Restaurant Review: IZEL

This new restaurant/bar sizzles with a unique Latin American flair.

Set in Dubai’s plush new Conrad Hotel, IZEL is the latest addition to the city’s growing collection of supper clubs. However, this restaurant is set apart by its grand scale – the venue is spread across the hotel’s entire seventh floor – and its concept: high end, high-jinks ‘Latin American artistry’.

Centre stage (literally) is given over to big sound, big taste and an even bigger ambiance. The band stage rings loud with hand-selected musicians from Latin and South America, who are rotated on a monthly basis. The tunes are infectious – this is no by-rote restaurant music.

The expansive IZEL (meaning ‘unique’ is Spanish) is split into several parts: the restaurant; the dance floor; a Cuban-style cigar lounge that offers private humidors for returning customers; and a sprawling outdoor terrace. This is Latin America served large, with plenty of gold walls, mantilla lace motifs and burning flames.

Because of the restaurant’s size, it comes recommended for larger parties. The space can feel a bit overwhelming for a dinner for two. This is an ideal group venue for eating, drinking, and shimmying some moves after a few specially blended cocktails.

So, to the food – it’s exquisite. The menu is passionately designed by chef de cuisine Luis Del Hovo, formerly of Parilla in the Jumeriah Beach Hotel. There’s a heavy emphasis on meat and fish.

A competent and confident Brazilian server gives us an excellent run through the menu. For starters, we sample the red snapper with lime and pan-seared scallops with red onion and cilantro. The red snapper is arrestingly fresh, says my partner. And while my scallops are tasty enough with an interesting subtle flavour, they are just a tad undercooked.

The highlight of the meal is the meat. My partner chooses the braised lamb and goat’s cheese, which is succulent, tender and falls off the bone. The woody rustic flavour of my deboned organic chicken is accentuated by a pithy pumpkin escabeche.

We round off with the fresh Sinfonia de Bayas, an explosion of raspberries and blackberries in a blueberry pie. This is well presented and, again, the fruit is very fresh.

While enjoying the meal, we also drink in the exotica of the huge room and watch a few ‘early starters’ shake some moves on the dance floor.

IZEL is fast building a reputation for its excellent cocktails. The Rebel Monk in particular comes highly recommended – it’s a piquant and frankly potent mix of rum, Green Chartreuse, thyme syrup, bitters and lime juice. A few more of these and we may just join the early starters.

IZEL is open for dinner from Tuesday to Saturday from 6.30pm to 3.00am. For reservations, call +971 (0)4 444 7111.