The Vegetarian Perspective

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Tesoro Dubai: A Peruvian Twist at the Taj Dubai

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Tesoro Dubai: A Peruvian Twist at the Taj Dubai

The sprawling office buildings and unfinished skyscrapers of Business Bay aren’t the warmest of sights in Dubai. But the Taj Hotel, which has been in operation for just over two months now, immediately sets itself apart from its relatively drab surroundings. The cool glass exterior leads into a beautiful and inviting lobby that makes you forget about the concrete jungle outside.

Today the VeggieBuzz team is lunching at Tesoro, a Peruvian inspired concept borrowing elements from various other cuisines, and giving them a twist.  As we walk into the restaurant, we notice that it exudes elegance, with wooden tones, uncluttered design and soft orange lighting. A few scattered olive trees complete the look, and the glass walls add a sense of openness to an already spacious dining room.

Aside from the ambiance, what stands out is the exceptional service.  Servers and managers alike are extremely welcoming and accommodating, providing a level of genuine customer care that’s a cut above most Dubai restaurants, and a welcome change.

South American cuisine is best known for its seafood and grilled meats, so we’re quite surprised by the fairly extensive vegetarian selection that’s available.  There is also an international section on the menu, offering some options beyond Peruvian cuisine.  We order a selection of vegetarian dishes from various part of the menu to share, so that we get an opportunity to try as many as possible.

We start off with Vegetable Siphon, a soup presented in a condenser that’s straight out of a chemistry laboratory. It consists of two vertically stacked chambers; the upper chamber has mildly spiced vegetables and the lower has a lemongrass-infused broth.

A flame beneath the lower chamber causes the broth to rise into the upper chamber and mix with the vegetables; the flame is then removed and as it cools, it comes back down.  This process is repeated twice, and the soup is then served in little tea cups. The broth absorbs the flavor of the vegetables quite well, but is loaded with spice, which is slightly overpowering.

The Corn and Scallion Pancakes sounded like they would be very tasty, but are somewhat disappointing.  While I can definitely detect the scallion flavor, and the panca yogurt sauce is quite nice, I don’t love the texture of the pancakes, which are quite bland overall. The Quinoa & Avocado Tabbouleh is tasty, using lime juice and avocado to create a pleasant tang, but the dish gains nothing from having quinoa in it.  Nonetheless is does have the fresh crisp taste of a traditional tabbouleh. Our remaining starter, Squash Curry Leaf Panca, is essentially a plate of squash fritters served with tiny strings of spiced ginger and curry leaves, adding a nice depth to the mild flavors of the squash.

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The quartet of main courses picks up things up considerably. Vegetable Saltado is a stir-fried medley of peppers, broccoli and mushrooms that have a salty flavor with some spicy notes; it comes with steamed white rice. The Quinoa Burger that we ordered from the International section of the menu has a little crunch from the grain and an Indian touch, and the use of potato in the patty seems to camouflage the quinoa.

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The Beetroot Ravioli really engages our taste buds. The ravioli, which has beetroot puree mixed into the dough, has a rich magenta color that’s contrasted quite well by the bright yellow Amarillo chili sauce. There are many flavors at work here.  The sweet beetroot ravioli houses a savory filling of celery and hearts of palm, which mixes in with the chili sauce that has an unusual, saffron-like flavor with a very mild heat.  Although on inquiry, we are told there is no saffron in the dish.

The last of the mains is the Tortilla Pizza, topped with melted cheese, guacamole and slices of Amarillo chili. The crisp tortilla and the creamy guacamole provide a good balance of textures and make it the most satisfying dish on the menu so far.  There are four of us at the table and we get one slice each. We’d happily devour one more pizza, but choose to save some room for what promises to be some amazing dessert.

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The dessert offerings look quite tempting, with some unusual dishes such as Corn Crème Brulée calling for attention, but we opt for slightly more traditional fare. Our server immediately recommends the Chocolate Sphere, which is another fun chemistry experiment, but sans apparatus. White chocolate and black cherry compote are enclosed by an orb of dark chocolate, which disintegrates before our eyes as steaming melted chocolate is poured over it. The rich chocolate flavor blends with the tartness of the compote, tasting like a molten Black Forest gateau. It’s what food comas are made of.

The Rocoto Panna Cotta, served with berries and a shortbread wafer, is also good, with a nice summery flavor, and a surprising kick from some spice mixed into a layer of berry sauce. The Three Milk Parfait is the most playful looking dish on the table, served as an ice-cream on a stick with some chocolate crumbs and berries.  Unfortunately the taste doesn’t measure up to its quirky presentation.

Tesoro has a charming, almost Zen-like atmosphere, and serves up a great meal as well. Latin food is a favorite of mine because of the bold flavors that it coaxes out of all its ingredients. That strength of flavor is evident in Tesoro’s vegetarian food, save for a couple dishes. Dining at the Taj Hotel is an experience in itself, and the impeccable Taj hospitality provides a nice oasis amidst the steely desert of Business Bay.

9/10stars

GRASSY SUMMARY
Veggie Friendly: ✔
Vegan Friendly: ✔
Pros: Relaxing atmosphere, lovely view, fantastic service.
Cons: Some of the appetizers are quite average.
Price: $$$

Average price for 1 guest without alcohol

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