“Cookery is not chemistry. It is an art. It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.” Marcel Boulestin
It’s always great to be invited back to one of my favourite spots in Abu Dhabi especially when it’s to a masterclass with the charismatic Chef Luis Pous, Global Executive Chef of Asia de Cuba. Back in the capital with Director of Operations Nick Fielding, Chef Pous was visiting the restaurant and fine tuning the existing menu, adding new dishes and flavours to the popular dishes and tweaking the Friday Brunch options, all perfectly timed to coincide with the after summer terrace relaunch.
The beach deck reopened last weekend as the summer heat has slowly disappeared (just need the humidity to get the message and it will be idyllic) and judging by the crowd on Friday night Asia de Cuba’s loyal amassed fans have returned ready and willing to party, not surprising really with the venue’s unrivalled concept, reputation and fantastic location in the capital.
So back to the masterclass, last Saturday afternoon the other half and myself joined four other guests along with Chef Pous, Chef de Cuisine Phillip Harbin and his trusty spiky haired sous Chef Pepe in the Asia de Cuba kitchen to learn the art of making fresh and tasty Flounder Ceviche. South American ceviche, available at the restaurant in various varieties on the small plate menu, is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in the acidity of citrus juices, such as lemon or lime and spiced up with the addition of chopped chilli.
After a refreshing pre-class Raspberry daiquiri, we assembled at our own stations (how exciting) and donned our aprons and chef hats. This particular ceviche used Flounder with a sofrito crudo (sauce with cheese) garnished with radish, chilli and coriander. After he blitzed up the sauce in the blender, Chef Pepe expertly filleted the large, fresh and firm flatfish into individual portions. Chef Harbin then demonstrated how to slice the fish into similarly proportioned bite sized pieces before we were let loose with our own very sharp chef knives.
My slices were definitely not as uniformly sized as the experienced chef but I duly rolled each piece of raw fish and arranged them in line on a display plate as shown then drizzled the bright yellow sofrito crude dressing on top. Chef Pous talked us through the experience explaining fish selection, how to check for freshness (moist clear eyes, firm flesh and not smelly) and how each of the different ingredients and flavours combine to make the best ceviche.
We then garnished our dishes with red chilli, radish and coriander (cilantro) and finished our beautifully presented ceviche with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice. Good news for those not so keen on fish like myself, there is a vegetarian Mushroom ceviche with ginger, jalapeño and snow peas available on the menu. You can read about my previous Asia de Cuba Ceviche de Pescado Masterclass experience with Chef Harbin and Chef Pepe here.
Former US marine Harbin has been at the helm of Asia de Cuba since its debut in the capital at the beginning of this year, working with the innovative menu created by Cuban born Chef Pous, who we had the privilege of meeting once before at the media launch night back in January. Once the masterclass was finished we returned to the dining room with Chef Pous to enjoy a selection of the dishes from the cross-cultural influenced menu that has its roots in Havana. The Cuban food gets its Asian influence from El Barrio Chino de la Habana (Havana’s Chinatown), one of the largest and oldest in Latin America.
We chatted with the engaging chefs while dining on our ceviche and some delicious vegetarian Black Bean and Plantain Empanadas with sweet and sour garlic sauce, Wagyu ‘Ropa Vieja‘ Springs Rolls with butter lettuce, pickled vegetable, rococo sweet and sour sauce, my favourite Goats Cheese fritters and some Hamachi thai mango salad with root miso vinaigrette all washed down with a very pleasant white wine.
I love this upscale aesthetically pleasing waterfront venue with its Chino-Lation menu, classy and luxurious restaurant decor and whitewashed Miami style beach deck decorated with multi-coloured glass lights and of course the friendly, consummate service. While the deck is a lively place at night attracting guests to enjoy its vibrant atmosphere and intoxicating vibe, it’s also a great place for lunch, Friday brunch and by far Abu Dhabi’s most perfect spot for sundowners. You may find me perched on a bar stool at the outdoor bar with my Floradora on Holiday gin based cocktail in one hand, a handful of tostones (salted and addictive fried plantain chips) in the other while enjoying sunset views out across the Arabian Gulf.
The Friday Chino-Latino Brunch By The Beach invites brunch lovers to enjoy its unique party experience with fantastic food and custom-made cocktails. There are three packages to choose from that all include Chef’s Signature menu with tapas for the table, salads, entrées, ‘China Latino’ BBQ grill with meat, fish and house-made sausages and a selection of desserts too. The cleanser Brunch (AED 325) offers unlimited soft beverages, the live Mojito Bar package (AED 425) gives you a selection of house-made fruit purees, fresh citrus, infused syrups and herbs to create your own mojito as well as wine and beer and the champagne brunch (AED 525) has all of the aforementioned plus unlimited Taittinger champagne! Click here for the full Chino-Latino Brunch menu
Thank you Chef Pous, Chef Harbin and the Asia de Cuba team for your hospitality and the fantastic experience which was most enjoyable (as you can see from the photos). It is always a pleasure to visit this sophisticated venue, even twice in one weekend, it’s most definitely still the hottest place to be in Abu Dhabi right now and if you haven’t been already then make sure you visit soon, look out for the next masterclass too, they really are great fun!
Asia de Cuba
Location: Nation Riviera Beach Club, Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 699 3333
I was invited to attend the masterclass but all the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.