Tasted: Fuego, Souk Al Bahar

There’s not a sombrero in sight at this mature Mexican restaurant. (That’s a good thing.)

June 28, 2014

VENUE

Latin American restaurants often struggle from a recurring case of theme overkill. So focused are people on adding kitschy elements or tired stereotypes to the décor, that they forget that, more often than not, it is the food that decides the fate of a place.

Fuego – which this month celebrates its first anniversary – has managed to avoid this trap. The moderately sized L-shape restaurant is understated and slick, with a strong wood finish, brown and purple colour palate and – thankfully – not a sombrero in sight. It is much more of a modern restaurant that serves Mexican food, than a modern Mexican restaurant.

ATMOSPHERE

Because the restaurant is divided into two, the atmosphere in the bar and dining areas are quite different. The lively bar is lit by neon lights and beckons a well-dressed crowd in for cocktails, or more fittingly samples of their excellent, homemade, flavoured tequilas.

The long, narrow dining area, however, has a different vibe. Rows of tables are close together and there is a more relaxed, and almost clinical vibe.

FOOD

Mexican food might not be blessed with a huge amount of variety, but it is a tricky skill to get it right. The recommended traditional starters of ceviche – a trio made from red snapper, tuna and shrimp – were crisp and clean in flavour, despite the small portion size. They were preceded by a wonderfully creamy guacamole, made to taste tableside, and served in an impressive volcano-stone bowl.

The warm starters included a selection of quesadillas and some perfectly tender slow-cooked lamb shank barbacoa, and continued to demonstrate that Fuego’s Mexican chef, Jose Manuel, knows exactly what he is doing.

A feast of tacos – lamb, red snapper, chicken, beef (ranked in order of taste) – followed, with strong flavours, but perhaps suffering from the thick soft shell bread. Naturally, it was all helped by a few rounds of a jalapeno and celery infused tequila.

COME BECAUSE

A restaurant that focuses on the food, and not the stereotypes.

Details: Daily, noon to 12.30am. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai. For more visit fuegodubai.com