“We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly.” Anna Thomas
You know you have reached ridiculous levels of spoilt-ness (is that even a word?) when you prefer seated table style brunches as opposed to wandering around big sumptuous buffets. After six years of enjoying the offerings at the best brunches in the emirate (to the detriment of my waistline) it’s always refreshing to try new concepts in Abu Dhabi’s ever-growing and changing Friday Brunch scene. With friends in town from Dubai for the weekend we earmarked the Chino-Latino Brunch by the Beach at Asia de Cuba, as our restaurant of choice.
It sounded just perfect, a live-mojito station, an outdoor grill, a fabulous array of Asia de Cuba’s flavoursome Asian and Latin dishes, the unrivalled beach deck location and consummate levels of service, with Cuban music setting the Latino tone. Feeling brave we booked an outside table (we were the only crazy ones) with beach views but actually lasted less than an hour before we conceded defeat to the heat and humidity, you know when your inner elbows and knees are perspiring it’s time to move inside to the sanctuary of the air-conditioned dining room.
My expectations were pretty high as the upscale Asia de Cuba has been drawing the capital’s crowds since it opened at the beginning of this year. We have enjoyed many a great evening, taken lots of our visitors and even partaken in couple of culinary masterclasses but this was our first experience of the much talked about brunch. I was disappointed there were not many diners to give the place more atmosphere but I think as the weather continues to cool the crowds will return to the beach deck to enjoy the brunch experience recently revamped by Global Executive Chef Luis Pous with Chef de Cuisine Phillip Harbin and his team.
Things kicked off with a round of mojitos from the standalone bar accompanied by some salty and extremely moreish tostones (plantain chips) served with black bean hummus. The food started flowing thick and fast with a selection of sharing tapas for the table; Pastelitos, black beans and plantain empanadas with garlic sweet and sour sauce, wagyu ‘rope vieja’ spring rolls with rocoto sweet and sour sauce, deep-fried chicken chicharrones (made with pork in Asia de Cuba worldwide but substituted with chicken in this region), ceviche de pescado and Chef Pous’ signature creation, shrimp churros. Our biggest problem was our table was just not big enough for the vast amount of delicious food that kept appearing and this was only the first course!
Next up was the salads and the entrees also served sharing plate style, black rice with grilled corn, tofu, Thai basil and a kick of crispy chillies, ‘icy hot’ shrimp served on a bed of sesame, watermelon and napa cabbage, roasted duck with pomegranate, blood orange, chinese cabbage and almonds.
Chinese eggplant was served with fermented black bean, green chili and tofu perfect for vegetarian guests, Plantain crusted pseudo yuca hash with orange mojo, seven spice roasted chicken with sweet plantain, black bean congri, manchego and shiitake mushrooms, ‘Cuban style’ circular brioche French toast with guava marmalade and almond mascarpone drew lots of gasps of pleasure from around of table and Huevos Benedict ‘del dia’ aka the Cuban style Eggs Benedict of the day (changes weekly) with a veggie version minus the meat for me.
Just when you thought you couldn’t possibility eat another morsel out came the chino-latino bbq grill selections, tasty Aji panca lamb, Guava bbq prawns and Sambal bbq octopus, churrasco with Thai chili chimichurri and a wide selection of house made sausages of kimchi and veal, lamb marsala, smoked adobo chicken, asian veggie and beef bulgogi.
Surprisingly we all perked up and snapped out of our food comas as the three beautifully presented desserts appeared, all tasting as good as they looked which is always a bonus. Thai coconut and lemongrass flan with honeydew and caramel, the incredibly delicious tres leches de chocolate with chocolate szechuan peppercorn ice cream and sorbet with meringue, yuzu and coconut water.
The standout dishes for me were the black bean empanadas (I did miss my favourite goats cheese fritters but let’s face it I didn’t need those extra calories anyway) and the tres leches chocolate dessert. The carnivores at the table enjoyed the chicken chicharrones and the lamb as favourites, the french toast was definitely an all round winner as were the various varieties of mojitos made with a selection of the house-made fruit purées, fresh citrus, infused syrups, herbs and fresh sugar cane instead of sugar syrup. One of our friends loved the sorbet so much he ordered a second portion, both of them disappearing pretty fast I can tell you.
As always don’t take my word for, your tastes are probably very different to mine, your brunch drink of choice may not be sugary sweet mojitos or you might not have my sweet tooth that loves the tres leches dessert. One thing is for sure, if you like Asia de Cuba you will definitely be a fan of this brunch which features so many of their amazing dishes. My top tip, besides make sure you arrive hungry so you can do it justice, would be to retire to the outdoor deck after brunch, relax in a cabana and enjoy the beautiful Abu Dhabi sunset from this fabulous prime location on the Corniche. Cheers to the weekend!
Chino-Latino Brunch By The Beach, Asia de Cuba
The Asia de Cuba Friday Brunch has three packages to choose from that all include the Chef’s Signature menu with tapas for the table, salads, entrées, ‘China Latino’ BBQ grill with meat, fish and house-made sausages and the selection of desserts too.
The Cleanser Brunch (AED 325) offers unlimited soft beverages.
The live Mojito Bar package (AED 425) includes a selection of house-made mojitos as well as wine and beer.
The Champagne Brunch (AED 525) has all of the aforementioned plus unlimited Taittinger champagne.
Brunch is available from 12 noon until 4pm. Click here for the full Chino-Latino Brunch menu.
Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.