After a successful launch event we were eager to revisit VaKaVa Pan Latin Grill and Lounge at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers to further explore the menu. In collaboration with Mexican celebrity Chef Richard Sandoval, VaKaVa’s menu offers a range of Pan Latin flavors, from Ceviches, Tiraditos, Tacos to sharing plates. With a broad range of restaurants in his portfolio, Chef Sandoval combines authentic Latin ingredients with international flavors and inventive techniques to create new and unexpected concepts and cuisines such as modern and coastal Mexican, Latin-Asian, Peruvian and Pan-Latin.
During the past 18 years, Sandoval’s career as a Chef-Restaurateur has evolved to include serving as a culinary consultant, television personality, cookbook author and brand ambassador. RS Hospitality is now a leading international restaurant group with over 45 concepts spanning Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Texas, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mexico, Costa Rica, Tokyo, Qatar and Serbia.
When heading to VaKaVa be sure to follow the signs and take the first right, as VaKaVa is located separate to the main hotel and has its own valet. The venue is bursting with color from the moment we walk into the restaurant our eyes are captivated by the emerald greens, fuscous pinks and bronze details. VaKaVa enjoys a spectacular and extensive two-storey spot, where guests can dine indoors under the warm tones, or alfresco on the intimate patio of the ground floor. The extensive dining space is complemented by the awe-inspiring VaKaVa terrace on the first floor, where mesmerizing views of the waterfront make for the ultimate evening under the stars and the best outdoor terrace space in Abu Dhabi. The terrace is set to open later in the year when temperatures cool.
We begin with the Smoked Guacamole, as the name suggests the Guacamole is presented to the table encased in a large glass filled with smoke. As the glass casing is gently raised by our waiter the smoke clears to unveil the generous portion of rich and creamy Guacamole served with a side of crisp tortilla chips. Given that you can find this dish at most restaurants in the city I believe that the theater of the smoke not only adds to the taste but to the visual stimulation giving it a unique edge.
Curiosity leads me to order the Corn Bread. I personally enjoy the appealing flavors, a light bread, served piping hot, with a slightly sweet taste, the playful textures make this dish hard to resist and at only AED 20 we would recommend trying it.
From the salad options we opt to try the Kale Salad, we order Kale Salad as a light side option, although it is enjoyable, we both personally find the flavors to be too overpowering.
A highlight of our dining experience is the Salmon Ceviche, with rocoto, tamarind and citrus sauce this dish is light, fresh and zesty. Have your phones ready as the presentation of this dish is exceptional. Served in a half-cut glass bottle on a bed of dry ice this dish will make your Instagram profile the envy of all your foodie friends.
The Prawns Aguachile are not for the faint hearted, this dish is packed full of flavor, from mango to lime, cucumber to coriander your taste buds will be left enthralled. Again, this dish is spectacular from flavor to presentation, this is an excellently executed dish.
Moving onto the mains we select the Octopus and the Wild Mushroom Coca Flatbread. The Octopus is served Peruvian style grilled with potato salad. The plating is detailed and elegantly done. The Octopus is perfect, understandably Octopus isn’t an easy dish to cook as many chefs make the mistake of overcooking however at VaKaVa the culinary team have perfectly prepared the dish. Upon the first bite the Octopus seems to melt in our mouth, excellent. Although the Wild Mushroom Coca Flatbread may not sound like the most exciting dish on the menu don’t underestimate Chef Richard Sandoval’s talents, he somehow manages to make even a humble Flatbread taste delicious. Be sure to add a side of Cauliflower.
Concluding our dining experience, we order the Chocolate Fondant Cake, although if it is your first time visiting VaKaVa La Bomba dessert is a must (you’ll thank us later).
VaKaVa’s biggest hurdle will be shaking off the reputation of previous restaurants that had occupied the space however we believe VaKaVa has come to Abu Dhabi at the right time, sharing concepts are thriving, Pan Latin cuisine is trending, and visually stimulating dishes are more in demand than ever. Overall, we had a pleasant dining experience, as a vegetarian I was able to find dishes I enjoyed however do think VaKaVa does have an opportunity to expand this section of its menu, for those who enjoy meat or seafood you will be spoilt with choice!
Smoked Guacamole, AED 60
Corn Bread, AED 20
Kale Salad, AED 55
Salmon Ceviche, AED 75
Prawns Aguachile, AED 80
Octopus, AED 145
Mushroom Flatbread, AED 75
Cauliflower, AED 45
Chocolate Fondant Cake, AED 55
VaKaVa, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, +971 2 8115 666