The Esquire Review: Casa de Tapas
When elBulli closed its doors in 2011, it had already changed the course of Spanish cuisine forever. Whether or not it changed it for better or worse is left to a new generation of Spanish restaurants to decide.
But I digress. Casa de Tapas is best described as a house of small sharing plates of food. Redundant nomenclature aside, it’s a decently-sized Spanish place based near the Park Hyatt, in the Dubai Creek Yacht Club which also includes The Boardwalk and Cielo Rooftop Lounge (right next to Dubai creek stalwart, QDs).
It’s been open for yonks, and it’s safe to say it hasn’t changed much over the years. It plays football on its many televisions (especially when there’s a La Liga fixture) and serves up a decent selection of Spanish food. It attracts a loyal crowd of Spaniards (which says a lot about it) and has deals on just about every evening (many of which include bottom-less jugs Sangria).
So far so good. But Dubai has changed over the years, and the centre of the city is no longer the Dubai Creek. Does Casa de Tapas do enough to warrant the cab fare?
Casa de Tapas: what’s the vibe?
We visited on a Sunday evening, which was surprisingly busy. Yes, there as football on, but not in the “I can’t hear my dining partner through all the ruckus” type way. Instead, it was comfortably busy and jovial.
The rather large venue has a big bar area with tall tables and stools, with dining tables spread around it in horseshoe-type formation. There is a non-smoking section that spreads out around the back, but unfortunately, it’s rather devoid of life back there. If you can stand it, try and plump for a table near the large floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the creek.
Staff are quick and very helpful. In fact, after ordering we didn’t wait more than five minutes before another drink or plate of food was presented to our table.
Casa de Tapas: how’s the food
Remember that slightly out of context opening paragraph about elBulli? That was a bit random, wasn’t it? Nope.
Many Spanish chefs are still plagued by what elBulli did to their cuisine. A small plate of delicious olives now looks old and stale when compared to the scientifically-honed gelatinized olive that the restaurant made famous (and now offered up in Spanish restaurants around the world, including two in this city).
Same with other classic dishes; potatoes now have their insides scooped out and served with a tomato musk sprayed directly into your face by the server (patatas bravas). Mushrooms are simmered down for seven days before being frozen and turned into a cream, and then fried in little balls (croquettes). And the worst crime that molecular gastronomy ever forced on the world… the ‘de-constructed anything’ (in this case, the humble Spanish omelette).
Modern cuisine is all well and good, but the food in Spain is great because it is simple, fresh and delicious (not because it’s been turned into a solid, then a gas, and then a solid again). Fortunately, the team at the house of small plates tends to agree.
Dishes here are small, true to their origins and quite nice because of it. Stick to the traditional fair, and you really can’t go wrong here. Although room should be saved for the seafood paella, which while a crustacean’s worst nightmare was very tasty indeed.
Casa de Tapas: where is it?
Casa de Tapas is located at the Dubai Creek Golf Course and Yacht Club (in the yacht club bit, overlooking the creek). It’s sat adjacent to QDs (which is a good spot for a pre-dinner drink, especially as the sun sets over the creek).