Peruvian is most certainly having a moment; outlets across the city are popping up and jumping on the South American train headed to success, some are doing it better than others.
Garden is situated on the fifth floor of the JW Marriot Marquis, the worlds tallest hotel. Gardens MO is evidently to lead their guest to forget all about the world outside as soon as the charming hostess leads you to your table. A central water feature surrounded by plant life is designed to create and indoor garden and promote escapism and tranquillity, to an extent it does so. Garden unfortunately have missed a trick or two in the creating their oasis. A large window to the back to of the space allows a view of the neon Omniyat sign beyond, naturally the placement of the sing isn’t within Garden’s control, but a little tint or frosting on the window might have kept the outdoor view from yanking its guests back to reality. Secondly the light given off by the trickling water feature is a clear blue hue that resounds around the room, yes blue is the colour of calm but with my back to the installation I am only aware of the clinical feel it gives off. The overall effect is similar to that of having dinner at an open hospital door with a leaking tap inside. The décor on the walls is suspiciously similar to that of Asia De Cuba in Abu Dhabi, but AllMouthDXB couldn’t possibly be one to speculate.
Upon being seated we were greeted by the most beaming waitress I have ever had the pleasure to meet, eager to please doesn’t cut it. She exuded the kind of ‘new to the job’ enthusiasm and vigour that, whist very endearing, can veer toward awkward at times. To her credit he carried it well and we found her a pleasure all evening.
Our elfin server followed her steps of service to letter and gave us a hearty explanation of the menu, and Peruvian cuisine as a whole, the script could have been shorter, but I’m splitting hairs there.
Whilst perusing the menu I was presented with one of the best Pisco Sours I’ve tasted in a long time, balanced to a tee and garnished simply with freeze dried lime, we were off to a good start.
The menu covers most Peruvian bases well. My main criticism has to be the overzealous inclusion of soy and balsamic, when a concept is so strong in one direction, it’s a shame to weaken it with random deviations along alternative paths. With more smiles and a touch more awkwardness we made our choices and selected a Chilean red to accompany them.
Two ceviches were to start. The first, a classic seabass and corn dish was middle of the road until one took a bit that included a kernel of the roasted corn garnish, the contrast of the sharp, yet creamy fish with the toasty crunch of the corn was divine. Balanced and moreish it was a winner. Our other ceviche sadly paled in comparison to the first, salmon with a passionfruit reduction, the sweetness jarred ever so slightly with the fatty salmon and the quinoa didn’t provide quite enough edge to bring it all together. However it remained a good dish, good especially, if you’re a fan of salmon in a Ponzu dressing at your local Japanese.
Next as a wee mid course we plumped for corn and cheese empanadas and what a choice. Dessert-sweet corn was balanced by salty pastry, chewy cheese and a cooling coriander yoghurt that tempered the sweetness excellently to bring it back to savoury course territory. Left to my own devices I could have three courses of these piping hot delicacies, sadly S.O wouldn’t entertain such indulgences.
Main courses were a wagyu beef steak with chimichurri, and grilled octopus. Our beef came sliced for sharing and drizzled with vibrant green chimichurri making for a very good looking plate, the only let down was the uneven cooking of the meat. Taking several slices I had on my plate a full range of cooking temperatures from rare to well done in one single steak, an unfortunate lack of knowledge on the grill chef’s part. The chimichurri was pleasant but lacked the punch needed to contend with such a large amount of meat in one go, rather than sitting brazenly along side the beef it danced along behind, never making a full appearance.
The skill that was lacking on the meat was well made up for by the octopus’ preparation, cooked to perfection sous-vide and then charred until crisp it melted in the mouth and sat happily alongside its bedfellow of white miso paste. My only gripe here is that it was served after the beef, and its delicate flavour was somewhat hidden from our palates by the strong meat and chimichurri beforehand.
After such a perfect amount of food (correct portion sizing is most certainly one of Garden’s strengths) we needed a wait before dessert, naturally our spritely waitress was happy to oblige, once she’d calmed down from the exciting revelation that we’d enjoyed our meals that is. Eventually we opted for a tres leches cake and chocolate fondant. Both are classic dishes therefore both require good execution so as not to be deemed disastrous, and Garden had a damn good stab at both. The tres leches was sweet and milky and had the soft consistency any Cuban grandmother would be proud to serve. Whilst the fondant was springy on the outside and goody in the middle as it should be, the slight hint of spice gave it an edge that served only to improve it. The real triumph of dessert however was the Lucuma ice cream that accompanied the fondant. Lucuma’s malty sweetness made the ice cream akin to a soothing cup of Horlicks or maybe the inside of a Malteaser, it melted around the fondant’s base lovingly and made each bite just that bit better.
The venue and staff exude a fresh-from-training exuberance and the whole experience feels very new, the enthusiasm showed by the staff could occasionally be passed off as overzealous and on edge however it doesn’t detract from the ambience as a whole. Garden is evidently eager to please which in a market awash with pompous restaurants and aloof staff, makes for a very refreshing change, however if you’re looking for suave and sophisticated, this isn’t the place for you.
Garden Peruvian Restaurant
5th Floor JW Marriott Marquis Hotel
Sheikh Zayed Road
+973 4 414 3000