While Playa may be all about the beach, the food more than measures up…
The Club has been an instant hit on the Palm Jumeirah. At the top of Palm West Beach, it made a strong start with beautiful SĀN Beach. Next came Tulum-inspired Eva Beach House, swiftly followed by Playa; a vibrant, Peruvian-inspired beach club with a boho edge.
Positioning itself as more than just another addition to the daytime tan-topping scene, the team behind Playa have put a strong emphasis on giving a true taste of Peru to diners. Inside the restaurant, the design details are everywhere: shimmering scales on the ceiling in shades of purple, pink and orange merge into walls covered in stenciled murals, and a long bar tiled in a warm papaya shade shifts into a dining counter with seating for twelve.
More social seating comes in the form of wood and stone booths designed for big groups to gather over Playa’s array of Peruvian plates. There’s also alfresco seating on the terrace, where diners can catch-up with their toes in the sand, a mix of DJ beats and the sound of the sea providing a welcome soundtrack.
At the helm of the kitchen, chef Carlo Valentino has created a menu of Nikkei and Peruvian dishes that features a selection of ceviches and tiraditos, salads meats from the robata and josper, plus an array of more meaty mains. On the evening we dine, Playa’s founder Dani Khairallah tells us his Peruvian wife has also had a strong part to play in the culinary direction.
From the raw section, a highlight is the beautifully-plated salmon tiradito (Dhs85) packed with punchy, citrus flavous; and the classic Playa ceviche (Dhs90) theatrically served on dry ice. To go alongside the fish, we opt for a meaty Wagyu maki (Dhs90) and it doesn’t disappoint: each piece is a mouthful of tender Wagyu and soft sushi rice topped with fresh spring onion. Salads aren’t so impressive, with the seaweed salad (Dhs55) lacking flavour, and while we enjoy the truffle and caviar additions to the Peruvian Corn salad (Dhs65), the ratio of corn to lettuce and tomato wasn’t as high as we’d have wanted.
Main courses return to the high standard we saw at the start, and if there’s only one thing you order at Playa, make it the melt-in-the-mouth Lomo Saltado (Dhs195): marinated sirloin cooked to perfection and served in delicate cubes. Paired with a side of crispy fried yucas fritas (Dhs45), it’s a meal we’re still talking about weeks later.
Peruvian cuisine may not be on the map for its desserts, but nonetheless, the Playa fondant (Dhs65) is a sweet note to conclude on, with a scoop of ice cream, we fight over the final spoonfuls.
The verdict: Playa may be a beach club, but the restaurant is a dining destination in its own right.
Playa, The Club, Palm West Beach, 10am to 2am daily. Tel: (0)50 504 4506, @playadubai