To­tora Ce­bicheria Peru­ana

Dis­cover dis­tinctly Peru­vian cui­sine amid au­then­ti­cally in­spired in­te­ri­ors

Inside Out - - DESIGN - To­tora.com

THE VENUE

Lo­cated in the pop­u­lar Gate Vil­lage at DIFC, this con­tem­po­rary Peru­vian restau­rant lounge and bar is a funky ex­pres­sion of South Amer­i­can so­phis­ti­ca­tion. The up­per-level restau­rant has ta­ble seat­ing for more for­mal din­ing while the lower level ca­su­ally wel­comes pa­trons to sit at the bar or find a couch to tuck into some de­li­cious shar­ing plates while the DJ spins tracks.

THE DE­SIGN

An un­likely muse, the restau­rant’s de­sign con­cept was in­spired by the ro­bust to­tora plant, a na­tive species to South Amer­ica. When restau­rant in­vestor Ali Si­dani saw the shrub fea­tured on an episode of Na­tional Geo­graphic, the seed of an idea was planted. This even­tu­ally trans­lated into an am­bi­tion to learn about the rich cul­ture and gastronomy of Peru. Si­dani trav­elled to South Amer­ica and dis­cov­ered that the peo­ple of the mid-coast re­gion of Peru have used to­tora plants to build ca­bal­li­tos de to­tora – small ca­noe-like fish­ing ves­sels – for 3,000 years. In­te­grat­ing many cul­tural el­e­ments from his trav­els, Si­dani col­lab­o­rated with award-win­ning Mena-based ar­chi­tect Fadi Saried­dine to cre­ate an ab­stract Peru­vian din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Util­is­ing Peru­vian na­tive ma­te­ri­als and em­u­lat­ing the coun­try’s to­pog­ra­phy, Saried­dine cre­ates a tra­di­tional Peru­vian am­bi­ence. On ar­riv­ing at the restau­rant, the first ref­er­ence to Peru­vian her­itage is when you cross the hang­ing rope bridge, sym­bolic of Peru’s last stand­ing In­can bridge. The venue is set out over two floors, hint­ing at Peru’s 80 cas­cad­ing val­leys, with the down­stairs Lima Lounge pur­pose­fully de­signed to feel like a se­cret han­gout. Ab­stract carv­ings of the ca­bal­li­tos be­hind the bar evoke the name­sake of the restau­rant, sur­rounded by carved­out seat­ing ar­eas re­in­forc­ing the feel of the ter­raced foothills in Machu Pic­chu.

THE EX­PE­RI­ENCE

Step­ping in from the bright and mod­ern en­vi­rons of DIFC, the decor at To­tora has an im­me­di­ate im­pact, and the au­then­tic flavours are just as trans­port­ing. A clas­sic starter of Peru­vian cui­sine, ce­viche – a re­fresh­ing seafood dish in cit­rus mari­nade – has sev­eral vari­a­tions, but we in­dulged in two op­tions – the Nikkei with tuna, av­o­cado and Nikkei sauce, and De Bar­rio with oc­to­pus, cala­mari, sea bass, boiled cas­sava, chulpi corn and ro­coto tiger’s milk. Both proved de­li­cious, am­ple por­tions for ap­pe­tis­ers. Ti­ra­di­tos, a Peru­vian-style sushi re­flect­ing the coun­try’s Ja­panese in­flu­ence, were next on the menu: the tuna tataki with crunchy quinoa, sweet pota­toes and camu camu tiger’s milk was our best pick. We fol­lowed this with the sig­na­ture dish, Quinotto, with white quinoa, por­to­bello mush­room, aji amar­illo, Parme­san cheese and black truf­fle oil – in­cred­i­bly mor­eish and fill­ing. The desserts are quite a pro­duc­tion and both the tres leches with berries and ro­coto choco­late fon­dant with lu­cuma ice cream were di­vine. To­tora is a great venue for a quick light bite with its tapas-style dishes, but also lovely for a long, lin­ger­ing din­ner with friends.

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