Restaurant Review

FACT Review: Tulum vibes and distinct flavours at DESEO

As the only hotel in the world to be fully designed inside and out by the late Dame Zaha Hadid, ME Dubai striking architecture is also home to several intriguing dining destinations.

Since its initial opening in March 2020, ME Dubai has significantly impacted the Dubai dining scene thanks to Japanese hotspot ROKA and New England favourite, The Maine: Land Brasserie. Whilst these two international brands bring clout to the futuristic city hotel, the collection of in-house managed outlets should not be overlooked. 

Fronted by Executive Chef James Knight Pacheco, the ground floor Botanica is an ambient juniper bar where wooden slats, potted greenery and statement lighting provide the backdrop for beguiling cocktails and Mediterranean small plates, while the Latin American DESEO abounds with tropical vibes.

DESEO

In 2017 Latin American (specifically Peruvian cuisine) was the hottest culinary trend in the city. At the time, it appeared as though diners in Dubai had an insatiable appetite for ceviche, tiraditos, lomo saltado and chicha morada washed down with one too many Pisco sours. Fast-forward five years and acclaimed restaurants Lima, Aji, Totora Cebicheria Peruana and Mayta By Jaime Pesaque have since shut up shop, leaving a gap in the market that DESEO easily fills.

DESEO is punctuated with personality and charm throughout its intimate lounge and dining space, stimulating a tropical and celebratory vibe that calls to the fiery fiestas of the Latin American continent. For starters, it’s ornamented with comfortably impressive lounge sofas, beautifully plush carpets in Tulum-esque patterns, and a sea of warm conical overhead lamps that beautifully complement the bursts of foliage on the hotel’s lush green terrace.

DESEO leans heavily into the Spanish routes of its parent brand Meliá while offering a menu that will likely take many diners by surprise. The cuisine from half Venezuela and half British chef James Knight Pacheco provides a selection of street food highlights that are generously portioned but may be unfamiliar to some.

DESEO

We begin with Waka Arabica (AED 65), a twist on guacamole that pays homage to our Middle Eastern location with the addition of chickpeas and bejewelled pomegranate seeds into the creamy avocado. Next, the Plata Negra (AED 60) presents slithers of curled plantain crisps adorned with a moreish black garlic aioli that DESEO really should sell for guests to indulge in at home. However, it’s the impressive Maiz Maiz (AED 75), a combination of giant Peruvian corn and sweetcorn purée adorned with truffle that we are still thinking about days later. This creamy dish, which is known to produce queues of culinary enthusiasts throughout its Mexican homeland, is guaranteed to have Dubai guests returning time and time again to DESEO. 

Whether you order the beef or cheese stuffed empanadas (AED 65), you won’t be disappointed by the flaky warm pastry that encases the generous fillings. Elsewhere, a choice of five ceviches are available with tropical flavourings, including coconut, mango, ginger and pineapple. Still, we forgo these in favour of the beautifully grilled Chicken Anticuchos coasted in traditional yet tantalising spices.

DESEO

A key highlight for mains is the Wagyu Picanha, a cut of beef first made popular in Brazil and served on a ceramic plate that resembles a leaf. The beautifully tender meat is marinated and served with a bright and zesty chimichurri that cuts through the full-bodied flavours of the beef. For the non-carnivorous, Red Snapper and Chilean Seabass are also available.

If you have room for dessert, we’d suggest DESEO’s Tres Leches, which takes the ever-popular dessert to new levels by featuring 17 different textures! Everything about the tangy Pina Colada Ice Cream is Instagrammable. Unveiled in an innovative and immersive dry-ice presentation – and placed within a fresh pineapple – this dish deserves a spot on everybody’s social media feeds.

DESEO

Uplifted by euphoric Latin-inspired beats, creative cocktails and lively yet relaxed interiors, DESEO offers guests an immersive dining experience anchored around recipes rooted in the diverse cultural backgrounds of Latin America while fusing classic and unexpected ingredients together.

GO: Visit www.melia.com or follow @deseodubai on Instagram for more information.

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David Tapley - Editor
Dubai-based editor for one of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publications across Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar. Specialised in food, hospitality, arts, culture, and travel-related content.

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