South American dining at its finest
Chef Esteban has recently started his newest position as head chef at Pachanga restaurant in the Hilton Hotel on The Walk, JBR. Coming from Chili he has spent his life around food, with his father working as a fisherman he was very quickly introduced to the world of fresh South American cuisine.
Even his potato cake dessert was inspired by his Grandmother’s recipe…but at Pachanga it has a purple twist. It is easy to see why Chef Esteban’s cooking is so popular, it comes from the heart, each dish has been well thought out and designed to challenge the diners expectations, offering the traditional dishes with some of the more complex and unique ingredients South America has to offer.
The atmosphere at Pachanga is warm and inviting, there is a low lit bar and an open restaurant setting, all centered around a dance floor where we were treated to an excellent band playing salsa and Spanish music, adding a fun and energetic note to our evening. On Friday’s they even host a salsa evening, and I can tell you from experience that it is well worth a visit!
Chef Esteban greeted us himself, an incredibly friendly individual he immediately makes you feel at ease, sometimes leaving the kitchen to come and greet the guests and explain some of the more unique dishes. He recommended we start with the smoked fish Empanadas, having only ever eaten cheese ones before this was something completely new for my palate. Crispy pastry and a deliciously sweet seafood filling, these were a perfect starter, the strength of the fish offset by a wonderfully savoury tomato salsa, a delightful little dish.
Having eaten Chef Esteban’s cooking before we decided to choose dishes that we were unfamiliar with and selected the grilled octopus and the crab cake. Grilled octopus has quickly become a firm favourite on Dubai menus, and the offering at Pachanga did not disappoint. Grilled to perfection with a red chili sauce made from the Peruvian aji chili pepper, a hint of spice and garlic that went perfectly with the meaty octopus. This was followed by the traditional Chupe de Jaiba or classic Chilean crab cake with a cheese topping, and yes cheese and crab do go! Of course a nice glass of wine always helps and the Torrontés Santa Julia white from Argentina was an excellent pairing, crisp and fruity it complimented the fish course.
Pachanga has an enviable list of main courses, including mouthwatering steaks from Argentina. However, for me the lamb cutlets were a must try, slightly charred on the outside and pink tender meat in the middle, the lamb was succulent and perfectly cooked. With a side of roasted vegetables and sweet grilled onions this was an excellent main course, not too heavy but strong on flavour with a subtle vinegar and honey sauce. My fellow diner and editor Sarah went for the semi smoked sea bass, with a creamy cauliflower purée and a chili sauce, light and fresh this dish is an superb choice on a cool spring evening.
Taking a small break between courses is definitely recommended, you can quite easily sit back and enjoy the music with a glass of wine…or maybe even a cocktail! The restaurant lends its self to a laid back evening of conversation, we were informed at one point that service had even been a little slow that night, but we hadn’t even noticed. For dessert we of course had to try the famed Torta de Tapas, for those of you who are not familiar this is a type of cake made from potato. A little unusual at first however, the slightly savoury and gently sweet taste make it a very satisfying and unique plate of food, with a tart raspberry cooli on the side it is surprisingly tasty. To accompany this was the banana cheesecake with Dulce de Leche, made with a bitter dark chocolate, silky smooth and creamy a luxurious way to end our meal.
Pachanga may be a well-established Dubai haunt however; this new menu and head chef have reinvigorated the restaurant. Great music and equally great food, and plenty of events to keep you heading back night after night.