What We’re Talking About
Finding a place to have dinner in Dubai is like shooting fish in a barrel—we’re spoilt for choice. With so many types of cuisine and atmospheres to choose from, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and go back to your favourite haunts over and over again instead of trying to decide on which new place to try.
Well, let me tell you, I’ve found the most perfect place to mix things up. If you’re looking for a sensory experience filled with tastebud-tingling food and a lively, sensuous ambiance, book your next date night at the Peruvian-inspired Coya located in Restaurant Village, just across from the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach.
Why We Love It
Coya Dubai opened in December of 2014, in between the successful launch of the London branch in January 2012 and the opening of the Miami branch in 2015. Serving up Peruvian cuisine with a modern twist, Coya ripples with South American spirit in an interior full of vibrant Incan colours. “Salubrious” and “eclectic” are the two words that first came to my mind after seeing both the London and Dubai branches of Coya.
This is not one of those crisp, clean fine dining establishments. At Coya, the gorgeously deep and moody interior will wrap around you and transport you far away from the humdrum of Dubai. Rich colours of peacock, chartreuse, purple, and red, antique Incan gilding, dark wood, and mud botija-lined walls are all juxtaposed upon each other to create a swirling, sexy vibe that embodies the Latin American lifestyle.
But despite the lush and lively vibe, it’s far from pretentious. In fact, it’s that certain je ne sai quois that will grant you access to the exclusive Members Club, not the depth of your wallet, and that alone is a breath of fresh air here in the city where money talks. The “it” crowd here is all about sophistication, class, and a tiny bit of mystery.
(The Members Club)
If you’re looking for something light, try the Pisco Lounge where you can grab cocktails like “Pisco Punch” (Pisco Mosto Verde Italia, pineapple syrup, orange, lime) and “Popcorn Sour” (Macallan 12 year, popcorn-infused single malt, lemon, truffle). Share bar food plates like tacos, patatas bravas, and oxtail empanadas to nibble the night way while you snuggle up in one of the comfy leather lounge chairs.
For a full meal, you’ll want to dine in the actual restaurant, which has 4 different sections—the Main Dining Room, the Ceviche Counter, the Brassa Counter, and the Terrace. Each of these areas has their own alluring qualities. The Main Dining Room, for example, is great for large groups (why not make the next couples’ date night here?) whilst the 2 counters offer seats to walk-in diners on a first-come-first-served basis.
If you head to Coya on a whim, grab spots at the Ceviche Counter to watch the chefs work their magic on cold dishes or to the Brassa Counter for a close-up look at the chefs preparing anticuchos and grilled meats. Take advantage of your seats and soak in the entertaining experience! And finally, if you haven’t gotten out in a while and just want to unwind, the Terrace is your answer. This enclosed space is super relaxing as you get to enjoy Peruvian delights whilst surrounded by greenery and fresh, open air.
Overseeing the kitchen operations of all three restaurants is Executive Chef Sanjay Dwivedi, who’s been with the Coya family from the beginning, when the Coya brand was but a vision in the mind of successful restaurateur Arjun Waney (who is also behind the likes of Zuma and La Petite Maison). Taking charge of the Dubai kitchen is Head Chef Benjamin Wan, who put in some extensive training at Coya London before making the move to the UAE.
With 3 different teams in 3 different countries to oversee, it would be easy for Dwivedi to simply go around shouting orders to keep things cohesive and running, but it’s quite the opposite. A self-described encouraging leader, he says that constant communication is key and he keeps the team motivated by offering empathy and advice whenever they need it. He is also quick with praise, saying he has “a team of extraordinary, empowered individuals” who have “contagious energy”. This comes as no surprise since some of the core qualities Chef Sanjay looks for in his staff are passion, creativity, and attitude.
Head Chef Ben says that with a team of 38 chefs in the kitchen, it’s important for him to respect their different personalities and how they respond. By looking at the whole team as individuals, he is able to extract the absolute best out of them. He also emphasizes that attitude and respect are the most important qualities that he looks for in his team members. As long as these exist, the needed skills can always be taught.
When asked about which food trends they can’t stand, both chefs are very diplomatic. Saying that every chef has their own way of expressing themselves, both Dwivedi and Wan are open to trying new things when dining out. In his own kitchen, Chef Sanjay abides by the simple idea that “good food will always taste good”, no matter what culinary method was used to get there, and he expects the same when he eats out. Chef Ben is a bit more forthcoming and admits that he thinks foam is one of the unnecessary trends. For him, the only time it is acceptable is in a dessert and when it’s from an espuma gun.
As in any great kitchen, the visual presentation is just as important as taste at Coya. Wan aims for dishes with bold complementary colours and contrasting textures that vary from crisp to soft, crunchy to chewy. For example, the signature Sea Bass Cazuela has a risotto-esque Spanish rice base, topped with grilled bass marinated with tamarind and aji amarillo. Another key dish is the Solomillo de Res, composed of spicy beef fillet with crispy shallots, aji rocoto, and star anise. He finds inspiration for the Coya menu by eating out as often as possible; sometimes alone, sometimes with friends or with his team where they bounce ideas off each other.
(Sea Bass Cazuela)
The entire Coya team makes an effort to create a brand that attracts the right audience for this modern Peruvian restaurant that celebrates Latin American culture. First and foremost, says Dwivedi, is ensuring that the brand’s core DNA and messaging are clear across all of their properties worldwide. From brand ambassadors to on-point PR and marketing, everything is kept streamlined and consistent. Wan mentions that it is also the staff who really communicate the brand, engrained in them from extensive training and day-to-day operations. (I can attest to the fact that the staff is amazing and I just fell in love with Nikolas Pazvadis, who heads up guest relations. He’s an absolute legend when it comes to hospitality and service!)
Chef Sanjay and Chef Ben describe Coya as “extraordinary” and “unique”, respectively—and I couldn’t agree more! The plates are on the smaller side, making them easy to share whether you’re on a date or with a group. Pair the decadent dishes with drinks, and you’ll easily find yourself spending the entire evening at Coya. Another plus is the music: the DJ keeps the well-curated playlist at that perfect volume where you can actually converse without shouting.
Between the fabulously lush decor and the divine food, I now have what can only be called a love affair with Coya. It’s positively addictive and despite me being a tough cookie to crack – I’m hooked!
Located within Restaurant Village at the Four Seasons Resort
Jumeirah Beach Road
Jumeirah 2, PO Box 71384
+971 (0) 4 316 9600
Mary Pratt is a writer and founder of The Caviar Spoon, a luxury lifestyle site that brings together consumers, brands, companies, tastemakers, and emerging talent.
Her roots are in talent acquisition and branding, where she used to constantly scout out rockstar talent and develop employer brand strategies. This grew into a passion that then extended to human and brand behaviors. Curious to find out what makes people thrive and companies stand out, she transitioned from profiling world-class organizations to reviewing places and products and writing about them from the inside out.
Having been misled by one too many mediocre editorials, Mary makes sure that her reviews cover all aspects. She digs deeper than most and offers a look behind the scenes to spotlight the talent who are making things happen. She knows that everyone has a story to tell, which affects the experiences they create, and she asks the right questions to gain intriguing insight into the individual and the company.
Mary has a deep-seated love for traveling and adventure and believes that life’s best indulgences are about the experience, not the extravagance. This means she’d be just as likely to write a review about backpacking through a remote pocket of the world as she would about a trip to a luxury resort. No matter what, she’ll always hunt someone or something down to bring the entire story to life.