When an invite to La Tablita came through (via Instagram — gotta love modern technology), as an admitted fan of Mexican food, I was delighted to accept. While it’s rare I visit this area of town (Healthcare City, specifically the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creekside), there was enough to capture my interest, and hey, on a Saturday night, the trip from my neighborhood is only 20 minutes or so (I always think it’s going to take longer).
I’ll also be upfront and say that in my research, I expected to have a relatively average meal and be on my way (yup, I’m completely pre-judged the restaurant). I couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, if you read no further, just know that La Tablita is the best Mexican in the UAE (beating out Loca, Zoco, and Muchachas, the latter two by a significant margin).
The interior definitely lets you know you’re in a Mexican restaurant, but I liked the open layout (including a kitchen where you can watch all the action). A glance at the menu reveals a selection of smaller plates, tacos (almost too many varieties), some mains and ceviches. As a lover of avocado, my interest was immediately piqued by the Con Pato (Crispy Duck Guacamole, AED60). Although there was a trio of delicious salsas delivered (complete with homemade tortilla chips), we decided to see what the appetizer was all about. While I can’t expressly say the shredded duck added much to the dish in particular, the guacamole was delicious (although I prefer tableside preparation, this was still quite fresh).
Eyeing the rest of the menu, we decided no other starters were necessary and instead opt for ceviche (two kinds) and tacos (six varieties). My ceviche, Camaraon (AED55) was sweet (coconut milk makes up the base), but also quite fresh (coriander, dill, and citrus). Everything blended quite nicely with the prawns (but I could see how this interpretation might be a bit too cloying for other ceviche traditionalists). Across the table, Hubs’ Atun (tuna and habanero chili, AED60) was in tuna heaven and proclaimed this the best ceviche in Dubai (and he’s tagged along to enough Peruvian places that I do value his opinion).
With a rather quick turnaround, we’re presented with the tacos (each AED15). I chose two shrimp versions, plus one beef, while Hubs picked flank steak, barbacoa, and chicken. My shrimp taco is pure heaven — crispy, battered shrimp with a not too heavy coleslaw had me wishing I’d ordered two more of the same. Hubs, a man who likes his protein, was in ecstasy with his flank steak (a cut of meat he has been trying to hunt down across the city). Overall, I thought the presentation was unique for each taco (complete with handmade tortillas), and each portion was very filling. Furthermore, if you’re craving something a bit exotic, they do feature camel!
While we weren’t planning on dessert per se, a look at some other plates passing by us was enough that we decided to split one, and I’m so glad we did. While the churros looked delicious, at our server’s recommendation, we opted for the brilliantly priced Tres Leches (AED35). While I’m still on the fence if I like the same dish at Totora better, we both agreed that the level of sweetness was spot on in this plate. Creamy, luxurious, but not overpowering, this is one you must order when you visit.
It’s also worth mentioning that the House Margarita (AED45) is superb. It was, in fact, so good, that we asked the bartender if the ubiquitous Mexican drink came in a pitcher. (The answer is no, not at this time).
My suggestions (only to push this impressive venue to the next level) start with the layout of the drinks menu (spoiler alert: an unmitigated disaster). There are too many fonts and far too many colors — this is an exceptional shame because our margaritas were truly outstanding (super smooth, just tart enough and none of the syrupy sweetness that occur when bartenders use mixers). Service was wonderfully personal but a bit quicker than I prefer (less about ‘reading’ the table and more that I think they were just legitimately excited to serve us the food). My other minor suggestion would be the addition of televisions in the section just off the bar. While the venue is primarily a place to eat and drink, I think the management of the restaurant are losing out on additional business by not considering other revenue streams. Admittedly, the location is not ideal (Hubs and I both agreed this spot would crush if it was located in JLT), still, I sincerely believe La Tablita worth the trip.
Would I go back? While dining, we named two couples who we were specifically going to bring over in the next few weeks. As the designated driver on Saturday, I was devastated to miss out on only having a tiny sip of the delicious margarita — so I’ll definitely be calling Careem for the next visit. Pricing here also seems to be the most competitive among the other Mexican venues in town, and I would put the overall value for money in this menu among the highest in the city.