Restaurant review: Zoco

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Its hard not to be impressed by the interiors at Zoco
It's hard not to be impressed by the interiors at Zoco

In keeping with 'Dubai things to do', the newly-opened Mexican eatery just rolled out its 'El Bruncho' concept, offering a lively fiesta atmosphere every Friday afternoon


Janice Rodrigues

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Published: Thu 24 Nov 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 25 Nov 2016, 1:00 AM

Mexican joints are a dime a dozen in the UAE. From upscale eateries serving authentic fare to fuss-free joints in food courts with 'make your own burrito' offers, you'll never find a dearth of the cuisine. Which means, to stand out from the crowd, one has to be truly extraordinary. After La Tablita managed to tick all the right boxes (we'd reviewed it a few months ago), we were on the lookout for our next Mexican haunt. And newly-opened, homegrown Mexican-cum-Latin American restaurant Zoco seemed to be the obvious choice.
Its location at The Atrium in Al Habtoor City means you can be forgiven for having certain expectations of sophistication (and price). The ambience lives up to all expectations. It's hard not to be impressed by the cavernous space, brick walls and gently curved ceiling arches. But what stands out are the black chandeliers and stunning display of black bottles, hanging from the ceiling in swirly patterns, giving the restaurant an edgier feel. As gorgeous as it was during the day, I am tempted to visit again during the evening hours, just to see those chandeliers in their full glory. As a bonus tip, be sure to nab a table by the window for spectacular views of the newly-opened Dubai Canal.
Zoco's newly-launched brunch menu (dubbed 'El Bruncho') aims to create a lively fiesta-like atmosphere, where you can sample dishes from a set menu while listening to a very talented Mariachi band. We bobbed our heads along to the lively Latino tunes, as our friendly waiter got us started with some appetisers. Guacamole is a must, and we were served a generous amount with corn tortillas. Chicken Tostadas, Snapper Ceviche, Tomato Salad and Quinoa Salad followed, rounding off the appetisers. The Tostadas were a bit of a disappointment, as the chicken felt rather dry, while the Ceviche was a touch too tangy for my taste. In comparison, the salads were far better, and I enjoyed the quinoa one in particular. Who knew you could get quinoa to taste so good?
Our second course seemed more promising. Lamb, Vegetarian and Minced Beef Tacos, Cheese Fried Empanadas, Veggie Quesadillas, Chilaquiles and Crispy Cheese Fingers made their way to our table. It may sound like a lot of food, but the portions are bite-sized, and not much goes to waste. Of all, the Chilaquiles (pronounced 'chee-lah-ke-less') captured my attention; two dishes of corn tortillas, one with the classic red sauce and the other with the more tex-mex-like green chile sauce. This is real Mexican comfort food, and if you're a fan of nachos, you're bound to enjoy them. It's also hard not to enjoy the crispy cheese fingers and watch the gooey cheese stretch out with every bite. The empanadas, however, didn't manage to hold our attention for too long, and while the tacos were decent, they were easily forgettable.
Dessert consisted of just as many options. The Churros came across a tad too sweet, but be sure to sample their very moist Chocolate and Banana Brownie and Mexican Bread and Butter Pudding. As a special touch, you also get a range of popsicles to choose from that will more than satisfy your sweet tooth.
Brunching at Zoco will undoubtedly be a pleasant experience, but the snag here is that none of the dishes really seemed to stand out; for the price range, we certainly expected them to. The à la carte menu, on the other hand, does throw up some surprises like Bone Marrow Tacos and a variety of more exotic guacamoles that we may consider going back to sample.
Everyone at the restaurant, from the waiters to the social media staff, seemed to be highly receptive and welcoming of feedback. So, although it may take a while, we're hoping to see Zoco come out as numero uno on the Mexican food scene some day.

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