Peruvian Cuisine comes to Abu Dhabi - Coya, Abu Dhabi

It has certainly been an exciting few years in Abu Dhabi that has seen the arrival of some restaurants that have certainly shaken up things. Zuma started it and was followed by Asia de Cuba. Then, we had Bu! and of course, Tamba. Fortunately for us, the restaurants keep coming. The arrival of Coya, a Peruvian restaurant, is challenging a city known for conservatism and looks to wake us up in the way that places like Tamba has done. I had the pleasure of visiting Coya for its set lunch menu.

The first thing that makes an impression on me is the hostesses as I walk in. As the face of Coya, the first people we see, the hostesses have what is essential in that position - style, charisma and the grace of Audrey Hepburn. Next, it is the size of the restaurant that stays with me - it has a capacity of around 120 including the terrace. This is a good number. Finally, a walk around the restaurant takes me to the dining area, a bar, lounge and terrace area. I can only imagine the vibe at brunch or on a Thursday night when the restaurant is packed! 

The Set menu, available daily from 12.30-15.30, has two courses. But, as is customary at Coya, we are served an appetiser of guacamole nicely created tableside and served with nachos. Also, edamame as you would never had before in Abu Dhabi is also brought to the table. It is during this serving that I recognise an immediate strength of Coya - staff. Despite the plethora of new restaurants, good service exists at only a few restaurants. As I interact with staff, I recognise their training to think outside a training manual and to try and read their guests. Finally, product knowledge is key and is certainly evident. 

Four our starter, we have a choice of 2 dishes and between the two of us we end up with Salmon Nikkei, Ensalada de Maiz, Anticucho de Pollo and Dorada Criola. The concept is one of sharing and my guest and I both benefit by having a lunch experience which comprises 4 starters between us. The Salmon and Sea bream ( Dorada Criola) ceviches are both delicious in their own right, with the daikon and ginger particularly outstanding ingredients in the salmon, while the aji amarillo, a chilli pepper based sauce, the highlight of the seabream. Finally, the chicken skewers (Anticucho de Pollo) are creatively presented, making it worth getting just for that. 

Throughout lunch, I interact with three waiters and waitresses, and at the risk of labouring the point, they really bring something special to the dining experience. The staff is an eclectic one, with a wonderful spread of South American, Western and Eastern European servers. 

I also meet the restaurant's sommelier, Francesco, and he places into context for me a succinct wine list of 150 labels that offers a deft balance between quality and price. I cannot help but notice that two champagnes are served by the glass - they are incidentally my two favourite NV champagnes - Ruinart Blanc de Blanc and Billecart-Salmon Rosé, both at the best price in the city at 120AED. Wow. However, I choose to stay in South America by having a glass of Santa Julia Alambrado Extra Brut Sparkling wine - at 60AED, it will be hard to go back to Prosecco. Excellent ptice point and a nice sparkling wine. Highly recommended. 

Apart from the prices on the wine list, I am thrilled about Coravin, technology that allows guests to enjoy some top wines by the glass without the bottle having to be opened which leads to wastage. I don't want to get technical, so on your next visit, ask about Coravin. It will change the way you enjoy wines. 

Prepare yourself from some sexy mocktails.
Next, for our main courses, we order the Pechuga de Pollo or chicken breast. Now, I never order chicken, but this turns out to be a good recommendation - it is moist and flavoursome, with aji panca again adding great flavour. Finally, we also have one of Coya's signature dishes, the Arroz a la Brasa or Chilean seabass. The latter is simply stunning - the creaminess of the seabass is maintained while the risotto makes this a complete dish. 

Coya, despite the tough market in Abu Dhabi right now, should do very well. It is a gorgeous restaurant with character and depth, a  conversation piece in itself. I believe it offers great value, while not eschewing quality. Coya is all about an experience, and much more than ingredients. Its staff is very well trained, and based on my experience today is among the top 3 restaurants in terms of staffing. Dishes with bold flavours will find a home in many palates, and even though Abu Dhabi is relatively conservative, it will embrace Coya. 

The Essentials

(next to Four Seasons Hotel / Galleria Mall)
Al Maryah Island,
Coya Menu
+971 2 306 7000

The Lunch Set Menu costs 120AED 

Brandon Stoltenkamp

Disclaimer: I was invited a guest to try the set lunch menu at Coya