“In the jungle, the might jungle, a lion sleeps tonight”, says the lyrics to Solomon Linda’s evergreen classic, and Dubai might just have its own sleeping giant in rainforest themed Amazonico.
Occupying its own building in DIFC and taking up three-floors including a rooftop bar, the Spanish import barely got going before coronavirus halted its progress, but with its re-opening slowly underway, all eyes are upon it.
And what a sight they’ll see. “Designed by internationally renowned artist Lázaro Rosa-Violan, from Barcelona the venue has been carefully curated to take our guests on a trip down the Amazon from source to sea, featuring plenty of natural and raw materials. He also designed our sister restaurants in London and Madrid,” explains general manager Michele Jenman.
If anyone is qualified to take guests on a trip down the largest river in South America, it’s Brazilian native Jenman. With 17 years’ experience in fine-dining restaurants and cocktail bars in her homeland, Portugal, Spain, and the UK before coming to the UAE, she says she joined Amazonico because it “embodies the perfect combination of incredibly diverse food and a fun party atmosphere”.
It certainly looks the part, with no expense spared on enveloping its customers into the rainforest aesthetic.
Jemnan says: “From the moment you enter Amazónico it feels as though you are stepping into the jungle, from the luscious green décor through to the South American patterns and textures. It’s easy to forget you are in the concrete surroundings of DIFC specifically once you reach the rooftop bar, with bright yellow parasols and Copacabana vibes.”
The interior is split into a number of sections to cater for each of the diverse crowds attracted to Dubai’s financial district throughout the week. Jenman says they’ve already pulled in a loyal crowd for business lunches, while those looking for a quick bite might stop by the sushi bar, or those looking to party the night away can pick from the venue’s terraces, lounge, or rooftop bar.
The latter is set to become one of DIFC’s most sought-after late-night spots with Amazonico’s mix of authentic Latin, jazz, and Balearic-inspired sounds (which they call ‘electro-pical’) getting “a little livelier on the rooftop”, says Jenman.
But as Jenman states, the DIFC location was chosen because it’s the “gastronomic centre within Dubai’ so the food is still the priority for Amazonico.
Diego Fernando Sanchez Vargas has been brought in as head chef and brings a wealth of experience in South American cuisine, having previously been the head chef of Lima Dubai under Virgilio Martinez.
But at Amazonico he will be doing something a little bit different, he says.
“We combine the best flavours from ‘the Hermanos’: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. The result is a rich dining experience, one that we believe to be very unique, especially as it also has influences from Japan, China and India.”
To bring in the ingredients he needs, Sanchez says he is working with a “vast number” of local suppliers to get most of their products and he “would not have it any other way”.
“The UAE has proven to have some great producers of high level quality products. We just hope the start producing palmitos soon too as they are very difficult to import!”
But when working with a cuisine from the other side of the world, Vargas admits It wasn’t just palmitos that were a problem to begin with, when we ask if it’s been easy to get what he required.
“In reality, no, it has not been easy at all,” he says. “Thankfully we have some great suppliers that embarked in the journey with us in sourcing ingredients that they never heard before. It was a trial and error at times, but we managed to get most of what we were looking for. This is an ever changing and evolving work as we continue to source different and exotic products from South America.”
So what is on the menu? Well, Vargas says it does take from its sister restaurants in Madrid and London, but also has its own sense of originality.
The signature dishes he says are “must tries” are the guacamole con erizo, which is made with sea urchin, and the ancas de rana frog legs.
He’s also brought over the classic lamb kofta which he “knew would be popular with the locals”, but customers at Amazonico Dubai can expect to see an ever-changing menu depending on the season.
Coming to Dubai with a big reputation can be a blessing and a curse, but Jenman says Amazonico’s reception has been “incredible”. Incredible enough to consider another outlet?
“More Amazonicos in Dubai? Never say never!”
The giant’s not sleeping anymore.