednesday ladies night.
Our weekend outing is more restrained but no less fun. Weaving between the incandescent green and red hues that illuminate the interiors, we head outside to the terrace just as the sun begins to slink below the Abu Dhabi skyline. Our reason for visiting Loca was to indulge in the new additions to Chef Juan Flores’ eclectic menu from a new section known as ‘Mexicanos Tradicionales.’
A meal at Loca always begins with their impressive guacamole served with warm tortilla chips. The avocado mix is prepared table-side and includes salt, pepper, lime, cilantro, onions and variable amounts of green chilli, depending upon how much of a kick you require! The guacamole is one of the things that impressed us most on our previous visit to the venue and it’s pleasing to see that consistency remains.
The new menu looks to educate diners in the authenticity of Mexican cuisine and we really appreciated the varied nature of the dishes which slant towards the healthier side of the spectrum. The vegetarian Tlacoyos De Frijol Negro are vegetarian tortillas piled high with salad and stuffed with black beans for additional texture, while the Tamales Yucatecos are so good we find ourselves channelling our inner Cardi B (“spicy mami, hot tamale)! The Gorditas De Pollo Chipotle are also fantastic, presenting pulled chipotle chicken sat upon a base of crisp tortilla discs in a dish unafraid to up the ante when it comes to spices and heat.
The main courses were definitely our preferences from all the dishes we sampled, with the Chilaquiles Rojos Tazajo really making an impact through a combination of beef tenderloin, gloriously runny egg and sautéed corn tortilla chips. The tortilla is what really accentuates the dish, providing an almost ratatouille-like side dish to complement the meat.
Pollo En Mole represents a chicken dish served alongside buttered spinach and zucchini with a generous serving of Loca Mole, a sauce containing just a hint of chocolate that helps to bring excitement to the well-seasoned chicken. While we’re not sure if the Mexicanos Tradicionales dishes will permanently remain part of the Loca menu, these two main courses definitely should!
Previous visit to Loca have always concluded with dessert but we’ve always found the course to be a mild disappointment. Having worked our way through the majority of options, we struggled to connect with the Pastel Patron Café, a cold serving of tequila soaked chocolate cake that emulates a tres leche but lacks the lightness of that particular dessert. The simplicity of the Banana Empanadas actually make for the most sensible dessert choice for those dining at Loca, though the absence of churros still feels like such a missed opportunity.
Loca remains a consistent choice for Al Maryah diners, offering good value for money, an extensive beverage selection (the Patron Margaritas are excellent) and some excellent savoury dishes IF you know what to order.
Have you tried the new menu at Loca? Drop us your opinion in the comments section below – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Location: The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Social: Instagram / Facebook
Hours: 12pm – 1:30am
Phone: 02 582 3639
Out & About UAE were guests of Loca. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.