I know bugger-all about Peruvian food. In fact, the only Peruvian restaurant I’ve ever been to is Coya and that’s as Peruvian as Zuma is Japanese. So, with that fact firmly established, allow me to introduce you to a fab little Peruvian restaurant in JLT – it’s actually my favourite new restaurant in Dubai 2022 – Fusion Ceviche.
I love chef-owned restaurants; especially those which come from humble origins. Meet Penelope, a petite Latina firecracker with an angelic smile and a mischievous twinkle in her eye. The daughter of a fisherman, mother of two and a self-professed self-taught chef, she says her passion (and much of her knowledge) for the bounty of the sea comes from working with her papá.
I’ve had ceviche in countless restaurants, but I’ve never had anything remotely as extreme as Penelope’s signature Classico – Holy Mother of God – delectably tart, tangy, spicy and acidic, it will have you banging on the table like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally. “It’s intense because I use tiger milk instead of limes to ‘cook’ the ceviche”, she says. “Tiger milk makes you strong”, she winks – referring to the rumour that it has aphrodisiac properties – woof woof! Other ceviches to consider are the Scallops Tiradito with Avocado, Salmon with Mango and, if you like a slightly sweeter, more Japanesque taste, the Tuna Nikkei. Me? I order them all. If you must have only one – Classico.
Contrary to what the restaurant name suggests, the majority of the menu has nothing to do with ceviche. Happily, therefore, other dishes I can recommend are Arroz con Pato, one of the best duck dishes I have had in Dubai lately. Served on a bed of rice seasoned similarly to the pan-Latin American paella-like Arroz con Pollo, leg of duck is fried after being braised in flavoured broth resulting in it being succulent in, crusty out – superb.
Then there’s the Pulpo Anticuchero, grilled octopus marinated in an inhouse-made Anticucho sauce – outstanding even on the off day when it’s not as tender as it should be. Abandon your January diet to try the Arroz Con Mariscos, originally Ecuadorian but hugely popular throughout South America, it’s the closest thing to a Spanish paella – seafood of course. By this stage, you should not have room for dessert which is just as well – it’s work in progress.
The staff at Fusion are genuinely friendly, service is good, and the overall ambiance is deliciously honest and believable, homely even. That said, it can feel a little like a bumper car floor at peak times. Bring Penelope’s high-octane charisma into the equation and you have a restaurant with its own distinct personality, charm and character – a quality the foo-foo restaurants in DIFC and the like can only dream of. It’s no wonder that this restaurant is my favourite new restaurant of 2022.
Ravenous Xerxes (pronounced Zûrk’seez) – Food Adventurer – Shamelessly Exploring the Boundaries of Gluttony
Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join him on his culinary journey on Instagram: @ravenousxerxes or reach out to him via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.