Uno Más!

Cuisinero Uno
2nd Floor, Steigenberger Hotel
Al Abraaj Street, Business Bay
United Arab Emirates

29th December, 2017

I gotta have my tapas! I just gotta!” – Dev Shah

Have you ever craved something so much that you were willing to do almost anything to try and tick it off your list (bucket or otherwise!)? If you have, then what I’m about to share with you today is going to be highly relatable. If you haven’t, then, well, I think it’s still a pretty good story to read through!

Despite my best (and sincere) attempt at being humble, this next sentence is going to sound quite pretentious. Having travelled to a fair share of countries in my life, I have had the pleasure of sampling different exotic cuisines – French, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Irish, etc. But the one cuisine that had eluded me so far, and the one that I was craving the most was Spanish cuisine, or food from the Iberian peninsula. From the thick, rich, yet cold Gazpacho and the thin, crimson red slices of the Jamón Ibérico to the bloated grains of Paella rice, sat underneath an orgy of seafood and meat, and the crispy, fried, doughy, and ultimately sweet tubes of churros. You can see why it was my “something that I craved”. The only problem that I faced was that there was no way possible for me to plan a quick trip to Spain and try out all of these delicious delicacies! What a pity!

If I wasn’t going to take a trip west, to the Iberian peninsula, I would have to settle for the second best option. Thankfully, Dubai is a cornucopia of multi-ethnic restaurants (diversity yay!), and so finding a Spanish restaurant wasn’t going to be too much of a problem.

Remember when I asked you as to what lengths you would go to get what you craved the most? You should, it was hardly two paragraphs ago! So, what lengths did I go to get my place at a Spanish restaurant? (Spoiler alert!) It wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy. I simply took a cab to the hotel where the restaurant was located and asked if they had a table for two. Apart from that, however, it was probably the first time when there were only two of us at the dinner table. When we (friends and I) plan a get together, usually a meal outside, the norm is that we only go out if we have a minimum of three people free in our group. You know, one is lonely, two is company, three is just fine! So, for us to be seated at the dining table – just the two of us – there was something that seemed quite odd (gettit?). Like they say, however, it isn’t the number of people you’re with but who you’re with. Wait, is that what they really say? I don’t have an effin’ clue!

We arrived at the Steigenberger hotel, situated on what was probably the quietest street in a usually busy part of town. We made our way to the second floor of the hotel, and were greeted by the restaurant’s insignia etched on to the glass door to our left. The restaurant matched the aura of the street, in that it was uncommonly empty, despite it being the weekend. Perhaps, it was the fact that our visit was in the midst of the winter vacation period, which meant most of the Dubai population (Dubaiites? Dubaians?!) was out of town preparing to celebrate the arrival of yet another year (yippee…sigh!). Status quo, we were given the option of dining inside or outside, to which we didn’t hesitate a second in choosing the latter. Our decision to sit outside was quickly validated upon feasting our eyes on the outside decor. The tables and chairs sat under a beautiful patio pergola, the roof of which was entangled with dimly lit yellow lights, while the exteriors offered us a slightly obstructed view of the multiple skyscrapers Dubai’s Business Bay has on offer. We sat down at our table and were promptly handed our menu cards.

There were plenty of options to choose from, which made selecting the ones we wanted a time consuming task. Fortunately, time is something we had in abundance that day. We didn’t have the best of appetites that day, which was perfect for the restaurant was known for its tapas style portions. When the waiter came to take our order, we decided to order all three courses at once – the drinks, the appetizers, and the main course.

 ( From left to right ): Spicy Chicken Wings; Charcoal Chicken; Chicken Paella; Ribs Quesadilla; Our Brownie
(From left to right): Spicy Chicken Wings; Charcoal Chicken; Chicken Paella; Ribs Quesadilla; Our Brownie

Tapas restaurants are known not only for their ‘pequeña’ portions but also for their fast service. However, what we encountered on the night was far from a fast service. Agreed, that the drinks were served to us almost instantly (figure of speech), though I would have been surprised if it wasn’t. After all, it isn’t rocket science to mix a mocktail – Virgin Mojito – and crack open a bottle of beer – Asahi. Before we get to the meals and the stories in between them, I just wanted to agree with people who might think it odd that I chose a Japanese beer at a Spanish restaurant. While the Asahi was selected merely by process of elimination (I had tasted the others before), it was slightly disappointing to notice the lack of a Spanish ‘Cerveza’ on the menu. It’s tiny details that truly separate the good from the great. The addition of a “local” beer would have certainly made me forgo the Asahi.

Anyway, getting back to the food, it took a while for us to get our first course – the Spicy Chicken Wings and the Charcoal Chicken. What do you do in the meantime? Well, after we exhausted our usual topics of discussion, we noticed a green Heineken light lying idly on the table, and proceeded to imagine ourselves as the future Tony Stark/Iron Man (cos he’s gone in Avengers 4!) and the light was our essential arc reactor. If you thought that was embarrassing, then what happened when the waiter approached our table and asked us to dim the light as it was disturbing other customers was a ‘cover face with shirt’ (immediately!) moment.

