Shake up your taste buds with these bold flavours…
Take a trip down south to the flavours of Mexico and South America. These restaurants pack a punch with bold tastes that keep you coming back for more. Prepare to meet your new weekend hotspots.
Here are our top 18 Mexican and South American restaurants.
This former new-kid-on-the-block has made significant efforts in establishing itself on the scene since opening last November, with much success. The original hype has yet to burn out, partly due to the authentic menu, consisting of sharing style dishes, hearty mains and flavourful tacos. La Carnita’s brunch is followed by lively evenings in it’s very own secret bar, Cartel. Accessed only by providing a daily password, the venue is a hub of Dubai’s urban cool crowd.
La Carnita, Intercontinental Dubai Marina, Sun to Wed 6pm to 1am, Thur 6pm to 2am, Fri 12.30pm to 2am, Sat 12.30pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 425 4030. lacarnita.ae
Luchador Rooftop Cantina & Lounge
Known for its weekend fiestas, Luchador has a bright spirit that would tempt even the most hesitant guest up onto their feet. You’ll come for the great vibes, but stay for the tasty food. The menu has a wide variety of Mexican bites including ceviche, tacos and taquitos. We recommend to get a few dishes (especially the quesadilla chorizo verde) and share them in the middle of the table for a full taste experience. The view also deserves a special mention, with uninterrupted panoramic views of Dubai’s breathtaking skyline.
Luchador, Aloft the Palm Jumeirah, 7am to 11pm, Mon to Sat. Tel: (04) 247 5555. luchadordubai.com
La Tablita, Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights Hotel
If you ask any Mexican living in Dubai where to get the best tacos, tres leches cake or huaraches in the city, they’ll tell you to go to La Tablita. The lively restaurant often hosts regular fiestas complete with mariachi (expect dancing and plenty of people singing along to the tunes).
La Tablita, Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights Hotel, Dubai Creek, Sat to Wed 6pm to 1am, Thur & Fri 6pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 553 1212. latablitadubai.com
Muchachas Mexican Cantina
This underestimated restaurant, tucked away in Al Safa, is a gem amongst the Mexican cuisine scene. It may be small, but it’s certainly not quiet. The Friday brunch can get quite lively, with four rounds of Mexican bites, from guacamole starters to burritos and crispy crab tacos. All for the bargain price of Dhs199. The adorable venue is a wash of bright colours mixed with pastel hues and a dash of humour thrown in.
Muchachas, Holiday Inn Express, Al Safa, Sun to Wed noon to 1am, Thur to Sat noon to 2am. Tel: (04) 327 5878. muchachasdubai.com
This recent addition in the Mexican scene has a certain quality that makes us feel it’s here to stay. The passion and authenticity that has been poured into this venue comes through in the atmosphere, the service and the food. From the live mariachi band, to the refusal to offer any commercialised Mexican dishes, this two-storey Bluewaters destination is like a slice of Mexico in the Middle East.
Puerto 99, Bluewaters, off JBR, Sat to Mon 12.30pm to 1.30am, Tue to Fri 12.30pm to 3am. Tel: (04) 557 6627. puerto99.ae
Head down to Palapa for a fiesta vibe. The Mexican spot brings the arriba with tasty bites such as nachos, fresh guacamole and classic Mexican churros. Offering a cosy, relaxed indoor and outdoor seating and sea views, it’s got a Latin American Hacienda feel, with an array of ceviche, taquitos, quesadillas and signature seafood dishes on the menu designed to remind you of the streets of Mexico.
Palapa, The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah, Sun to Thur 6pm to midnight, Fri and Sat 1pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 568 4657. facebook.com
Vibrant Mexican restaurant, Tortuga, is based in Madinat Jumeirah overlooking the stunning waterways. There’s a strong focus on authentic cuisine, with some of the best guacamole in the biz. Diners are encouraged to share in the true Mexican tradition. However, larger main dishes such as burritos containing pulled chicken, Arrachera beef or shrimp, and sizzling fajitas of griddled chicken or griddled flank steak are also available if you want to go it alone.
Tortuga, Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah, Sun to Wed noon to 3pm and 6pm to 11.30pm, Thur to Sat noon to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 432 3232. tortuga.ae
Don’t be fooled by Loca’s more pub style interior, this Mexican means business. The menu includes one of the widest variety of Mexican dishes in the city with enchiladas, burritos, fajitas and chimichanga all firm favourites on the list. There’s a sports bar feel to the place with big games being shown on the plasma screens. However you can still find a fiesta, as there’s a mariachi band which plays from time to time.
Loca, Dubai Marine Beach Resort, Jumeirah, daily noon to 2am. Tel: (04) 346 1111. dxbmarine.com
Zoco is the trendy fine-dining Mexican/Latin American restaurant in Al Habtoor City. The interiors are dark and heavy, but the team behind the oak wood is what brings the space to life. Injecting a sense of colour into the meal is what they do best, which mariachi bands, pińatas and sombreros aplenty, you can’t leave Zoco without a smile on your face. And any restaurant that can leave a lasting impression with a dish of guacamole is right by us.
