Coya Riyadh review: The mood is upbeat, but some dishes disappoint

The ones we chose were hit and miss, but desserts were a delight

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The popular Peruvian restaurant opened its Riyadh outpost last February on Prince Abdulaziz Ibn Musaid Street in the Sulaymaniyah District.

Close to the budding financial district, Coya is in a trendy area popularly known among locals as Tahlia. Valet parking is a welcome option.

Where to expect and where to sit

Any first impressions are blown out of the water, as from the outside the restaurant appears to be cosy, even tiny.

But once you enter, you are transported to an upscale, jungle-themed dining room, with high ceilings, flora and fauna aplenty and tables strewn with the brand's signature symmetrical waves.

An in-house DJ, perched at the head of the dining area, ensures the mood is always upbeat. There are also two smaller outdoor dining areas for those looking for a quieter experience.

The menu

The menu is common across Coya's Dubai, London, Paris and now Saudi Arabia outposts.

While some signature dishes retained the flair for which the restaurant has come to be known, others did not quite live up to the mark in Riyadh.

My dining partner and I started with the guacamole (78 Saudi riyals; $21) and croquetas de lubina ($17). The first was fresh, even juicy, and was infused with the perfect blend of spices.

The guacamole is a Coya signature the world over, and does not disappoint. Photo: Coya Riyadh

It was easily one of the best I've had. The Chilean sea bass and red chilli croquetas, too, were outstanding in texture and taste — a must-order appetiser, ideal for sharing.

The next dish, soft shell crab tacos ($28), were a let-down after an unbelievable start. The tacos were too tiny and the flavours of the dish (crab, avocado and wasabi tobiko) simply didn’t work well together for our palate.

The signature trio de maiz ($17) also came with corn drenched in dressing to such an extent that the varying flavours of the three types of kernels didn’t have a chance to shine through.

The delightful Res beef skewers ($22) from the anticuchos section of the menu made up for the lack of flavour of our last two, served as they were in a charcoal pot along with tangy aji panca.

But we were disappointed again with our main course, Langosta lobster rice with pea shoots ($61), which had the texture of a poorly cooked risotto.

Stand-out dish

The churros with orange zest were a highlight of the meal. Photo: Coya Riyadh

Dessert came to the rescue, by way of the fantastic churros ($19) and cheesecake ($17).

The first came with an orange zest that melded beautifully with the chocolate sauce, while the lime cheesecake was complemented by a peach, mango and exotic fruit sorbet.

The complexity of the fruit and sorbet was a sensory delight and ensured we ended our meal on a happy note.

A chat with the chef

Coya's head chef Yves de Lafontaine has been making waves in the food and beverage industry for more than 25 years, having worked in Dubai, Portugal and the Seychelles, where he spent the last five years developing an organic farm.

“Growing up in Western Australia, I started my culinary journey in the port of Fremantle, so I am drawn to seafood — from crustaceans to octopus and abalone, some of which are featured on our menu," de Lafontaine says.

"I have an informal cooking style, but am big on having respect for good-quality products.”

He recommends the pulpo tiradito with mango salsa ($26), which he calls a “favourite of Coya lovers". It’s a stunning octopus dish, but for sure in the future I’d like to incorporate more seafood into the menu.

Other chef-recommended dishes include: the “out of the norm” wild mushroom ceviche hongos ($21) for vegetarians; the bife ancho Wagyu ($170), which uses a Grade 9 cut of rib-eye; the escabeche peruano ($106) or whole sea bream, which is perfect for sharing; and mousse de praline ($18) for dessert, which, he says, “has a small surprise in every bite”.

Price point and contact information

Appetisers — which take in ceviche, tiraditos, tacos, maki, salads and anticuchos — range from $13 to $29. Mains will set you back between $37 and $170.

Postres start from $13 for ice creams and sorbets and go up to $77 for a selection of five desserts.

Coya Riyadh is open from 1pm to midnight, Saturday to Wednesday, and from 1pm to 12.30pm on Thursday and Friday. Reservations can be made by contacting 00966 9200 10352 or enquiries@coyarestaurant.sa.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: January 13, 2023, 6:02 PM