UAE

An intimate Mexican dining experience in Dubai – Tortuga

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“In life, great tacos go with a great Tequila” – Chef Oscar Rito

A faint yet familiar mariachi melody meandered through the turquoise canals and curious pier of Madinat Jumeirah. Hostesses in  traditional long skirts with elaborate yet simple embroidery had their way of welcoming people. For a moment, it did feel like a part of Mexico was right before us.
If the weather was a bit more forgiving, we (my college mate and I) would have chosen to dine outdoors. However the humidity drove us inside – which turned out to be a pretty good experience as well.
The interiors were bold, lush and the message I was getting from this restaurant was – we are different, we are passionate and we are loud.

Tortuga Mexican Restaurant and Bar Menu

Tortuga Mexican Restaurant and Bar Menu

It's all about the fine details at Tortuga Dubai

It’s all about the fine details at Tortuga Dubai

Interiors at Tortuga Dubai

Interiors at Tortuga Dubai

Tortuga Mexican Kitchen and Bar, Dubai is a great place to host lunch or dinners with friends and is quite family friendly too. This was even more apparent after I skimmed through the menu and noticed that there was a section dedicated for children with dishes that could be customized as well – well thought of! The fashionably bright menu comes with little snippets about the Mexican culture which makes an interesting read too. I don’t want to dampen the experience for you by elaborating that here.

Islands of tortilla chips

Islands of tortilla chips

Streams of Tortilla dips

Streams of tortilla dips

I was quite intrigued by Oscar’s Tour Menu and decided to order that. The tour menu comprises dishes that encapsulate a different feel of Mexico by tickling the senses. You have to pace yourself as this is a five course menu and the portioning can be a tad ‘filling’.

While we were waiting for our order to arrive, a bowl of tortilla chips and its accompanying dips swooped onto our table. At first I thought it might not be as crispy in texture given than it was taken from the display but I was wrong. Not only was it fresh but it went really well with the dips as well. The waiter was polite enough to ask us how spicy we wanted the dips to be before serving it to us (brownie points there).

The opening act started off with “Acapulco” Cocktail which wasn’t really a beverage. It was a delightful blend of shrimps, avocado, Mexican sauce and cocktail sauce – tangy with just a hint of spice. Quite balanced. This dish was ordered separately thanks to a rather curious pair of eyes. It wasn’t a part of the original tour menu.

Acapulco Cocktail Shrimps

Acapulco Cocktail Shrimps

The Executive Chef, Oscar Rito is very thorough and meticulous when it comes to Mexican cuisine. He walked up to our table and others as well to gain some feedback on the dishes. I was quite touched to hear the stories behind the recipes and how he holds his family close(r) to him through culinary journeys.

The Tostada Callejera inaugurated the food tour and I’m glad it did. The beef wasn’t too chewy and I quite liked the Mexican cheese. Wish I had made a note of the name of this cheese. Serving this on a skillet added to the rustic feel.

Tostada Callejera

Tostada Callejera

I did a little mental skip in circles to see this next dish make it’s way to our table. The Can Cun Taco is a must have for the love of deep fried – hush now, one can indulge in this every now and then.

Can Cun Taco

Can Cun Taco

The  fried battered shrimp went quite well with the cucumber and Serrano salad. I advise adding a few drops of lime to give it a burst of extra flavour. We had to pause for a bit to pace ourselves. Next up was marinated lamb in avocado leaves.

Hidalguense Borrego Taco

Hidalguense Borrego Taco

I wish I knew Spanish to understand the full meaning behind the names of these dishes. The Hidalguense Borrego Taco or lamb marinated in avocado leaves with Molcajete sauce. The molcajete is the traditional Mexican mortar and pestle carved out of volcanic rock and sauces made using these often acquire a rather chunky texture.
Surprisingly this dish wasn’t as spicy as I had imagined it to be. Remember the rule of thumb when a slice of lime comes with the dish.

Mixiote Lamb Stew

Mixiote Lamb Stew

We were almost full by the time the Mixiote lamb stew made it’s entry. This comes with a sharing concept so don’t attempt to have it all by yourself. I was told that this is quite a popular street food meal and that families and friends share hearty conversations over this. The pit barbecued meat gently fell apart as soon as it greeted the fork. The rice seemed to lack that familiar moisture and wasn’t as fluffy as I had expected it to be – perhaps it’s served that way? This mixture did make a good taco though thanks to the soft tortillas.

What came next took this dining experience to a whole different level.

Sweet Cacao Mole Cake

Sweet Cacao Mole Cake

The sweet cacao Mole cake – a spin on the traditional mole sauce combined with the goodness of Mexican cacao in different textures – ice cream, mousse and crumble along with drizzles of sweet popcorn served on the traditional molcajete. We had to admire this dish for a bit before deciding which part to scoop out first.

If the other dishes didn’t entice you enough to try out the tour menu at Tortuga Dubai, then I hope this crowning glory – the sweet cacao mole cake does the trick. It’s not just a dessert. It’s a sweet ticket to the heart of Mexico.

Tortuga Mexican Kitchen and Bar, Dubai is quite popular for it’s live music (Mexican of course) and cocktails. If you’re looking for a night filled with memorable activities that gets all the diners involved then I would suggest dining here for dinner instead of lunch.

Here’s how I would rate Tortuga Dubai:

Ambiance and decor: Excellent
Service: Good (could have been better if we had a better rapport with the waiter / waitress. Different people waited at our tables and we weren’t sure whom to ask for assistance in some cases).
Menu presentation and design: Excellent
Food: Excellent
Value for money: Excellent
Overall dining experience: Excellent

Comestible regards,
Judy Sebastian

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