Argentine Sucre lands in Dubai with a focused menu, gutsy grub and ebbing mood music in the ever-popular DIFC.
Look, it is a big deal and I wanted to get it right. Dinner with the Editor; oh yes, these exalted moments laced with my unspoken posturing. Cooly slide a restaurant name into his inbox. The illusion of plucking a card from the vast mental library I curate daily of where’s where in these United Arab Emirates. Show him I playfully wield Dubai’s culinary zeitgeist between my fingers like some gastronomic Doctor Strange. Now read that back in Gollum’s voice.
Yet, it’s nothing like that. A flop sweat descends. I rifle through the predictable fancy Asian spots and viewtastic lounges (read: expensive and varying quality).
Trending, I must show emerging trends. Woodfire cooking is the next Big Thing in Dubai. A return to our species’ primordial instincts to scorch and smoke food until it’s unbearably delicious. 2021’s World’s 50 Best list blooms with woodfire cooking and Dubai is not the sort of lady to be left behind with MENA 50 Best looming next month.
Wait, what about Sucre? Sucre opened in 2021’s twilight. The lionised Buenos Aires stalwart crept onto our shores festooned with DIFC’s slick trendiness. A billowing fire-ravaged Parilla churns out smoke-licked skirt steaks with burnt avocado and labneh (AED 175). Snacks, small plates, large plates and sides. The menu is smart, short and focused – just like me. It received favourable reviews after a recent London West End opening. Yes, Sucre is perfect. Humbly goes the offer, his grace accepts. All is booked, marvellous.
We arrive outside Sucre. Me, forever the swan, projecting confidence and ease all while kicking violently underneath and sauntering through Sucre’s reddish, carpet-cloaked corridor that expands into a vast dining room.
Sucre is busy – and I mean busy – after 9.30pm no less and thrumming with pulsing music; packed with DIFC’s glamouratti swilling signature cocktails. The room pulses: earthy brickwork looks like I am dining inside an upscale beehive. More carpets rise and arch creeping over the ceiling like a vine adding a touch of cosiness to Sucre’s modern space. They also absorb my silent screams as the Editor leaves this dinner ordering business to me.
The woodfire is not the only thing heating up as I flail through menus and a totemic wine list of encyclopaedic proportions which our server ably bench pressed onto our table. She’s jocund, charming and unknowingly lowers my blood pressure.
Maybe something a bit familiar? The Ecuadorian prawn ceviche with roasted tomato and chilli (AED 95) or the yellowtail ceviche with coconut and coriander spiked leche de tigre perhaps (AED 90)? Argentine food grunts with beastly slabs of scorched meat, so Sucre’s Wagyu striploin drenched in chimichurri (AED 345) or the Wagyu tomahawk also with chimichurri and a dainty blob of tarragon aioli (AED 950) could be the sure-fire winner (get it, fire?). But, will I order well?
This Russian roulette kicks off with a duo of angrily-blistered empanadas puffed and lysing with salteña beef, a whisper of chilli, egg and scallions cossetted behind light, fire-roasted pastry (AED 45 each). Our server returns, regrettably, our braised beef cheek with creamy potato is sold out (AED 95). It sounds sumptuous, so of course, it’s gone. Instead, we order the sprightly, charred aubergine roasted to luxuriant suppleness and spiked with romanesco and eye-widening pomegranate molasses scattered with sweet red onion and dollops of milky ricotta (AED 55). Possible dish of the night if it wasn’t for the desserts, which I will come to shortly. A chest-beatingly large Aragon baby lamb shoulder arrives grilled over flames purring with charred smoke and served with Ottolengiesque spears of butternut squash (AED 650). The Patagonian squid swam a long way to DIFC to be seared in a tumble of sweetly sauteed onions brightened with lemon juice and parsley (AED 75).
Some dishes left us unsure. The albacore tuna belly with a soft boiled egg for ketosis seekers (AED 50) or the king crab tostada needs more structure (AED 125). The super-premium king crab is lost in a squelch of avocado and tatemada sauce. Both dishes are tasty and beautifully presented.
However, our lemon curd tart punches with sharp, suave lemon tang pillowed under cloud-like meringue and an olgeneaous well of olive oil (AED 45). The dulce de leche fondant oozes a spoon-lickingly good centre (AED 55).
Who should come to Sucre? Trendsetters jumping on the woodfire bandwagon. People looking to impress their partner, Editor or friends. Fun seekers, lovers of charred, grilled food. Dubai residents checking out the next big thing.