La Carnita is kind of a big deal in Toronto, where it has four outposts (plus a further two in Baltimore and Winnipeg). Built around a love of good eats, music and art, La Carnita Dubai Marina offers much of the same, a stone’s throw from JBR.
Taking up residency in wine bar YNot’s old digs in the Intercontinental Hotel, La Carnita is a celebration of urban culture. Working with Solid Design Creative – a Toronto-based design firm headed up by Ian Ryberg – the team have incorporated wheat-pasted and street-inspired graffiti and custom artwork installations by Toronto artist Jahn Page. The RnB playlist is well thought out and adds to the cool, upbeat, underground vibe.
Open Sunday through Thursday 6 pm until late and Friday and Saturday 12:30 until late, La Carnita’s culinary offering is in the safe hands of Head Chef Lara Said. The 29-year-old French native trained at the iconic Le Cordon Bleu in Paris before starting her chef career in London and working at some of the world’s top restaurants including Gordon Ramsey’s 3-Michelin-Star restaurant in the UK capital, La Petite Maison in DIFC, La Serre Dubai and, most recently, Il Boro at Jumeirah Al Naseem.
The licensed bar is big enough and cool enough to potentially become a drinks destination in its own right and offers a range of special margaritas, cocktails, wines, spirits and beers, plus mocktails and soft drinks. The Huntr sampled and loved the Bloody Caesar (45AED) and Watermelon Habernero Margarita (40AED).
The Huntr visited for a weekend dinner. We were blown away by the Barbacoa Lamb (150AED), which was perfectly cooked and seasoned and covered in a delicious pomegranate glaze with sesame, roasted garlic and charred lemon. Don’t miss it. The Avocado Mango Salad (42AED), was full of textures and flavours. The Mexican Street Corn (34AED for 2 pieces) is covered with crema, queso anejo, arbol and ancho. The Tortilla Chips with 3 Dips (55AED), were good – we enjoyed the guacamole and the spicy bean and smoked queso, but found the corn salsa a little too sweet.
Onto the tacos. We adored the fillings and the different flavours and textures, but we were slightly disappointed that the corn tortillas themselves didn’t taste handmade. We sampled (Chef Laura’s favourite) In Cod We Trust (30AED), Pollo Frito (28AED), Carne Asada (32AED), (our editor Jose’s favourite) Mexican Beef Chorizo (30AED) and the vegetarian-friendly, Crispy Cauliflower (26AED).
Obviously, it would be a crime to leave without dabbling in a Churro or two, luckily La Carnita offers 3 for 30AED. These come with Cajeta sauce (a Mexican caramel sauce made of goat’s milk, vanilla and cinnamon) and were sweet and sinful – just as they should be. And for good measure, we also ordered the Paletas (26AED), a delightful cookie monster ice-cream on a stick.
Insider tip: The La Carnita team can cater to all allergies and dietary requirements and there are some (limited) gluten-free and vegan options available. Chef Lara rustles up off-menu creations on rotation – offering a tempting incentive to return again and again to try out the latest taco innovation. There’s a Friday Brunch, Ladies Night is on Mondays that offers unlimited margaritas between8pm and midnight alongside DJs playing the best hip hop and Taco Tuesdays offers 6 Taco Shells & Sides for 2 people for 180AED. Plus the daily happy hour runs between 6 and 8pm and is spread across bar bites and alcoholic beverages (spirits at 25AED, wines at 27AED, beers between 27-30AED and cocktails for 30AED).