As much as I mention it, the fact is certainly true. More than almost any other city in the world, we are spoiled in Dubai for new restaurants. Therefore, when an invite to the launch of Lima came (via a friend), I was delighted to accept. After all, how often is a world-renowned chef in town? You know what? Scratch that, because this between this week and next week there are actually heaps of top chefs in the city. In our case, Virgilio Martinez was on hand to personally meet with guests and it was a delight to speak with him (at this point, I haven’t seen his Chef’s Table episode, which is probably a good thing, because I probably would be intimidated otherwise). At #4 in the world, I was more than happy to give Peruvian cuisine another try. After the six venues I’ve visited in the past year (Coya, Totora, Mayta, Inka, Aji, and Limo), I had to know where Lima stood in the mix.
First and foremost, like many (many!) a venue in Dubai, the restaurant wasn’t particularly easy to spot. There is (naturally) no signage up as of yet, so intrepid diners will need to seek out the ‘Smoky’ lounge and look for the restaurant within. As for parking… Well, there is a relatively close valet, but the nearest point of entry is nearish the Green Planet (best of luck to you).
Also, as the restaurant is not specifically attached to a hotel or a sporting club, I’m still puzzling as to why Lima is licensed, but Dragonfly by Tim Raue is not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Inside, the fit out is beautiful, with a full dining floor on the ground floor and an expansive bar upstairs. Moody lighting and bold prints add to the atmosphere. Overall, I still prefer the bright colors of Coya (or the starker interior of Totora), but I do think the design of Lima lives up to its name.
Although we weren’t able to review the entire menu, our dishes included a fairly decent selection: Scallops, a surprise Lobster course, Burrata, Wagyu Sirloin (grade 8+), and the signature Avocado Mousse. My dining partner, allergic to seafood, was also able to try a salad and the 3500m vegetable dish. The wagyu was far and away my favorite course, with the Burrata a close second (I am nothing if not consistent in my preferences). To start, while I thought the scallops were beautiful to look at and admired the technique involved, I thought they lacked much (if any) texture and acid. Similarly, my dining companion’s salad was more or less a decent side salad (and not a filling one), and to me, failed to take the place of my first course. A similar instance happened with our next plates. While not listed on our menu, a lobster portion was served next, which more than made up for the limp scallops. The lobster was perfectly sweet, the sauce a creamy blend, and the finely chopped onions added the texture I was looking for with my first plate. Unfortunately, across the table, the 3500m, was more or less a collection of basically cooked vegetables (I wouldn’t order either of her dishes again, same with the scallops). With this start, I’ll have to admit I was missing the traditional cebiche at similar venues.
I will now take a moment to plead with the servers and kitchens of Dubai to give your diners more time. Pacing a meal continues to be one of the biggest issues I see in this city and the thing that stops me from giving out higher recommendations. Whether or not your diner is taking photos or staging the table or simply a group of friends enjoying themselves, I think it’s important for service staff (from all venues, not just Lima) to take a moment and honestly read the table. At nearly every restaurant I’ve gone to in the recent past (in Dubai at least), I’ve had to mention on multiple occasions to slow the service (only to be ignored). Every diner is different, but there are plenty of subtle cues to understand when a table is ready to move onto the next course. Rant over. Stepping off my soapbox and please let me know if you’ve been able to find something that’s actually worked.
Moving on. The Burrata course was (to me) an interesting choice. I’m not sure why I didn’t expect cheese on a Peruvian menu, but I was happy to eat it. With a perfect portion size and ultra-fresh ingredients, the only thing I would add is perhaps a small piece of crostini for some crunch (and because I just really like cheese and bread together).
Our Wagyu was served at the same time Chef Virgilio sat down with us, so we more or less ignored our beautiful steaks until they were cold (and had them refired after he left, which were placed in front of us a perfect Medium Rare). Served with a subtly sweet corn cake (nom!), I wouldn’t change a thing about this course.
Finally, we received the Avocado Mousse. Unique, playful and tasty without being too sweet, this highlighted what the kitchen is capable of. Diners will be happy to end the meal on such a creative note.
There is a lot of exciting potential at Citywalk, however, at this time, my personal preference is still Graze or Dragonfly (my #1 venue in Dubai). Regarding Peruvian in the UAE, I have to admit I like Coya or Totora better. Overall, Lima is a strong entry to the market, so in terms of satisfying your Pisco dreams, you’re in luck. Of course, given the number of Peruvian venues, it could simply be a matter of which is the closest… I’d go back, mainly because I’m curious what else is on offer.
(Sorry, no prices attached to this as the menu was a media preview).
What’s your favorite restaurant at CityWalk? Is there a limit for Peruvian restaurants one city can have?