There’s a new supperclub in town vying for your dining and dancing dollars: IZEL, a Latin American venue at the newly-opened Conrad Dubai on Shaikh Zayed Road, opens its the doors on Wednesday to what founder Brian Bendix describes as “a multidimensional entertainment experience and a culturally authentic representation of the best of Latin American artistry”.
The massive space at the hotel is bar, restaurant, dance floor and humidor, meaning that guests in high heels need not move far to take their night out to the next level. “It’s a Latin oasis where escapism is not only allowed, but a pre-requisite,” says Bendix, the man behind Floridita in London and L’Atelier d’Argentine in Montreal. “It’s our Maserati version uniquely for the Dubai audience. There are no other IZEL’s — yet.”
On the menu, by Argentine chef Luis Del Hoyo, are dishes from across Latin America, updated for the stylish set. “Our menu is comprised of traditional dishes with a modern twist. All of our dishes are very modern in terms of their plating, but remain authentic in terms of ingredients and preparation,” said Del Hoyo, who says the Chilean sea bass is his do-not-miss dish. “It’s extremely rich in flavour and doesn’t require much to make it phenomenal. The octopus with olives is another great dish, I personally am not much of a fan of olives myself, but I would order this dish without hesitation, and I think that speaks for the meal in itself.”
Being Latin American, there’s of course a strong focus on meat, and one end of the restaurant is a spectacular open kitchen where cuts the size of Brazil get roasted. “We have three different cuts of meat — tenderloin, rib eye and sirloin. The meat is wet aged, whereby it’s hanged and the juices are preserved to make it tender and juicy. We use the best Argentinian beef which helps ensure that our dishes are full of flavour.”
But don’t eat too much (hard to do, I found at a recent tasting, where the ceviches and chipotle chicken corn empanadas were a high point), as you’ll soon be required on the dance floor.
Each month, the nightspot will bring in new live bands and DJs from Latin America — and it’s not all panpipes.
“All bands and DJ’s are auditioned, selected and flown in from all over Latin America. Our entertainment director has carefully recruited some of the best up-and-coming artists in Latin America, not just your typical traditional musical genres but also within urban and contemporary music.” First up, from Wednesday, is Buenos Aires-based Suprafonicos, a 12-piece band performing Latin funk, pop and rock. The opening DJ is Argentinean Leticia Manfil. “There is an incredible amount of talent across Latin America,” adds Bendix. “We hope to become a social embassy to the best.”