From humble beginnings in Cuba to being feted as one of New York's best chefs, Luis Pous' story is epic. He has overseen many award-winning kitchens including South Florida's The Dining Room at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, taking it to a No. 2 national ranking by Travel & Leisure, and the Hotel Plaza Athenee in New York City. He has written cookbooks and guest-cooked around the world. Following New York and London, he has opened his third Asia de Cuba restaurant in Abu Dhabi. See asiadecuba.com or visitabudhabi.ae
Wafi Gourmet in the Galleria Mall. I order the "Tagine Barbook" prepared with lamb cooked in spices, onion and sweetened plum and sesame, which is incredibly tender and juicy. What I truly appreciate about this place is their consistency in every dish, something that experienced restaurants can struggle with sometimes. See wafigourmet.com
LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY
I did some research about traditional food of UAE prior to opening Asia de Cuba, Abu Dhabi, and I found that most is very rich with intriguing tastes. The use of spices is inherent in Middle Eastern food, which coincides with one of the staples of Chino-Latino cooking. Traditional Middle Eastern dishes contain rice, fish and meat as main ingredients, which again is in alignment with Cuban tradition. Lamb is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine, with this in mind we changed some of our traditionally pork-based dishes and replaced them with lamb. The feedback has been wonderful, so much so that some of those dishes created in the UAE are now on the menu in our London and New York venues.
BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET
I love to explore food markets across UAE and for me they are they are the best-kept secrets. Most visitors opt for luxury restaurants but there is an undeniable charm in exploring and observing the life of ordinary Abu Dhabi dwellers.
Every morning dhows from around the region bring their fresh catches to the Mina Fish Market in Abu Dhabi. At the market you will find countless stalls selling all kinds of sea creatures including shrimp, prawns, crabs, clams, tuna, hammour, skate and even Shark. If you're looking for a regional fish, you will find it at the Mina Fish Market. Just locate one of the small stands and they can prepare your fish however you would like, grilled, fried, seared, the list goes on. (No website, Al Meena, Abu Dhabi)
MUST-TRY FOOD EXPERIENCE
Al Maqam restaurant in the Abu Dhabi desert, and part of a luxury complex (Arabian Nights Villages) provides a high-class voyage into the desert and its historical legends. It's Arabian-style, floor-level seating, hand-made decorations, palm-thatched terrace and live artistic performances create a cultural oasis in the middle of the desert where travellers can enjoy exquisite dishes. See arabiannightsvillage.com
I like to discover the local bakery and pastry shops, like Al Saada Bakery that specialises in sweets, such as ma'amoul, which are made with shortbread and stuffed with walnuts, pistachios or dates and then moulded into a variety of designs. Great for sweet lovers. (No website, Al Dhafrah)
A BIG NIGHT OUT
Here I would have to list Asia de Cuba, for great food, unusual flavours, buzzing atmosphere, and where there is always something going on. That signature Latino spice is not only in our food, but also in the heart of the venue and everything we do.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
September to May. By September the summer heat decreases, although humidity can still be relatively high, blue skies are the norm and the evenings are warm. At this stage the tourist season is well under way. People return from their vacations, meaning the city is a hive of activity. It has an irresistible buzz about it.