El Sombrero; From one Gulf to Another

Old-school Mexican food is one of those rare finds these days.  You have to look past the modern trendy chains like Chipotle and Qdoba (neither of which exists anyway in Abu Dhabi).  Old-school Mexican is comfort food.  Large plates of sizzling meats, seafood and vegetables.  There are thick mole sauces, lots of cheese, guacamole and of course the hot crispy chips and  fresh flavorful salsas.

So, the funny thing is, you would expect to find zero Mexican places here... but there are actually a handful that do exist.  Admittedly about three of the five places, are not worth your time and moola because what a lot of places don't realize is that Mexican food, is much like Italian food, in that it is best when simple, and made with the freshest ingredients possible.
With some trial (and error) I found one place, one real old-school Mexican place, that is really good.  With its perfectly warm and festive atmosphere, El Sombrero is tucked inside the sandy pink Sheraton Hotel near the Corniche, and it is a genuine staple in the community.  Over its thirty year history (the Emirate is only 44 years old), they cater much more to locals (i.e. expats and Emiratis both) than tourists.   Even on an early weeknight, the restaurant is cozy and friendly.  The bar is relaxed but full of people unwinding to the nightly music of a Colombian trio.


They have a great range of starters with lots of choices from soft little empanadas, crispy taquitos and even a few variations of Botanas Mexicanas (Mexican snacks).  Everything is served piping hot with a cool dish of spicy salsa.  And being that I have a spice addiction, (which our waitress somehow easily picked up on ) I was brought a special little bowl of jalapenos, and two even hotter salsas.  I was so thrilled, even if my mouth was on fire.  My favorite was the freshly made (table-side) guacamole.  I know this is not a novel idea, but it is really rare in Abu Dhabi, and it makes a difference to know that it is not sitting for hours, pre-made in a tub with who knows what preservatives.

There is also a wide offering of main dishes, including all of the Tex-Mex staples, like fajitas, tacos, soups and salads, AND there is even a handful of more traditional Mexican dishes like Camerones al Tequila and roast chicken with mole.  It will definitely take you a few visits to get through all of your options.

Without enticing you with every morsel that I put in my mouth, I will jump to some important highlights:
 The shrimp were cooked perfectly, tender with a little sear.
Salt and pepper shakers were on the table but we didn't need to touch them.
The usually dreaded "side salad" was actually impressive...a mix of spinach, rocket, radicchio (radicchio!!), carrots and fresh cherry tomatoes in a light and tangy vinegar dressing.
And finally, the service was really nice, helpful, and very knowledgeable about the food and how the dishes were prepared (A big rarity here in AD!).
  So Abu Dhabi peeps, if you haven't heard of El Sombrero yet, you are now one of the chosen ones. You don't need a reservation just bring your smile and your appetite.
Oh and did I mention they have Margaritas?? They have very good of Margaritas. 

El Sombrero
Sheraton Hotel and Resort
Corniche Road
Al Markaziya, Abu Dhabi
02 6773333

El Sombrero Restaurant - Sheraton Hotel & Resort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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