Lima has remained high on my travel bucket list for quite some time, and one of the reasons why, is my love for Peruvian fare. While I may need to put my travel plans on hold for now, (thanks covid), that doesn’t mean I can’t embark on a gastronomical adventure to one of the top 20 largest countries in the world.
To satisfy those cravings, we head to one of our favourite restaurants in the Capital, Coya for some contemporary Peruvian food; a natural fusion of South American flavours with strong culinary influences from Japanese, Latin-American and Spanish communities.
Coya’s modern spin on Peruvian cuisine comes from the Zuma co-founder Arjun Waney and from the moment you walk in, it is clear. As soon as you enter the restaurant, you’re immediately met with an eclectic concept juxtaposed with a sophisticated and somewhat theatrical atmosphere. In a multi-dimensional venue that transitions sinuously between three distinct spaces – restaurant, terrace and Pisco lounge. Coya Abu Dhabi’s internal spaces are moody yet interesting, fun yet sophisticated. Alive with Peruvian vibrance, the atmosphere is alluring, and I find my eyes continuously wandering the walls in awe of all the intricate details.
We sit on the equally picturesque terrace engulfed by the view as our gaze drifts out across the water towards the gleaming skyscrapers that make up Abu Dhabi’s skyline.
Our epicurean journey begins with Coya’s renowned Guacamole served with corn tortillas and shrimp crackers for dipping. Next comes the Ceviche which is typically a raw fish dish cured in citrus fruits and spiced with chilli. We sample the wild mushroom, shallots and crispy enoki ceviche (Hongos) and the sea bass, red onion, sweet potato and choclo ceviche (Lubina Clasica). While some say the true origin of ceviche is unknown, Peru claims it and Coya certainly makes it its own.
The salads are divine, too. We try the Picante de Pepino salad made up of fresh cucumber, green apple, miso, coriander, sesame oil and almonds. But the Burrata definitely steals the show with its soft and creamy texture coupled with tomatoes, grapes, pickled aji limo and botija olives.
Before moving to the mains, we are served Crispy Baby Squid Calamari and Setas Antichuho (marinated skewers fired on a charcoal grill and usually served as street food in Peru), a trio of spongy forest mushrooms flavoured with a punchy aji panca and parsley coating. The highlight of this course for me is the Churros de Papa – perfectly piped potato churros topped with generous amounts of Manchego cheese and truffle shavings. This is a seasonal menu item so if you’re fortunate enough to be reading this right now, head to Coya and include these in your order. I promise, you will not regret it.
At this point we’re already getting full and decide to put on the breaks to enjoy the sea breeze and ambient beats of the background music before the mains arrive.
Once room is made, rest is taken and appetites restored, a trio of dishes are delivered. The Quinua con Calabaza iron pot is an exceptional surprise with a delectable combination of quinoa, pumpkin, ricotta cheese and aji limo freshly prepared in a traditional iron pot (also known as ‘Cazuelas’). This makes the perfect accompaniment to Escabeche Peruano – chargrilled sea bream in banana leaf, tamarillo, aji panca and muscatel.
Bringing things to a sweet conclusion, we are served the Mini Bandeja de Postres which is a selection of three signature desserts, fresh fruit, ice cream and sorbet. Ours comes with Chica morada (a Peruvian purple corn colada, passion fruit and strawberry topped with crisp orange shortbread), Sundae de Maiz Sweetcorn ice cream, speckled with caramelised popcorn and pineapple. Not forgetting warm and crispy Churros served with a dreamy milk chocolate and dulce de leche sauce. Dessert is presented so beautifully on dry ice, I (almost) felt guilty tucking in.
Coya’s contemporary Peruvian cuisine with its flavour-fusion of Latin American, Spanish and Asian cuisine is a tastebud sensation. The lighting is low, the decor well judged, and the food exceptional. It’s little wonder why Coya is one of our all-time favourite restaurants in town.
Guacamole, AED 57
Ceviche de Hongos, AED 46
Ceviche Lubina Clasica, AED 72
Picante de Pepino, AED 49
Burrata, AED 98
Calamares com Ocopoa, AED 54
Setas, AED 42
Churros de Papa (seasonal)
Quinua con Calabaza, AED 98
Escabeche Peruano Fillet, AED 142 or Whole, AED 274
Mini Bandeja de Postres, AED 159
COYA Abu Dhabi, Al Maryah Island, +971 2 306 7000