REVIEW: La Tablita

Since its opening last year, the Hyatt Regency in Dubai Creek has mostly existed in the capacity of a slick business hotel, but absent of a flagship restaurant to make it a sought-after culinary destination for Dubai’s numerous foodies. Fortunately however, with the recent opening of Mexican offering La Tablita, that’s all now changed.

Located on the ground floor of the hotel (just follow the Aztec/South American themed floor markings when you enter the main lobby) La Tablita has positioned itself as both a vibrant Mexican restaurant and a specialised taco shop to boot. Serving a range 16 beautifully moreish tacos – for the refreshingly reasonable price of AED12 each – and it’s certainly this latter concept that resolutely sets La Tablita apart from its local Mexican cuisine contemporaries in the city. From chipotle pulled chicken (a ShortList favourite, for what it’s worth) to braised duck, battered shrimp to lamb stew – we’d wager that you’re not likely to find a better answer to your particular taco temptations outside of Mexico’s own San Cristobal.

At this point, while you, like us, might be perfectly content to just settle in and sample every one of the 16 menu options (apparently our feverish taco consumption is quite staggering) to ignore the rest of La Tablita’s extensive menu would be highly inadvisable.

The Ceviches Bar stands as another highlight of the restaurant, providing fresh seafood peppered with influences from the Mexican regional markets. And while we found the Acapulco (prawns in tomato cocktail sauce) a trifle on the runny side, in the robano – seabass doused in serrano chilli – you’ve got an ideal partner to the  flavoursome selection of restaurant appetisers, or ‘botanas’ to use the appropriate vernacular. This section ranges from the classic Mexican sharing fare of nachos (chicken, beef or duck topped), cheese and chilli toasted empanadas, a mix of quesadillas across to a particularly formidable crispy duck mixed guacamole.

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As with the tacos, as hard as it is, we’d advise some gentle discipline in these opening sections of the menu, for prudence sake – an expansive selection of mains still await. Assuming you’ve left sufficient room, you’ll find a number of stellar grill options, from traditional beef, (look no further than the US Angus ribeye) chicken or fish fajitas  to La Tablita’s specialist take on the more conventional choices including softly – grilled lamb chops, sea bass, and a good choice of steak slabs. Cooked in uniformly impressive fashion, and with a price tag that never veers into eye watering territory.

With the concept behind Mexican eateries all over the world is predicated on a convivial, intimate vibe, it can be decidedly tricky to replicate such an ambience in a modern hotel ground floor establishment, which is where La Tablita is situated. Fortunately however, while the restaurant was a perhaps a bit quiet on our arrival (about 7.30pm on a Tuesday), by the time we ordered desert, it had filled considerably – with the salsa music and unfussy dining expereince contributing to a tangible all-round vivacity. Additionally in this regard, La Tablita earns extra dining experience points for boasting (for the most part) an authentic Mexican staff, from the waiters, refreshingly confident in their food and drink reccomendations, to the chefs – milling around the tables between courses and happy to spend a minute or two educating guests on cooking techniques and appraising them of exactly what they’ve ordered.

Hopefully, the emergence of La Tablita will prompt the Hyatt Regency to continue to add to its dining arsenal, and if it takes a pinch of the execution and overall experience seen here, it’s off to a great start.

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