The Esquire Review: La Carnita Dubai
There are two types of people who visit La Carnita, those who go for the tacos and those who return for proper the Mexican food. But we’ll get to that seemingly contradictory statement later.
La Carnita is a new upmarket Mexican restaurant located down an incredibly long hallway at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina. It’s where the popular after-brunch party spot Grape used to be, and while the venue may have changed the ‘party people’ evidently didn’t get the memo (when we visited on a Friday night, the bar was ‘lit’).
The popular restaurant is a Canadian export, which serves Mexican street food (yup). There are locations in Toronto, Winnipeg and Baltimore; so Dubai was an obvious choice to open up its next location.
La Carnita Dubai: What's the vibe?
Let’s get one thing clear; La Carnita is not for boring people. We know this because it tells us so.
Its website goes to great lengths to explain the restaurant’s design comes from ‘the best street-style artists’ and that it’s a great place to ‘run through a mixtape’. The staff don’t really wear uniforms – unless you count sleeve tats and baseball caps – which makes figuring out who you ask for sparkling water a fun little game.
When we arrived the restaurant was busy. That’s down to the fact that La Carnita is one of the few restaurants in Dubai that doesn’t also fancy itself a nightclub/lounge/cavernous event space.
The interiors consist of exposed brickwork and funky murals (and funky murals painted on exposed brickwork) and truth be told it all looks rather good. Until, that is, you get to the tables. Don’t get me started on the tables. Okay, I’ll tell you about the tables.
La Carnita’s street food is served on all manner of funky tableware: baskets, plates, wooden boards, metal trays. All of these items are quite large, while the tables at La Carnita are rather small. Large plates, tiny tables, you get the picture.
La Carnita Dubai: How's the food?
The food is a balancing act, in more ways than one.
Dare order more than three dishes (most are designed to be shared) and you’ll begin playing a version of food Jenga – where every idle hand gesture risks knocking over some nachos or send a taco flying – so staggering your order is recommended.
The menu has all the Mexican staples (tacos, nachos, queso fundito, quesadillas) and more interestingly, a good selection of Latin fare like seabass ceviche, street corn, and barbacoa lamb.
This is where it gets interesting; the food that most equates to ‘traditional’ Mexican cuisine isn’t actually what most people eat for dinner in Mexico, (and let’s be honest, it’s often best to do what the locals do). This holds especially true here at La Carnita.
The ‘traditional’ Mexican fare (as us foreigners would call it) is pricey and uninspired. However, everything else on the menu is delicious. The corn alone is worth a return visit. As was the lamb, which was succulent, juicy and slightly spicy. It’s good food.
La Carnita is well worth a visit and its ‘cool factor’ is unquestionable, but our tip is to avoid the traditional dishes, and pick a bigger table (or smaller plates).
La Carnita Dubai: Where is it?
La Carnita is located at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina in Dubai.
For more information call +971 4425 4030 or head to lacarnita.ae
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