Review: Tasca by Jose Avillez at the Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai
As operation ‘new-normal’ continues to gain traction, and so does our appetite for food that cannot be ordered on Deliveroo and eaten from our front rooms, while completing of our ninth TV series of the month.
Heck, it would be nice just to eat something while wearing shoes and *gasp* a jacket(!) instead of our lockdown-approved sweats-and-slipper uniform. We needed a change. We needed something a little bit adventurous. We needed to wear something nice.
Enter José Avillez and his stylish, but relaxed take on the modern Portuguese dining experience. A regular botherer of Michelin and ‘world’s best chef’ lists, the affable Portuguese opened ‘Tasca by Jose Avillez’ in early 2019 at the Mandarin Oriental, Jumeira, Dubai, and has been educating the UAE on the upscale potential his country’s cuisine has.
Tasca by Jose Avillez: How’s the food?
Full disclosure, we weren’t entirely sure what Portuguese food would entail.
Rather embarrassingly, our knowledge of the cuisine starts and stops at the ubiquitous custard tarts—pastéis de nata and expected some kind of seafood stew lapped up with chucks of bread. It seems, we were right, kinda.
Located on the sixth floor of the coast-hugging hotel, Tasca’s setting is pretty special and boasts spectacular views of both sea and skyline. The al fresco dining option on the outdoor decking area spreads around an unexpected infinity pool, and offers a rather excellent spot for sundowner aperitifs and appetiser grazing.
The lapping ocean below doesn’t just make for a soothing accompaniment to the restaurant’s DJ-approved soundtrack, it also rolls its way to dominate the restaurant’s menu, too.
While predominantly fish-based, the menu is as wide in its offering as it is refined in its quality. Our beaming waiter brought first crisp tempura cod cakes, ice-cream cones of delicate, truffle infused beef tartare and zesty, succulent prawn ceviche. We had worried that the starter’s rich, fried qualities would prove too heavy but needn’t have—everything was perfectly proportioned and air-like in lightness.
The main course, Tasca’s seafood feast, was a delight on the nose, eyes and mouth, with every element of the lobster, shrimp and prawn heavy dish shining both as individual components and as a marriage of garlicky-excellence, while the homemade Portuguese fries elevated the humble potato to jazzy new-levels.
For dessert we gave into our preconceptions and had the custard tarts, which were deliciosa. The craft cocktail menu doesn’t disappoint either, but if you want to be impressed, we recommend talking to one of the masterful mixologists about your base, acidity and flavour preferences, so they can whip you up something off-menu, but oh-so on brand.
Tasca by Jose Avillez: The verdict?
We came to Tasca in search of finding something a little exciting and out of our comfort zone, but we imagine that the restaurant will not feel ‘new’ for very long.
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