Can the Lebanese brand give Tex-Mex comfort food a classy upgrade?
Just before I visited Esco-bar Coctel y Cocina, I didn’t want to go out. I had a terrible day, then my guest cancelled on me last minute, and I couldn’t find a replacement. Despite my reservations, I headed out to the restaurant – and I’m glad I did. My book played third wheel to the smiley staff who served flavourful food.
Esco-bar recently opened in Radisson Beach Resort Palm Jumeirah, which already boasts Black Flamingo and Tonino Lamborghini Mare Nostrum Skypool Dubai. The brand started life in Lebanon, and this is its first outlet in Dubai. At its heart, it gives Tex Mex cuisine an upgrade – think comfort cuisine in a sophisticated setting.
The new restaurant is spread out on the hotel’s ground floor with indoor and outdoor seating. When I arrived on a Friday at 8pm, the venue was empty. By the time I left, however, it was buzzing. The moment I sat down, I was offered munchies (moreish nachos and a mediocre salsa) while I perused the menu.
I was seated on an uncomfortable high chair, which directly faced Black Flamingo. Despite requesting to move, I was told there were no low-table alternatives. A vibe-off followed, as the two different soundtracks competed (I Will Survive in Spanish here, Rihanna there) and two décors clashed (hip Hispanic here, a dazzling disco ball there).
Esco-bar has made the effort to combine polish with personality – and that deserves attention. The vibrant shades of green can be spotted across the bars, seats and foliage. The gorgeous greenery includes hanging leaves, potted plants and mini cacti on each table. Plus, the Art Déco influences, from the curved arches to gold-rimmed seats, add a tasteful touch of class.
We’d recommend having a wander, as the venue has plenty of photo opportunities – there are mosaic tables that make a beautiful backdrop for food, logo-embossed tortillas and an indoor swing. So far, so Insta-friendly.
The menu offers Latin’s greatest hits: ceviche, fajitas, salads, tacos and quesadillas. Plus, the knowledgeable staff are happy to help, so we followed their recommendations.
We started with the Camarones Fritos (deep-fried coated shrimps served with dynamite sauce), which was more chewy than crispy. The Quesadillas De Brie Ligero (light brie and pesto sauce served in brown tortilla) were I’d-order-that-again good, due to the gooey goodness and nutty paste. Plus, it was served with a jalapeno sauce, which gave the whole thing a kick.
The Fajita de Carne (beef fajita) arrives as a build-your-own fajita concept, making it a great sharing plate. The accompaniments – including sour cream, refried beans and Mexican rice – are served individually, so you can fill your tortilla to your taste. The other options include chicken, shrimp and vegetable, which are all served in a hot sizzling pan.
The drink’s list is inspired by Latin flavours, and dominated with tequila and gin-based drinks. The classics range from a Margarita to an Old Fashioned. Plus, The El Hombre Dorado with rum, camari bitter amaro, lime, pineapple, cinnamon and ginger makes for a good dessert drink, as it’s oh-so-sweet and served with a cherry on top.
When it was time for dessert, the restaurant had filled up. So, as the staff’s attention was spread, it took a full thirty minutes for the finale: Torrijas Caramelizadas (Spanish-style caramelised French toast). It was worth the wait, as the soft brioche-like bread was topped with fresh fruit and ice cream. Plus, it may have been big enough for two, but it was tasty enough for one.
Most staff, when they realise you are dining solo, shove you in a corner and treat you like a single leper. Given that the restaurant is in a hotel, where you’d expect lone guests, it’s a bonus that this was not the case. On the whole, the service was amazingly attentive: when I dropped my napkin on the floor, the staff swept in to offer another; and when they saw me taking photos, they helped to rearrange the plates.
We’d love to go back alone or accompanied, but without the Clash of the Venues. Thank you, Esco-bar – you took my evening from grim to glam.
GO: Visit www.escobar-ae.com for more information.