With our faces covered in embarrassment, we decided to let bygones be bygones and wait patiently for our food to arrive. Thankfully, the wait wasn’t too long after that (Phew!). The Chicken Wings were the first to arrive and arrive they did in a deep fryer basket. For a moment, the crispiness on the wings took me by surprise, though I soon realized that we did in fact order the crispy variant. After the customary photograph, we began to dismantle the wings. Deep frying chicken is considered a tricky cooking method simply because even a golden crispy exterior does not imply that the chicken is cooked through and through. To push them out quickly, and correctly on a consistent basis is truly a remarkable skill. A skill which, I am glad to say, the chef at Cuisinero Uno possesses. The crispy coating did not fall out the moment I picked up the chicken, which is always a good sign of good fried chicken. The more important part was that the chicken inside was cooked to perfection. The only drawback of the dish was the lack of a spice marinade on the chicken. The meat in and of itself was slightly bland and boring, and required the side cup of dip to truly add some flavour to the wings. The next and last appetizer to arrive was the Charcoal Chicken. The tiny piece of chicken certainly lived up to the tapas name, so much so that we had to split the piece of chicken in two. While the chicken was moist, soft, and not overly charcoaled to the point of being burnt (BURN!!), the real star of the dish was the side of Atchara – unripe papaya pickle. The Atchara pickle is not indigenous to the Iberian peninsula – a surprising inclusion in a Tapas dish – but it worked. The pickle added an acidic element to the dish, elevating an otherwise well-cooked smoked piece of chicken to the next level. The distinction between eating the piece of chicken on its own, and eating it with the pickle was night and day.

Having downed our appetizers in a few bites, we began our wait for the main course. Thankfully, the wait was not as long as it was for the starters (it was still long!). Our main course arrived at roughly the same time. The small Chicken Paella and the even tinier Ribs Quesadilla. Like an assembly line in school, let’s go at this height-wise. So, we begin with the Ribs Quesadilla. When it arrived at our table, the first thought that popped into my mind was “Where’s the rest of it?”! I knew that the portions would be relatively smaller than in most restaurants, but this was just ridiculous. We looked at each other certain that we were both thinking the exact same thing. The quesadilla was so small that eating the dish would be akin to a ‘blink and miss’ moment. One inhale would have been sufficient to devour the entire dish! Despite its extreme dwarfish stature, the dish was adequate. It certainly would probably be the weakest of the lot that evening. The tortilla was toasted well enough, and the ribs were soft, succulent, and seasoned to perfection, though the lack of cheese oozing out from inside each of the folded triangles was an absolute disappointment. Perhaps, to the extent of the dish being unworthy of being called a quesadilla. (Too much?) Fortunately, the size of the Chicken Paella made good strides towards compensating for the quesadilla. Having seen the size of the quesadilla, I began to question my decision to order the small portion of the Paella. However, my fears were allayed when the paella arrived in a stainless steel skillet. The dish looked sufficient enough to not only quench my hunger but I even had some to spare and share with my tapas starved friend. The paella rice was cooked to perfection – you could still see the grain of rice, which meant it wasn’t overcooked, and the spices and tomato paste were well blended with the rice. The additions of the lemon wedge and the tomatoes may have seemed slightly tacky with regards to the plating, but provided the much needed acidity to the chicken and the rice. The two pieces of boneless chicken thighs didn’t seem to overcrowd the plate, and in terms of taste delivered when mixed with the rice and the other ingredients on the plate. Perhaps, similar to the chicken wings, the dish could have profited more from a spice marinade on the chicken. Possibly the only drawback to the dish, personally, was the overuse of the peas. I say personal because I just can’t stand the ingredient. Which, if you knew me as a child (and I doubt many, if any, do!) is an ironic thing to say!

While some may complain about the questionable portioning of tapas dishes, we see it as an advantage. (The glass half full) What those petite portions did was leave an adequate amount of space in our stomachs for desserts. So, when the menu was once again handed over to us, we began our search for a perfect end to the night. The options were varied, each one interesting enough to impose second thoughts upon our minds. There was one dessert in particular that we debated over quite a bit – the must-try ‘What a Mess’. As the menu described it – a sugar loaded ridiculously messy calorie filled dessert! Unfortunately, the sugar and calories weren’t the only things that were on the higher side of the spectrum. Turns out so was the price of the dish, which was at a whopping AED 170! (Sugar on the lips, no money in the wallet…wait!) So, it came down to the Churros and the Brownie, and eventually the latter won. I don’t want to get into the details, it just upsets me more, just know that it wasn’t solely my decision!

The brownie arrived at our table, sat in the centre of a red plate, topped with a scoop of the traditional vanilla ice-cream, drizzled with chocolate syrup. I usually prefer my brownies like I do my cereal – plain, sugary, and no nuts in or on them! So, when the brownie arrived at our table and I saw the white spots of nuts inside, I was slightly disappointed. I don’t think it would be fair to say that my disappointment faded with each bite, as I still don’t like nuts in brownies/cakes/chocolates, but it didn’t deter me from having my fair share of the dessert, which was surprisingly not overly sweet as I thought it would be. The brownie had just the right amount of sugar, which was then made up for by the topping of vanilla ice-cream and chocolate syrup.

Having polished off our dessert, we sat for a while before we signalled for the check. This gave me time to ponder over my first-time experience at a tapas house. Was it worth the wait? To a certain extent, sure! The flavours were all there, the decor was nothing short of artistic beauty, though overall the experience was slightly short of being a memorable one, but only just. There were certainly areas of improvement – the key one being the inclusion of more authentic Iberrian dishes and beers, while also increasing the portioning of a few dishes. The isnigia etched on to the restaurant’s main door may say Cuisinero Uno, but it might take me a while to validate that claim. Certainly not until I’ve tried the other tapas houses in the city. Por ahora, esta restaurante es la solo uno!

P.S. – The restaurant is currently temporarily closed. So, here’s a bottle of cerveza to enjoy while you wait for a chance to dine there. Let’s hope they read this review in time and take the suggestions on board!

Cuisinero Uno - Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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