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What's the deal?

What's the deal?
Savvy chef George Scott-Toft

Restaurants in hotels are, by their very nature, reflections of the hotels themselves. So, it’s tough to imagine a hotel as opulent as The Mandrake swinging open its five-star black doors without an in-house restaurant providing just as much as a spectacle – perhaps even more. What’s needed to match such a venue is a space that teeters chaotically between the Addams Family mansion, The Jungle Book and the depths of Alice’s rabbit hole. Enter YOPO, stage right, where gothic chandeliers on the walls drip frozen black wax and lampshades of stretched rawhides glow moodily in dark corners.

Executive chef George Scott-Toft (the whizz behind Serge et le Phoque in Hong Kong before its closure in 2019) leads the operation, aiming to conjure up eccentric European takes on traditional South American dishes – ceviche, empanadas, tacos, beef smothered in chimichurri and the like.

The ten-course tasting menu we’re sampling gives Carlo Valentino-Garcia, executive chef at Dubai’s PLAYA Beach Club, a chance to flaunt his skills, bringing his Peruvian roots to the bright and bold dishes of an eccentric collaboration.

The menu is an open culinary dialogue between the gastronomic worlds of Scott-Toft and Valentino-Garcia. From the refreshing appetisers (think oyster shots that flood your mouth with tongue-tingling acidity) to off-the-wall experiments, this is fine dining with an unorthodox twist.

What should I order?

What should I order?
Yellowtail, plantain and aji tiradito

The tasting menu has been designed to deliver a contemporary perspective on South American classics. The fresh (and raw) yellowtail tiradito is presented, sashimi-style, on a psychedelically swirled canvas of herby yoghurt cream and a sweet potato and chilli mixture that flushes your mouth with a gentle afterglow.

On to the mains. The 48-hour short ribs are yielding hunks of slow-cooked beef, glazed generously and perched on a puddle of zapallo (pumpkin) purée – this is chifa (traditional Chinese-Peruvian cuisine) at its finest. Bold isn’t always best, however. The green bomba rice with grilled turbot is a prime example of understated beauty; the gentle balance of mild, flaky turbot with creamy avocado and sweet bursts of barbecued grelot onions – each element delivering a distinctive smoky aftertaste – is enough to liven up anyone’s palate.   

Afterwards, the sponge on a tres leches sponge cake (romantically named Lucuma Childhood Dreams) is hidden under a delicate orb of coconut foam. It’s so soft I struggle to identify where froth ends and cake begins. It’s a great problem to have.

Why should I go?

Why should I go?
Turbot with bomba rice

The Mandrake regularly hosts seasonal gastronomic events just like this one, so head to YOPO for a multi-sensory experience from a super-skilled chef – or two.

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