WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT: LA TABLITA
“This place is just awesome…the food is divine!”
I received this inside tip from one of the Coya crew and, knowing better than to ignore a recommendation from someone in the industry, I quickly hustled my way over La Tablita to see for myself.
This indulgent hidden gem is located at the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights and serves up a mouthwatering menu stuffed with authentic Mexican flavours. Although it might be a little out of the way for some people, the food will and service will more than make up for it, I promise!
What I loved about this restaurant is its authenticity. La Tablita is about keeping it real and that starts with the staff, who are all from Mexico. The vibe was friendly and welcoming, as though we were being invited to join a meal at someone’s house. The interior adds to the warm vibe with earthy colours offset by pops of deep golden yellows and cheerful orange tones. It’s very much Aztec-inspired and understated, adding just a touch of casual sophistication.
When the food started coming out, I couldn’t find a single fault.
The true test for any restaurant (or cook) is the quality of preparation in the simple foods—eggs, cacio e pepepasta or, in La Tablita’s case, guacamole. And they nailed it.
We munched our way through the chef’s choice of dishes and each one was more delicious than the last. It all became clear why that Coya crew member was so enthusiastic and confident about recommending this restaurant.
Expect fresh ceviches with a kick of chili and traditional dishes like sopa de tortilla (tomato tortilla soup) and chicken mole (chocolate chili chicken stew) through to adaptations like roasted camel with sun dried chili adobo and queso asado made with paneer cheese instead of the typical queso fresco.
And, of course, what’s a Mexican restaurant without margaritas?? These were absolutely spot-on and I’d like to take a minute to issue a friendly reminder to all of those trendy restaurants out there:
Teach your bartenders how to make great – not just good – cocktails and it will make all the difference!
La Tablita was absolutely buzzing by the end of the evening and the place makes for a perfect laid-back hangout. Take a break from you usual haunts in downtown Dubai and head over here for a refreshing change of pace and palate!
Q&A WITH CHEF DANIEL HURTADO
Ed. note: some answers have been edited for clarity
Could you give us a brief overview on yourself?
I was born and raised in Mexico and from a young age, I had a love for food and being in the kitchen. I started my career at the age of 17 and have had the opportunity to work in many kitchens, as well as train in Michelin star restaurants. I aspire to become a top chef cooking and creating food I love and which is also enjoyed by all.
Who inspired you to become who you are today?
Many people have been my inspiration but first and foremost was my mother. She is an amazing cook, who used to cook up a great meal for us four kids. I guess the aromas coming from the kitchen and seeing my mum there made me curious. Bit by bit, my mum started seeing my curiosity and started sharing her talent.
It’s a tough business—what has been the number one secret to your success?
You better love what you do and then everything becomes easier…
When the going gets tough you…
Keep cooking because the show must go on. Later you laugh about it after you realized you made it through.
Describe the style of La Tablita and the Dubai audience
La Tablita is not just about the good and tasty Mexican comfort food; it is also about the experience. Once you get inside it’s as if you become Mexican—the environment and people make you feel like you are in Mexico! The Dubai audience has embraced us and young and old visit from all different nationalities. When they get inside, I see them all as vibrant soulful people full of energy. I really feel our good vibes also get passed on to them and everyone just has a good time.
How do you attract staff and most importantly retain them? Is it all about shouting orders?
First, they need to be attracted by the passion of cooking and willing to learn and improve themselves. One important fact to retain them is to understand them—what their needs are and what they are looking to achieve. Based on that, you retain them until they are ready to fly. And no, it’s not just about shouting orders. That time of chefs shouting orders is in the past. Everyone here is part of the show and enjoys their time together.
What keeps your regulars coming back time and time again? Dubai is pretty fickle so what is the special number one thing they return for?
Don’t want to brag but our food is tasty and consistently good. But for sure I would say it’s the team people come back for. Like you said, Dubai is fickle and there are some pretty good places to eat out there. It’s the team—both in the service and kitchen—that make the difference and makes people want to come back time and time again. The team makes everyone feel comfortable and it creates a place where you can be yourself.
What’s your secret behind creating your menu—how do you gain inspiration?
The only secret is to keep it simple but really tasty. Also, it’s based on what we can find in the market and what’s in season. Inspiration comes from the satisfied guests’ comments—it really motivates me to keep trying out new things.
What’s the number one culinary trend you can not stand?
I like them all, especially the trend where chefs are being more conscious with the ingredients they use. For example, selecting a type of fish that is not being overfished and in danger.
In your eyes, what’s the most underrated ingredient?
Garlic—it’s almost always used for everything to add a great base flavor to any dish. Also, it’s used in so many different countries and their particular cuisines.
Which ingredient gives you the most diversity?
Corn. Corn is actually a main ingredient in Mexican cuisine, such as in tortillas, tamales, atole, pozole, garnachas, tacos, etc. They are all made with corn.
Your dream table of 5 people would consist of who…
Barack Obama, Martha Ortiz Chapa, Anthony Bourdain, Enrique Olvera, and someone who has never had the luxury or opportunity to dine out and who is experiencing a restaurant for the first time.
Food critics are…
Best foodie joint in Dubai?
Most respected Chef is…