Tucked away on the north side of The Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island, next to the Four Seasons, COYA has almost a hidden entrance. As if you are ducking into the secret remains of the Inca ruins, well with a red carpet and valet. The moment you walk in the door COYA makes you feel comfortable. You feel like you have entered a beautiful Peruvian home. Colourful bright pillows on wrought iron chairs, lots of greenery, hanging plants and dark wooden tables.
The colours and decor are vibrant and distinctively elegant, just like the food. You are welcomed to your table with guacamole made in front of you. But even without the fantastically fresh guacamole, I realize the house-made crisps (a delicious selection made from sweet potatoes, root vegetables and corn tortillas) are incredibly addictive. Four crispy tacos appear, two each of salmon cured with tomatoes and jalapenos and tuna with yuzu and green chili. I have by now almost finished the bowl of roasted edamame sautéed in sweet tangy pepper and garlic…just in time for the ceviche course.
The light-filled dining room is centred around a large table of ceviche and the neighbouring bar is filled with earthly salads like the Quinoa al Taramindo with coriander, mint and pomegranate, and the Trio de Maiz, a mix of corn of different shapes and sizes, finished with fried corn, sweet onions and red chilies. There was even tender and flavourful avocado and shiitake mushroom maki. Ceviche abounds with salmon, tuna, sea bream, yellowtail and my favourite, the red snapper in truffle sauce. This is the only part of the meal that you can serve yourself and I feel like I want to take seconds and thirds but decide to hold off for the courses to come.
For the mains, there is a variety of very Peruvian choices based on the fundamentals; steak, chicken, vegetarian (Papa Seca- a Peruvian dish of dried potatoes, black truffle and mushroom), grilled salmon and sea bass risotto. All are served with a side of grilled asparagus, warm stir-fried Asian-style quinoa and char-grilled corn on the cob. The salmon is smoked, finished on the grill and then topped with fresh herbs, preserving its perfect tenderness. The sea bass risotto is rich and nutty with notes of miso as the historical Asian influence on Peruvian food is pleasantly apparent.
Dessert is multiple different small tastes served on a platter of popcorn, in homage to one of Peru’s favourite grains. The flan was super creamy, but the most interesting was the Chicha Morada (purple corn) Colada with passion fruit and strawberry. Bright, tangy and sweet all at the same time.
The atmosphere is clean and calm as the sea glimmers in the sun through the long wall of windows. The waitstaff are affluent in Peruvian fare and will most likely be able to tell you the fifteen ingredients in your seemingly simple ceviche. COYA’s ingredients are traditional, their preparation and plating is innovative. It is ancient and modern. With the right balance of each and all to keep their guests both satisfied and yet intrigued
Brunch packages start from AED 278.
COYA, Abu Dhabi, 02 306 7000
Words by Daniela Croda
Daniela is a food writer and baker, always thinking about great food. Searching for the best restaurants so you don’t have to. Follow her blog