Greater intensity of flavours in new Pan Latin dishes - Bu! at World Trade Centre, Abu Dhabi

There are those restaurants where it is always more than just the dishes. In those restaurants you want to walk away having had an experience. And no, I do not think this applies to all restaurants. With Pan Latin cuisine now fairly well represented in the city, the overall experience becomes even more critical as these restaurants battle for the palates, hearts and mind of  a limited pool of guests - I say 'limited' because Abu Dhabi remains conservative when it comes to trying new cuisines. Not only does South American cuisine have dishes drawn from its own countries, one cannot ignore the influence of, especially Japan, on these dishes. Do not forget that Brazil and Peru boast 2 of the largest Japanese communities living outside Japan. 

It was with this in mind that I accepted an invitation to try some new additions to the menu at Bu! in the World Trade Centre Mall in Abu Dhabi. 

I once callously remarked that a ceviche is a ceviche but with time I realised that is absolutely not the case. Tonight's ceviche, the Wasabi Trufado, gives me a chance to understand just how to appreciate a ceviche. There are so many aspects to a ceviche that determine if one is able to enjoy it, or not. This sea bass ceviche, in that familiar palate arresting leche de tigre sauce, has me thinking about a key word in a ceviche - balance. You want the citrus of course, but there also needs to be other elements that ensure it is not sickeningly sour. It is also about the ingredients marinating for just the right amount of time as you do not want the fish to break up and become chewy, nor do you want it to be dry and without flavour. A taste...Oh I love it. Neither the truffle oil nor the kizami wasabi does not overpower it while the texture from the quinoa crust is a delight. While I enjoy a glass of Bu!'s signature cava, Hola! I do think a mildly sweet riesling or even a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc might just work really well. On a side but very important note, the ceviche is presented in a  bowl of ice - both practical and aesthetic. 

The next dish, the Salmon maracuya, is as sensual as it is sexy! Allow me to describe it for the picture I have taken cannot quite capture the visual appeal of this dish. Bits of salmon are placed in a sea of passion fruit sauce, with drops of mint sauce complemented by fresh mint. Black tapioca crust , finally, completes the dish. And what about taste? It is an outstanding dish, with flavours moving effortlessly between sweet and sour with freshness of the mint almost cleansing the palate in anticipation of another assault on the palate. This will turn out to be my joint favourite dish on the night. 

An exciting element on the new menu is the elevation of street food. There are some cuisines that naturally lend themselves to this concept and South American cuisine is one of them - the food is genuinely owned by the people. The Tacos duros or Hard shell tacos and Tacos suaves or Soft shell tacos bring the street to your table, but in that typical stylish Bu! manner. The octopus hard shell tacos have an intensity about them as Chef blends the nicely textured octopus with Japanese mayo, red onion and chipotle sauce -  a bit more generous use of chipotle peppers in the sauce adds a bit of zip to the flavour. A comment made by a friend when she has the taco is that they are textured in a  way that allows you to get the crispiness but without the breaking that she associates with tacos. Astute. 

Finally, the Chicken softshell tacos uses achiote sauce, a Mexican sauce made from a variety of ingredients including pepper, coriander, garlic and cumin - it brings a spiciness to the dish while avocado serves to create some balance. A word of advice - go in there with your hands. Lick your fingers afterwards. This is stylish food, but it is still from the street. 

On this my 4th visit to Bu! I realised why this evening seems so much better than previous visits. As good as previous evenings have been, this is so much better because rather being here with one guest, there are 4 of us at a table. This is the spirit of Bu! Sharing works much better when there is a group of people. It is the South American way!

For our main courses, we share 2 dishes. First, and this is the one dish that I cannot connect with - The Pollo adobado, which is corn fed baby chicken and rich adobo sauce just feels too disjointed for me. There is too much dissonance on the plate. I find the aji amarillo and adobo sauces do not complement each other well, which made it hard for me even to appreciate the sweet potato gnocchi. 

On the other hand, the Cazuela de bacalao or Black cod returns me to simplicity and delicacy of flavours. Now, miso glazed black cod is a  standard at 4 or 5 restaurants in the city, and as much I am never disappointed when I have it, I am open to some variation. This is what happens this evening. Chef uses a miso chipotle glaze, adding a bit more intensity to the cod but without robbing it of its essential subtlety of natural flavour. This is the most Japanese of dishes this evening, with Chef also adding sticky rice and bits of dry fermented tuna. Finally, a delicious mix of mushrooms are mixed in, with shimeji mushrooms the highlight. A favourite tonight. 

Honestly, and with respect to the pastry Chef, I skip dessert because the the last dish is how I want to remember the evening; but a very well portioned dessert platter is served. Based on my guests' reactions, the Mini dulce de leche alfajor is the winner. 

Intense flavours. These are two words I would use to sum up the new additions to the menu, notwithstanding the delicately flavoured Black cod. It is a bold menu that for me shows a Chef who has come to know his guests well and is willing to take them further down the road of exploring Pan Latin cuisine. But remember, it is also about the whole experience and this is what Bu! does so well. Through lively awaiters and music they ensure that the evening is about more than food. Also, we were there on a Friday night when restaurants with big brunches tend to be a bit quiet, but there was a great turnout. 

Now that the terrace has opened, Bu! will take things to another level in which they bring together their enthralling new dishes and  a rooftop experience that ranks in my top 5 in the city. 

The Essentials

4th floor,
The Hub at World Trade Centre Mall,
Abu Dhabi
+971 2 666 8066

Menu at Bu!

Brandon Stoltenkamp
Disclaimer: I was invited to try the new menu items courtesy of the restaurant