Muchos veggie Mexican at Tortuga!
Tortuga has been open for a while, but recently updated its menu. And happily for us, the new menu features quite a few vegetarian options.
The restaurant, set by the impossibly pretty Madinat Jumeirah Mina A’Salam waterways, features a lovely outdoor terrace (which is usually full in the winter months). The restaurant interiors are very spacious, with a traditional oven being a focal point. Colourful glass tiles, giant silver filigreed chandeliers, and rustic-style white faux brick walls enhance the ‘mi casa es su casa’ (my home is your home) vibe that Mexican chef Oscar Rito attempts to offer. Tucked away in a corner is the chile/tequila room, where a wide array of both are stored and displayed. A lively live band belting out foot-tapping Latin music adds to the authenticity of the atmosphere.
Authenticity is something the chef is very keen to focus on, and it comes through in the home-style menu. Among the vegetarian starters, the guacamole was an obvious choice – it was served with homemade tortilla chips (of which we’d already had a sampling as the complimentary hors d’oeuvres, alongside three types of salsa - including one super hot one that comes with a warning). I love guacamole, and anything with avocado in it, and thought this smooth rendition, topped with a fried Serrano chilli, was excellent.
Next, we tried the Molcajate Tiajomulco (from the endearingly named ‘My grandma’s corner’ section of the menu) to share as a hot starter, but hadn’t counted on the culinary theatre it involves. Two long slabs of deep fried cheese are brought to the table on a hot volcanic stone bowl, and tossed right there together with wild mushrooms and a morita chilli sauce – the heat from the stone melts the cheese and mushes it all together into a delicious topping for the small tortillas it is served with.
One other thing I hadn’t counted on was just how heavy and filling this dish was! But, we’d already ordered mains so there wasn’t much to be done. For mains, I chose the Volcan tacos with mushrooms, while my dining partner opted for vegetable fajitas. While tacos, a street food staple, are on the purely authentic end of the scale, the fajitas come with a disclaimer on the menu that they are not real Mexican food, but rather Tex-Mex!
The crispy tacos are topped with melted white cheese, jalapenos, and Epazote (a Mexican herb), and served on a wooden platter. In a word, they are scrumptious.
The fajitas, served to be self-assembled at the table, included a varied mix of broccoli, peppers, onions, babycorn and sundry other veggies; sour cream; salsa; and flour tortillas. While we loved the variety of vegetables, the mix lacked a bit of a flavour punch. It was a minor niggle though, in what was otherwise turning out to be a really enjoyable meal, particularly thanks to the Ensalada Mercado (market salad) we’d also ordered. A beautiful assortment of fresh veggies, avocado, micro greens and orange segments, delicately tossed with an agave honey dressing, made for a subtle yet powerful dish. Unfortunately, as we’d over-ordered, we couldn’t do justice to most dishes, but we know better for next time!
As they say, there’s always room for dessert, so after debating between a few interesting sounding options, we plumped for the Tres leches (three milk) vanilla cake with toasted almonds and served with pistachio ice cream. While it was perfectly nice (I mean, it is sponge soaked in three types of milk and sugar – what’s not to like?), I’ve had - and loved – other, better versions of this decadent, milk-drenched treat before.
At the end of the meal, it did feel like we’d OD-ed on cheese and mushrooms. But to be fair, there is a good variety of vegetables on offer here, which means there is plenty for vegetarians can keep coming back for!
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: X
Pros: Enough choice of veggie dishes, fresh ingredients, authentic flavours
Cons: Dishes can be heavy, so order smartly
Price: $$ (50 - 200 AED)
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