Waka at the Oberoi, Dubai is a swanky new addition to the local dining scene with an interesting menu that highlights the best of Peruvian dishes ranging from ceviches to tapas and a fantastic selection of cocktails making it a perfect date night spot.
We were there on the night of the Cinco De Mayo celebrations ( just a happy coincidence) and we could tell it was already one helluva party as we walked through the grand lobby of the Oberoi hotel. All of the staff, from the one who got us the free margaritas that were doing the rounds that night, through to the one who deftly guided us through the menu, every single one was high-energy and enthusiastic. The cocktail selection is stellar – we worked our way through the Mango caiprinha, the barbed-wire gin (with flavors of lemongrass & passion fruit) and the classic Pisco Sour.
While I was leaning towards a classic Peruvian ceviche, the intrigue of the Waka Caliente got the better of me. At Waka, it is a generous mix of snapper, scallops and prawns ceviche placed over hot stones table side, a hot broth-like aji panca sauce (earthier but still tangy version of the leche de tigre), red onion and two textures of corn – soft boiled and crispy fried. Wary at first since I’ve always had my ceviche cold, this was a welcoming explosion of unexpected flavors. There’s an element of warmth that very mildly poaches the seafood soon as the sauce comes in contact and somehow just works its magic on our tastebuds, almost surprising me how much I loved it!
While the restaurant does have a fair selection of Japanese inspired makis, we were inclined largely towards exploring the Peruvian side of things. The De La Calle Chicken tacos with pineapple, coriander and chilli, served with two types of salsas came in three’s and are fairly bite sized. We demolished them quickly with our cocktails.
The spicy corn empanada with poblano, cheese and chimicchuri were also well excuted – came as light as an empanada could possibly get. The combination of cheese and chilli is a classic that’s hard not to love!
Our highlight of the night (which if you know me is no surprise) were the char-grilled Tiger prawn anticuchos (basically Peruvian skewered grilled meats/seafood) with Aji Amarillo curry marinade, coconut milk and a herby huacatay sauce. The presentation was an ode to how you’d find it street-side. The prawn itself was cooked perfectly and came accompanied with a side of boiled and then pan-seared starchy root vegetable. Definitely a dish not to miss on the menu.
Since there was plenty to share between us two, we shared a main opting for the Salmon Altitude with a crispy quinoa crust. While the fish was cooked beautifully, perfectly flaky ( loved that our server asked us how we’d like ours done), it was the punchy-ness the herb and cauliflower puree brought that truly elevated the dish. Velvety smooth texture and the contrasts in flavor between the two paired well with the fish.
Like the rest of our meal, I was leaning toward a light dessert, but our server insisted we try out their signature. The Chocolate Bomb ( which is cracked open like a large egg at the table) came with a dark chocolate sphere, generous servings of macarons, meringues, brownie bites and berries. But what was truly unique was the Lucuma ice cream (Lucuma (loo-coo-ma) is a delicately-flavored tropical fruit native to Peru). While I’m not one to be bowled over by theatrics, it was the taste of the lucuma ice cream that set the dish apart for me. I’d highly recommend you order this if there’s at least four people dining together, it was ridiculously enormous for the minimal-dessert loving husband and me.
By the time we wrapped up dinner and were on the way out, the place was packed and buzzing with the sort of energy that shows a restaurant has fabulous potential. And with a cocktail list like that, I’d be begging to return soon!
Address: Waka, Lobby Level, The Oberoi, Business Bay, Dubai