Zoco, The Atrium, Al Habtoor City, Dubai, daily 5pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 4370 044. zocodubai.com
Recently renovated, Toro Toro boasts an open kitchen, flashes of foliage, tribal Latin patterns, dark walls and warm leather furniture mish-mashed with fur and fabric cushions. On the menu, they’ve kept their signature favourites with the addition of a few exciting new dishes. The popular Monday ladies’ night is still as busy as ever.
Toro Toro, Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina, Sat to Weds 7pm to 1am, Thurs and Fri 7pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 317 6000. torotoro-dubai.com
Gaucho first opened its doors in the city 2011, which by Dubai standards means it’s a stalwart on the DIFC dining scene. Serving up cuts of meat with as much flair as the extravagant decor, Gaucho makes it clear from it’s extensive menu of prime steaks (as well as it’s ever-present animal prints and leathers) that this isn’t one for the veggies. On Saturdays the steakhouse has a ladies’ night. As well as offering three free drinks to the girls from 8pm to 11pm, there’s also 50 per cent off the bar food menu.
Gaucho, Gate Village 5, DIFC, Sun to Thur 9.30am to 11.30pm, Fri and Sat noon to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 422 7898. gauchodubai.com
Asia de Cuba
Asia de Cuba’s menu, created by Cuban-born Executive Chef, Luis Pous, is a fusion of Latin and Asian cuisines. Guests can expect to tuck in to theatrically served cuisine served up to reggae beats and a live band several nights a week across the multi level restaurant, bar and terrace. Highlights on the menu of sharing dishes include Tunapica Tartare with crispy wontons, toasted coconut and avocado ceviche, shrimp churros with sesame and coconut curry and roasted Peking duck with chili herb salad, tortillas and hoisin.
Asia de Cuba, Westin Mina Seyahi, Dubai Marina, Sat to Mon, Weds and Thur 7pm to 11.45pm, Tue and Fri 7pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 511 7333. asiadecuba.com
Peruvian restaurant, COYA, arrived in Dubai five years ago, and has stood the fateful test of time amongst Dubai’s fine diners. The focus on good quality food, balanced with lively atmosphere has kept the venue on the right tracks. With live music, and themed annual parties, COYA achieves a fun dining experience every time.
COYA Dubai, Four Seasons Resort, Jumeirah Beach Road, Sat to Tues 12.30pm to 11.45pm, Wed to Fri 12.30pm to 12.45am. Tel: (04) 316 9600. coyarestaurant.com
Mama Zonia will take you on a journey through the Amazon rainforest thanks to its jungle-themed decor, tribal entertainment and tropical, Latin American cuisine. Split into an expansive terrace which overlooks Dubai Marina, the restaurant is complete with open plan grill kitchen and raw bar, and an upscale cocktail bar marvelled on Havana’s legendary ‘La Floridita’. The menu is made up of exotic jungle-themed dishes including an unusual ‘black widow’ soft shell crab taco.
Mama Zonia, Level 2, Pier 7, Dubai Marina, 12pm to 2am, Sat to Weds, 12pm to 3am, Tues, Thur and Fri. Tel: (04) 240 4747. facebook.com
Chamas Churrascaria & Bar
A carnivore’s dream, this Brazilian churrascaria restaurant serves 18 different cuts of meat in one sitting, carved at your table from sword-like skewers. Leave your coaster with the green side up for more; flip it over to red for a break. There’s a real party atmosphere with regular live music and its never-ending stream of waiters dispensing high quality meats.
Chamas Churrascaria, Crowne Plaza Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, daily, 6pm to midnight. Tel: (800) 276 963. facebook.com/Chamasdubai
Latin American-inspired restaurant, Hotel Cartagena, embraces the theme of quirky venues based around fictional characters (see: Miss Tess, Mr Miyagi’s et al). Based on the 72nd floor of JW Marriott Marquis, the vibrant restaurant has stunning views of Dubai. The place is adorned by neon lights, vibrant wallpapers and faux foliage hanging from every corner. It’s bold, brash and has instant wow factor. On offer is a sharing menu with selections called Bites, Empanadas, Chicharones and Crudo.
Hotel Cartagena, JW Marriott Marquis, Business Bay, Dubai, daily 5.30pm to 3am. Tel: (04) 560 1799. hotelcartagena.ae
While the menu may be Asian fusion, Trader Vic’s vibe is synonymous with Cuban music and Latin dancing. The resident band ‘Havana Bit’ perform daily and the bar area is frequently used as a dance floor for Dubai’s best amateur salsa dancers to practice their moves. Just pick a partner and salsa around the bar all night.
Trader Vic’s, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, 9.30pm to 1.30am, daily. Tel: (04) 368 6559. tradervicsmadinat.com
In a sea full of Peruvian restaurants, Waka stands out: it has a Latin American flare and beautifully presented cuisine. The modern décor coupled with a night brunch that’s worth staying in all Friday for makes this a lively new addition to the Dubai dining scene.
Waka, Oberoi Hotel, Al A’amal Street, Business Bay, Sat, Sun, Mon & Weds 7pm to midnight, Tues, Thurs & Fri 7pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 444 1455. waka.ae