“Lively celebrations and traditions such as Latin America’s street parties and Mexico’s Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) will be brought to Abu Dhabi, allowing people to experience the true vibrancy and soul of Latin America, here in the heart of the city.” Yana Kalwani, Retail and Beyond.
Abu Dhabi has a fair few jewels in its dining crown but one new venue is set to shine like the brightest diamond once word gets out. It’s swanky, it serves innovative cocktails and authentic Pan-Latin cuisine with a side of warm Southern American hospitality topped off with vibrant tunes and it’s called BU!
First impressions are key, this huge and I mean huge restaurant, bar and lounge concept is an exciting and trendy space with a distinct urban feel. Once you get over the fact that you are in Abu Dhabi at the top of the World Trade Center Mall you can really take in what’s on offer at this fourth floor establishment that’s part of the capital’s latest dining concept, The Hub.BU! would not look out of place in Manhattan, it’s concrete floors, striking modern lights, walls dressed with neon signs and a vintage speaker covered DJ booth are combined with a well-stocked glass fronted wine cellar that also houses a freestanding cigar humidor offering a range of premium brands and a large theatre-style open kitchen.
My favourite part is the rooftop terrace, a massive outdoor space that’s surrounded by some of the city’s tallest towers. The eclectic choice of different tables, chairs and furnishings as well as funky lights separating the different zones that range from large wooden tables to cosy corners, swinging chairs to illuminated versions and stripy sharing seats, it’s all happening on the roof terrace. Both the indoor and outdoor bars serve up a large menu of exotic and original cocktails, so many it takes a while to choose what different flavour combination you want to sample. Maybe a hibiscus gin or violet infused preparation, like the food the drinks are inspired by the vibrant flavors of Latin America.
So we’ve established it looks good and I’m a sucker for contemporary places but what about the food, after all that’s how a restaurant earns and maintains its reputation. Based on the aesthetics my expectations were high and that can sometimes be my downfall but fear not the menu is an unforgettable savoury and sweet delights for your tastebuds, a journey of Latin flavours, textures and aromas that pay tribute to the South American countries from which they originate.
One of the outstanding features of this concept is that natives of South America are involved in its delivery. The head chef Humberto Canales is Mexican and many of his team hail from that part of the world, our server was Colombian, the DJ is from Peru so the passion and flavours of the continent and the dishes are inbred, they grew up eating this cuisine and they are ready to share their secrets with Abu Dhabi’s discerning diners.
The magic happens in the state of the art expansive open fronted kitchen where customary street food is given a contemporary twist, the best and juiciest cuts of meat grilled or smoked in the traditional Latin way, fresh seafood and vegetables prepared to wow the eye and tantalise the tastebuds, all delivered to the table in sharing style in either raw and cooked forms.
The other half, myself and two friends visited on opening night and sampled the BU! menu preview, a selection of dishes from the Raw Bar, salads, tortillas, from the grill and the most amazing dessert selection. First up was the slightly spicy and very moorish Botanas, a vegetarian Mexican snack dish of roasted potato with classic Argentine Chimichurri followed by four dishes from the Raw Bar. Aguachile (spicy shrimp ceviche) and Atun (tuna ceviche), Huachinango (spicy red snapper tiradito aka Peruvian raw fish) and Pulpo (Octopus tiradito).
Next was up the cravings course, Antojos with vegetarian Huitlacoche Envuelto (smoked tomato with corn and mushroom), Pescado Frito (fried fish) and Fajitas de Pato (duck in steamed bun) and Ensaladas(salads) of Quinoa (with heirloom tomatoes, avocado and asparagus) and Salpicon (beef carpaccio with vegetables). Pescado Tascos las Parados (homemade soft tortillas with Dory fish) and Arroz com Mariscos (mixed seafood rice much like paella).
Carnivores will be very satisfied with the meat options, Costillas (Black Angus Jerk Ribs with sugar cane and cinnamon) and from the grill (La Parrilla) Black Angus Tenderloin with bearnaise and black pepper sauces which drew gasps of delight from everyone that sampled it around the table. Las Aves (poultry) is also available in the form of Pollo Adobado (corn-fed chicken with Caribbean dressing) but we didn’t sample this one.
Even though we had consumed a great deal of food, we left a little room for dessert but should have left more as there was a choice of seven authentic South American sweet treats and we got to sample them ALL sharing style. A fan of creamy caramel Dulce de Leche, I was delighted to see it feature in my favourite two dishes of the night, the Cheesecake Alfajor and Arepas (fried corn cakes).
Chocolate lovers will enjoy the Chocolate Chili Mousse Cake served with refreshing mango sorbet mango. Mexican Arroz Con Leche (puffed rice filled with milk rice pudding) and BuÑuelos (the Colombian Christmas and breakfast treat of fried dough balls filled with lime cream served with a pipet of berry compote and spiced coffee ice cream) were also extremely good. The flavours kept coming with Brazil’s national cocktail the Caipirinha in dessert form served flambe with distilled sugarcane juice, Pina Colada made with salted coconut ice cream was scrummy as was the cinnamon infused purple corn dessert, Cachaca.
The restaurant’s South American vibe would not be complete without Latin music, lively rhythms filled the air to encourage guests to embrace their salsa moves. Peruvian resident DJ Bass Maze (aka David Wachtel) has been spinning the decks in Barcelona, Chicago and Lima for the past fifteen years and is now responsible for setting the Latin vibe at BU!. Guest appearances by DJ’s and bands from far and wide like South America, London, Miami and the Balearics are planned to keep things new and exciting.BU! originates from the Spanish word Buenisimo which translates as exceptionally good and that’s an accurate description of this lively venue. Whether you are looking to hang out at the bar with a pisco-sour, a glass of premium champagne or dine on fabulous South American cuisine with a glass of classic red or white wine, BU! has got it all. Great food, great cocktails and a great experience, I guarantee you will enjoy yourself whether it’s with family or friends, it’s a place to see and be seen, don’t take my word for it enjoy the Latin American journey for yourself and then spread the word, this huge venue needs to be filled, Salud!
Location: 4th floor, The Hub, World Trade Center Mall, Abu Dhabi
Opening hours: 12pm – 3pm for lunch, 6pm – 2am on weekdays and 12pm – 3am on weekends.
Telephone: 02 666 8066.
Monday’s ‘HOLA CH!CAS’ Ladies Night, Tuesday’s ‘DESTINATION’ night (dedicated Latin American night) and Friday Brunch is also available.
I was invited to review BU. All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2016. All rights reserved. First and second photos used courtesy of www.butrinity.com
Read more about BU in my previous post Review: The Hub, World Trade Center Abu Dhabi