Launched in May, Totora – a Peruvian ‘cevicheria’ – joins a glut of South American restaurants in Dubai. The name, Totora, honours a Peruvian plant that has helped sustain life in the region through its role in gathering food – it has been used to make reed watercraft for local fishermen for 3,000 years. Traditionally, a cevicheria serves ceviche (obvs) and seafood, but there’s plenty of meat on the bones of Totora’s menu.
The chef recommends a classic Peruvian rocoto relleno (Dhs90) – a rocoto pepper stuffed with diced beef fillet in cheese sauce, served with a layered potato cake. It’s a hearty start.
I’ve never tried Peruvian soup before, so that’s next to the table in the form of chupe de camarones (Dhs75), a thick milky shrimp and chilli chowder, topped with a poached egg and loaded with cubes of potato and halloumi cheese. Though these starters seem expensive, they turn out to be meals in themselves.
My guest and I struggle through our mains: seco de codero (just Dhs80!), braised lamb leg with various types of aji (chili pepper) on a bed of Peruvian squash with some chifle (plantain chips) on the side; and pescado a lo macho (Dhs190), a mixed seafood platter with spaghetti-like squid, scallops, octopus and prawn with a gorgeous, lightly crisped wedge of sea bass in the middle. The accompanying mussels – small and dry – let the dish down. Both dishes also lacked seasoning, and salt and pepper isn’t provided.
Desserts range from Dhs40 to Dhs50, and the ice cream platter gives a snapshot of the creative ingredients used here: there’s sweet potato and peanut, chulpi (a type of corn) and lucuma (a subtropical fruit from the Andean valleys).
SIGNATURE DISH: Mixto Ceviche, Dhs65
Ceviche is a Latin American staple that’s super-healthy. Totora’s features sea bass, octopus, shrimps and two types of corn (starchy choclo and crunchy fried chulpi) in ‘tiger’s milk’ – the term given to the citric chilli-spiked juice in which the fish is cured.
As all the dishes I tried were so substantial, my recommended approach to Totora is to go for a one-course lunch, smuggle in a sachet of salt, just in case, and end with a cup of their delicious rooibos and cactus fig tea. INFO: Totora open 12noon-12midnight Sat-Wed, 12noon-1am Thu-Fri. Lima bar open 12noon-1am Sat-Wed, 12noon-2am Thu-Fri, DIFC, Gate Village 7, 04 399 9666, totora.com