EL NOCTAMBULO

Tasty tacos are the flavour of the day at D3’s ace Mex­i­can joint

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D3 gets in the Mex­i­can spirit with a brand new eatery.

Two months ago El Noctámbulo (The Night Owl) opened, promis­ing to sat­isfy Dubai res­i­dents’ noc­tur­nal crav­ings for Mex­i­can street food. On the Fri­day night we visit how­ever, the restau­rant’s a lit­tle tran­quilo. While the word is out about bustling nextdoor neigh­bour Ak­iba Dori – run by the same own­ers – El Noctámbulo re­mains seem­ingly un­der the radar.

As with Aegis Hos­pi­tal­ity’s other of­fer­ings – Ak­iba Dori, Couq­ley, Stereo Ar­cade – plenty of thought has gone into con­cept and de­sign. A funky in­dus­trial vibe is the or­der of the day for El Noctámbulo, with their epony­mous Night Owl graf­fi­tied on to the con­crete walls and pil­lars.

El Noctámbulo is a taque­ria, mean­ing the menu is ded­i­cated firmly to the hum­ble taco. There are ten va­ri­eties on of­fer with fa­mil­iar favourites like beef bar­ba­coa in­ter­spersed with more un­usual op­tions. Oc­to­pus and beef chorizo with spicy mayo and ink aioli won’t ap­pear on too many Mex­ico City taco stands.

A trio of tacos (which equates to one por­tion in re­al­ity) costs AED69 but hap­pily you can mix and match.

The ‘carne asada’ com­bines sliced beef, melted cheese and av­o­cado mousse and while the meat is verg­ing on well-done it is still a sat­is­fy­ing mouth­ful. A bet­ter choice is the ham­mour with its crispy bat­ter, soft fish, crunchy cab­bage and the gen­tle heat of a chilli-spiked mayo. The ‘Gober­nador’ is also a win­ner – a plump bat­tered prawn served with cheese, beans and a zingy salsa verde.

Be­yond the tacos, there is a mixed bag of ap­pe­tis­ers. The sope – a pair of thick masa tor­tillas topped with beans and bar­ba­coa – are greasy and a lit­tle, well, soppy.

For­tu­nately re­demp­tion comes quickly in the ‘street corn’, a dish that may soon be a lunchtime sta­ple for us. The plate of but­tery corn on the cob is bright red thanks to the ad­di­tion of a thin outer crust of flam­ing hot Chee­tos. It may of­fend the culi­nary purists but it just re­ally works – the sweet­ness of the corn and fiery heat of the Chee­tos a bril­liant blend.

It wouldn’t be a Mex­i­can menu with­out gua­camoles and of the three op­tions, the ‘smoky’ def­i­nitely reigns supreme. The chunky dip is laced with feta and topped with ‘chilli ashes’, a black pow­der that ad­mit­tedly adds more to the aes­thetic than the flavour. It is a great bowl of guac none­the­less and the mound of ac­com­pa­ny­ing tor­tilla chips is quickly re­duced to crumbs.

It seems El Noctámbulo is not quite as pol­ished as its own­ers other of­fer­ings… yet. How­ever, the idea is strong and if their other venues are any­thing to go by it hope­fully won’t be long be­fore the ex­e­cu­tion matches the con­cept.

Where: Dubai De­sign District Con­tact: +9714 566 8374

SMOKY GUA­CAMOLE

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