Ok, I’m just going to come and say what I know A LOT of you are already thinking but keeping mum about: Lima Dubai is a bit of a let-down, mainly because most of us are Vergilio Martinez groupies and were expecting Chef’s Table (S03 Ep06) kind of food, but also because the food really just wasn’t that impressive. Please do excuse me for not sugar-coating this, but it had to be said.
Perhaps I just set myself up for disappointment, because I was expecting to be wow-ed out of my socks. I mean, it’s only natural for expectations to sky-rocket when a restaurant is the venture of Vergilio Martinez, the chef of Central, the 4th best restaurant in the world. Or perhaps Vergilio fell victim to the need for commercialization, and his ideas got watered down by the time they made it to the table. Why is burrata even on the menu, for instance?
There were no unique or unheard of ingredients at Lima (as is the case in Central), and there was no story or explanation to go with the food. What is “cooked ceviche”, and why is it called that? I actually had to go and ask after my meal, for I knew I would never find peace or sleep otherwise. Or perhaps, the ingredients (which are all flown in from Peru), are losing their freshness by the time they make it to the table.
Let’s start at the beginning. Vergilio Martinez is an absolute sweetheart. It’s so hard not to love him. The ambience of Lima is very chic, with tasteful integration of Peruvian elements. The decor is above and beyond awesome. Everything from floor to ceiling had allegedly been brought in from Peru. The netting lining the ceiling is supposed to be an ode to the fishermen in Peru that created cebiche. The lounge upstairs is one of the coolest I’ve seen.
The first thing brought to our table started the meal off on a VERY high note, and we simply could not stop smearing this soft, buttery, sweet potato bread with a beautiful sauce made with red peppers, cumin, soy sauce and virgin gin, and stuffing our faces silly with it.
Sweet potato bread: what all my dreams have been made of since I had a taste of these pillows of love.
It was pretty much downhill from there. The white fish tiradito with quinoa, sweet potato and Aji amarillo tiger’s milk was desperately calling for some acidity. Next came the “cooked cebiche”. I tried to find this on the menu but for the life of me I couldn’t; it was battered and fried chicken sweetbreads. I could write an essay on how I tried and tried to understand this dish but couldn’t. Cebiche is a technique that involves no heat, and the protein (mostly fresh raw fish, and -as far as I know- always seafood) is cured in citrus. There was no seafood in this dish, and heat was introduced, so I just fail to understand why this would even be called “cebiche” and not just what it really was: chicken poppers.
The tenderloin anticucho was supremely tender, nicely seasoned and the best of the entrees we had that night. The slow-coked lamb-rump, however, tasted far too gamey and was the least favorite item on our table of five. The most memorable thing I ate that night (other than the to-die-for sweet potato bread), was the corn creme brulee. It was absolutely phenomenal.
Corn Creme Brulee, which should have been called “The Best Corn Based Thing I’ve Ever Put In My Mouth”
Let’s talk about the dessert real quick though. The faux avocado dessert: very cute, tasted alright, but was too large a portion for one. I noticed that a lot of the people who liked it are the ones who prefer for their dessert to be on the less sweet side. I, however, like my dessert sweet – as it should be. I wasn’t too crazy about it, neither were any of the 4 other people on the table. We did however wolf down the absolutely beautiful and perfectly composed but less talked-about chocolate dessert with vanilla ice cream. That was really good vanilla ice cream.
In conclusion, I guess that just because Vergilio Martinez is great in the Central kitchen, doesn’t mean that Lima Dubai has to be great as well. I worry that Vergilio’s voice might have been lost in the chain of commercializaiton and the attempt to appeal to the masses.
Have you been to Lima Dubai? Do comment below and let me know what you though of it.