“Ceviche is the new sushi. It’s very healthy, fresh and delicious.” Sanjay Dwivedi, COYA
Showcase your mixology skills followed by an interactive ceviche class at COYA Abu Dhabi’s latest masterclass series. Now popular in the UAE despite a shaky start, Peruvian restaurants offer diners a taste of South American cuisine. When first introduced to the local market, COYA Dubai offered curious diners complimentary ceviche to encourage them to try the unfamiliar and unusual flavours.
It’s not all about dining at COYA, the restaurant is taking things a step further by inviting guests to get hands on and learn firsthand about two Peruvian favourites, the Pisco Sour and ceviche. Regional influences, international chefs and bartenders have put their own stamp on COYA’s menu, the brand offers original Peruvian fusion cuisine with influences from Japanese, Chinese and Spanish cultures. The masterclass lead mixologist, a charismatic Romanian guy, along with his fellow bartender, displayed skills that wouldn’t look out of place in Tom Cruise’s iconic Cocktail movie.
What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon then at the bar learning how to concoct Peru’s signature cocktail. Pisco, an almost colourless, strong grape brandy originates from the Pisco region, Peru’s winemaking country that when blended with lime juice, egg white, sugar syrup and Angostura bitters makes for a lethal Pisco Sour. This drink is now so popular that it even has its own National Day, Día Nacional del Pisco Sour, celebrated annually in Peru and across the globe on the first Saturday in February.
Class participants are invited behind the bar to recreate the classic Pisco Sour, easier said than done and my cocktail skills definitely needed honing. COYA Abu Dhabi has its own range of nine infused pisco marinating in oversized glass jars with flavours such as pear and sandalwood, banana and tonka beans and a regional inspired date and vanilla. Lookout for the selection of colourful jars on the mezzanine level as you descend the stairs from the main entrance.
Once a few Pisco Sours have been sampled it’s time to head to the Ceviche Bar in one corner of this colourful restaurant for part two of this interactive experience. Under the guidance of sous chef Nicola Negrini, who came to COYA from his native Italy via experience working in Japanese restaurants, we learnt all about ceviche. Chef Nicola and Peruvian front of house supervisor Tito, were equally charming and entertaining, quite the comedy double act who ensured that our class was not only informative but also great fun with plenty of anecdotes.
Ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus juice, is a dish enjoyed in the morning in Peru when the fish is freshly caught straight from the boat. Definitely a punchy start to the day but away from South American ceviche is more likely to be enjoyed for lunch or dinner. While we tucked into COYA’s delicious guacamole, chef Nicola demonstrated how to make the dish and we tasted some of the ingredients. It soon became clear that this dish might look simple but in fact has more elements to it than you first think.
Limes are an important ingredient in Peruvian cuisine and at COYA they feature heavily in most dishes and drinks. Ceviche is raw fish cured by the acidity in the lime, but as we found out by taste testing, only the first sweeter squeeze is good enough, the second more bitter one is used elsewhere in the restaurant and bar. Leche de tigre (Tiger’s milk) is another important component in the preparation process and Coya offers various varieties to compliment the six ceviches on the menu. Asian inspired tigre de leches are used in the Chinese influenced Atún Chifa (tuna with soy and chilli) and Salmón Nikkei (salmon with wasabi and ginger) with Japanese flavours. A new truffle leche will be used in a mushroom ceviche appearing the menu soon. Dietary requirements and allergies have also played their part and one of the leches is made sans fish juice to satisfy that requirement.
We prepared our own Lubina Clásica, a classic ceviche made with sea bass. With step-by-step guidance we arranged the freshly lime cured fish, added the leche de tigre and topped the dish with thinly sliced red onion, coriander, cubes of sweet potato and choclo (Peruivan corn). Although ceviche is not a vegetarian option, this is still a great masterclass for veggies to attend. There are however plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available as part of the sharing style lunch, which is the final part of the class.
Some of the most popular dishes from the menu are served while you sit back and enjoy the waterfront views. Save room for dessert tp try the more unusual Chicha Morada, Peruivan purple corn colada and the Churros de Naranja, orange and lime churros with chocolate and dulce de leche sauce which were particularly good.
Not only was this masterclass fun and a very social affair, it’s also a great way to try what this Peruvian restaurant has to offer. It’s reasonably priced at AED 290 per person including a three-course lunch. Definitely one to book with a group of friends if you fancy trying something new one weekend. The next class will take place on Saturday 27th July, check the schedule of events online for future experiences.
COYA’s Pisco Sour & Ceviche Masterclass
Location: COYA Abu Dhabi, The Four Seasons Hotel, The Galleria, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Telephone: 02 306 7000
Next class: Saturday 27th July 2019 from 12:30pm – 2:00pm
Cost: AED 290 per person including 3-course lunch
I was invited to experience the masterclass. The views in this post are all my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2019. All rights reserved.