El Noctámbulo review: Tasty tacos are the flavour of the day at D3’s ace Mexican joint
On the Friday night when we visit, the restaurant’s a little tranquilo. While the word is out about bustling nextdoor neighbour Akiba Dori – run by the same owners – El Noctámbulo remains seemingly under the radar.
As with Aegis Hospitality’s other offerings – Akiba Dori, Couqley, Stereo Arcade – plenty of thought has gone into concept and design. A funky industrial vibe is the order of the day for El Noctámbulo, with their eponymous Night Owl graffitied on to the concrete walls and pillars.
El Noctámbulo is a taqueria, meaning the menu is dedicated firmly to the humble taco. There are ten varieties on offer with familiar favourites like beef barbacoa interspersed with more unusual options. Octopus and beef chorizo with spicy mayo and ink aioli won’t appear on too many Mexico City taco stands.
A trio of tacos (which equates to one portion in reality) costs AED69 but happily you can mix and match.
The ‘carne asada’ combines sliced beef, melted cheese and avocado mousse and while the meat is verging on well-done it is still a satisfying mouthful. A better choice is the hammour with its crispy batter, soft fish, crunchy cabbage and the gentle heat of a chilli-spiked mayo. The ‘Gobernador’ is also a winner – a plump battered prawn served with cheese, beans and a zingy salsa verde.
Beyond the tacos, there is a mixed bag of appetisers. The sope – a pair of thick masa tortillas topped with beans and barbacoa – are greasy and a little, well, soppy.
Fortunately, redemption comes quickly in the ‘street corn’, a dish that may soon be a lunchtime staple for us. The plate of buttery corn on the cob is bright red thanks to the addition of a thin outer crust of flaming hot Cheetos. It may offend the culinary purists but it just really works – the sweetness of the corn and fiery heat of the Cheetos a brilliant blend.
It wouldn’t be a Mexican menu without guacamoles and of the three options, the ‘smoky’ definitely reigns supreme. The chunky dip is laced with feta and topped with ‘chilli ashes’, a black powder that admittedly adds more to the aesthetic than the flavour. It is a great bowl of guac nonetheless and the mound of accompanying tortilla chips is quickly reduced to crumbs.
It seems El Noctámbulo is not quite as polished as its owner's other offerings… yet. However, the idea is strong and if their other venues are anything to go by it hopefully won’t be long before the execution matches the concept.
Three dishes to try
Cheetos-covered corn on the cob. Seriously, where have you been all our lives?
Crispy Fish Taco
A great variety of tastes and textures; this hammour makes us very happy.
So crunchy on the outside, doughy on the inside. Choose caramel sauce over chocolate. Trust us.
Where: Dubai Design District
Contact: +9714 566 8374