It’s a good thing I like Mexican, isn’t it?
Next on my list is Peyote, a London offshoot found in DIFC featuring ‘modern Mexican.’ Much like other properties in Gate Village, the exterior and interior of the venue are suitably swank — slicker versions of both Loca and La Tablita, but I immediately wonder how the restaurant will do amid an admittedly already crowded market: neighbors Totora, Mayta, and LaLuz all serve relatively similar food (and yes, I’m purposely lumping ‘Latin’ cuisines together, but am well aware there are a number of nuances between these categories).
Taking a seat in the lounge (made a bit awkward by the couple who decided to choose a seat directly next to me amid a relatively empty space), I have a quick peek at the cocktail list. To start, I’m happy the drinks menu is appropriately focused on margaritas — between the passion fruit and ginger & hibiscus (both AED60) options, I definitely prefer the latter. My dining partner’s initial request for a plain margarita gets a bit mixed up, but eventually, she receives a margarita (HEAVY on the salted rim — be sure to ask to leave this ingredient off if you are not a fan).
After we finish our cocktails, we move to the dining room just a few steps away. I’ll admit that on a Tuesday evening during Ramadan, the venue was certainly doing something right — many of the tables are full, and I would place the capacity at about 70%. Would we like guacamole? Well, it would certainly be rude not to. The guac arrives quickly accompanied by an assortment of sauces/salsas (this will come back later). Crunching away on perfectly round chips, I take a look at the rest of the menu. The ceviche section catches my eye, and I place an order for Laminado de hamachi (yellow tail, truffled huitlacoche and ginger vinaigrette, AED65). As a fiend for scallops, I also order the Ceviche Blanco (diver scallop, young coconut agua chile, and cilantro oil), AED95. When the plates arrived, I couldn’t help but make a comparison to La Tablita’s larger portions and lower prices. While I certainly enjoyed the taste of both Peyote’s ceviches, the cost of the scallop (with a serving size that was very much for one person) was a bit much to swallow (pun intended).
Moving on to mains, as I was debating between two proteins, I asked the advice of the waiter, and ultimately decide to go for both the Pollo lechal con Mole Blanco (AED120) and the Barbacoa de Cordero (AED195). The lamb arrived first and was shredded in front of us (cool technique, yo). Unfortunately, that’s where the love for this dish comes to a rather abrupt stop. Don’t get me wrong — the meat was cooked to perfection and had requisite tenderness, however, the flavor was simply bland. No depth. No spice. Just, cooked and shredded lamb. The introduction of texture only came via the baby gem lettuce that we wrapped in the equally bland, but homemade, tortilla. Unfortunately, when I cut into the chicken, it was a case of very much the same thing — just chicken. I will say however, that my side, the sweet corn (with homemade mayonnaise, queso fresco, AED40), was absolutely outstanding — crunchy, spicy, sweet, and flavorful. I wanted to spoon this dish onto everything else (and that’s pretty much what I did). When one of the front of house managers came to check on us, we explained our disappointments, and she mentioned that the sauces were placed on the table for that reason (to change the spice level of the dish). Now, call me crazy, but when a plate is served (especially in this type of cuisine), I expect it to be eaten as is (sure, some may prefer more salt, but I tend to eat whatever the chef believes is best). In this instance, we had a few suggestions — one, starting with the servers. It was clear that I picked two of the weakest dishes on the menu (illustrated in the extra main we received after this conversation, a brilliant lobster, rice, and saffron concoction). A proactive waiter or waitress would be able to guide a guest towards the best parts of the menu. I intentionally left the conversation open to “I’m thinking about these two” (but was clearly not committed to either). For the dishes themselves, with the barbacoa, I would love to see some dairy brought in — a slightly creamy note via queso fresco or sour cream and perhaps more texture in the form of tortilla chips or crunch from caramelized onion or shredded cabbage. As for the chicken, it was entirely too basic and sincerely needs to be removed from the menu until it steps up its game.
For dessert, we receive Tres Leches (sorry, no price) and Tarta de Chocolate Y Mamey (yup, I forgot to get a photo of the pricing as well here, #bloggerfail). Unfortunately, the tres leches was not even in the same category as the one from La Tablita (which was still very fresh in my mind), but I thought the chocolate desert was delicious — not overly sweet and perfect for sharing.
Would I go back? At this time, I would probably return for drinks. As for the food, I’m still on a high from La Tablita, which will be a difficult restaurant to knock off its current pedestal in this category (and in general). Additionally, I get that there will always be higher pricing at DIFC, but for the most part, I’m not sure I quite see the justification for this in the current menu at Peyote.
What’s your favorite restaurant at DIFC?