Coya is one of those global institutions in the same vein as the Nomas and the Zumas – synonymous with lip-smackingly good food and cool, trendy atmospheres and fit-outs globally. It’s currently Dubai’s most critically-acclaimed Peruvian-fusion restaurant (and my God there are a lot at the moment) so it seemed a perfect venue to celebrate the wife’s birthday.
We arrived, gobsmacked at the breathtaking entrance. The Four Seasons in Jumeirah is one of my favourite pieces of architecture in the Emirates and the restaurant follows suit perfectly. SAGRADA have captured the spirit of Coya perfectly with luxurious furniture and finishes and homages to Peru throughout with the stunning feature of the hanging clay pots where pisco is traditionally stored and ceilings and flooring that could be straight from a cafe in Lima.
We were greeted warmly and led to our table on the faux-terrace. We had a views out to the city (sadly slightly ruined by a garish clinic sign smack in front of the restaurant!) and had a great view across the restaurant where we could appreciate all the features.
We have a habit of picking the tasting menu as it usually gives a great overview of the offering of the restaurant – at 450 AED a pop, it wasn’t exactly cheap – but nevertheless, not terrible for a fine-dining place.
The tasting menu started off with their selection of ceviche and it was absolutely divine. The presentation was fantastic, with Dubai’s own “Ice Man” providing a cool, mini Coya sculpture to accompany the small, perfectly formed dishes. Each bowl of fish (and one mushroom dish) had a delicious burst of flavour; chili, truffles, sweetness, saltiness, umami-err-ness. It was utter perfection to start proceedings.
Sadly, this is where the perfection ended.
We were taken for a quick tour around the venue and it was great to see the design up close. We visited the private members bar that was also oozing cool (albeit being pretty empty) and got to see the kitchen in action as well as the artists creating the ceviche.
We arrived back to another impressive looking dish of meat skewers sat on top of a small charcoal grill, one chicken, one beef. The chicken dish was a little disappointing, it had some great flavour and got a lovely kick of smokiness from the grill but was very fatty and grisly. The beef though was the biggest let-down – we bit into it and it was MUSHROOM (!), not the gnarly looking beef we were looking forward to tucking in to. It was overcome with a really strong, raw spice flavour and wasn’t pleasant to taste – apparently, bitterness is all the rage at the moment but neither me nor the wife enjoyed it at all.
Next up, we received some sides to go with the skewers, one was a corn dish, not hugely dissimilar to esquites with some tasty bursts of flavour and the other a quinoa, prawn dish. The prawn dish was alright, the fish was cooked beautifully, but as a whole, it lacked the vibrancy and intensity of the corn. It all went well with the skewers though and made sense.
The mains came after what seemed like a significant delay – admittedly, the wife is a slow-eater and it took them a while throughout service to establish when we’d finished or when we were ready for the next course. By this point, we’d been at the restaurant for two hours and we were feeling a little full already- none of the dishes that preceded it were particularly small and compared to most tasting menus where you get a sample of a number of the dishes, Coya likes to give you a full portion – not complaining, but was difficult to enjoy the main as much as we’d have liked if we’d had have ordered it à la carte.
The centrepiece was an exceptionally cooked piece of steak. It had an even, pink colour throughout that makes me think it was cooked sous-vide and had a lovely char on either side. It really melted in the mouth, although again, it was coated in a lot of raw spice that took away from the taste of the meat. Maybe I just need to eat a bit more Peruvian cuisine to get used to it.
We also had the roasted octopus which was pretty unremarkable. I really don’t like olives so they were omitted from the dish so I think it just lost the balance a bit because of it. The octopus was cooked well though!
The final main was the Chilean Seabass. This was a good plate of food; again, expertly cooked protein with classic chili/lime flavours.
The sides were a bit hit and miss unfortunately, the patatas bravas weren’t “crispy” as advertised, most likely due to being drowned in the sauces. The broccoli and asparagus both were excellent though, both capturing the flavours of the grill and the oils they were cooked in.
The desserts were probably the biggest disappointment of the night, the corn sundae just didn’t have anything about it that made either of us want to go in for an extra mouthful and the only redeeming feature of the “Chicha Morada” was the sorbet. We were supposed to have a caramel ganache, but it didn’t arrive – perhaps due to the fact they brought my wife a birthday cake? Not sure. It was good though!
Throughout the night, the service was pretty good. I did feel like I was getting “sold” to a lot though, the brunch was brought up a lot of times which I’m not hugely interested in. It can get a little over-attentive at times as well – it felt that every time we took a sip of our drinks, we were getting topped up and it did make the evening feel a little disjointed. Not a huge criticism though, as I’d prefer it to be like that than being sat with empty glasses for a long time.
They restaurant had a decent drinks selection, although I was disappointed when after a delay, we were told that our champagne choice was unavailable and was pitched a bottle double the price. We selected another bottle that wasn’t quite as expensive, but it went down well and we finished with a couple of interesting gins served with excellent Peruvian tonic.
I think the biggest frustration was when the bill arrived though; underneath the menu, there’s the standard “prices include an optional 10% service charge” and then the mention about the municipality charges. What I didn’t realise, is that they’ve worded it so that if you glance over it, you think it’s like most other places in Dubai (the menu prices include all taxes and charges), whereas in fact, the municipality charge is added on top – making the already expensive meal, 10% more. I don’t understand why places can’t just be transparent and include the full prices on the menu – maybe it’s just my tight-arsed Yorkshireness coming out of me.
FOOD: 10/15 – A real mixed bag. Some outstanding dishes and no doubt that the chefs are masters in the art of cooking proteins, but desserts need a lot of work.
SERVICE: 12/15 – A little bit of “over-service” at times, but they were attentive and kept us happy.
DRINKS SELECTION: 4/5 – A good selection of drinks but lose a mark due to not having our champagne choice in stock.
AMBIANCE: 5/5 – Really cool venue, a good buzz in the air for a Saturday night.
DESIGN: 5/5 – A design worthy of consideration for international design awards.
VALUE: 2/5 – Very frustrating to have the surprise 10% on top of the bill and definitely on the expensive side, but what do you expect? It’s in the Four Seasons!
CONCLUSION: Overall, we had a good night; a few dishes let the place down for me and I don’t think a huge amount of thought had gone into the whole degustation experience, but I would massively recommend going for the ceviche alone. I don’t think we would be back in a hurry for dinner, due to the price (coming in over 2000 AED), but for drinks and ceviche (which is perhaps the main selling point anyway of a cool venue like this) I’d wholeheartedly recommend.