This past weekend, there was a line of people wrapped around Te Deseo Cocina Latina, waiting to be seated for dinner or to dance the night away to Latin music. The newest addition to the Harwood District fuses Latin cuisine, dancing and nightlife.
Te Deseo’s executive chef is Ty Thaxton, whose menu creations are partially inspired by his time spent living and working in Latin America. During this time, he was named one of Mexico’s top 50 chefs by Amar Guide to Fine Dining. With Te Deseo, Thaxton hopes to lead all of the restaurant's guests into a multidimensional Latin cultural experience.
“The reason we wanted to call it ‘Cocina Latina’ is because we’re not really specializing in any particular kind of cuisine from Latin America, but we’re encompassing dishes from all over Latin America,” Thaxton says. “We’re hitting techniques, recipes and preparations from South America to the Caribbean to Mexico and Central America. Even some of the flavors and inspirations from Latin American cultures that have immigrated into the United States, as well.”
To create Te Deseo’s menu items, Thaxton's team has sourced spices and ingredients from various parts of Latin America. All sections of the restaurant's 14,000 square feet are also bedecked with Latin American Decor. Dinner is served in different rooms named after regions, such as Tulum and Bogota. Te Deseo also has four bars, each offering more than 100 types of tequila.
Signature house cocktails include the cachaça de Janiero ($14), a fruity, fizzy blend of Ypióca cachaça, Cherry Heering, lemon, blackberry, Topo Chico and mint. Another good choice is the Bogota spa day ($13), a mix of cucumber and mint vodka, honey, coconut, lemon, jalapeño, mint and aguardiente bitters, served in a coconut shell.
Te Deseo offers a unique selection of starters, including elotes, four types of ceviches and wood-fired skewers, called anticuchos. But perhaps the most outstanding plato común, or starter, is the plate of stuffed arepas ($12). The arepas are soft, pillowy mounds of dough, stuffed with pulled roasted chicken, green chiles, crema and Fresno peppers.
“Arepas are very prominent in Colombia and Venezuela,” Thaxton says. “We basically took what we viewed as the best of both worlds for our arepas, instead of making either Colombian arepas or Venezuelan arepas.”
While Te Deseo is upscale, the entree items are, surprisingly, relatively reasonably priced. Te Deseo offers small plates, such as trios of brisket, carnitas and diabla shrimp fish tacos for only $10. Larger plates, like the Chilean sea bass ($24) and the Angosto steak ($42) are going to be a little bit pricier, but no more than one would pay anywhere else.
Perhaps the best bang for the buck is the picada Argentina plate ($98), which allows guests to try cuts of Te Deseo’s New York strip, the house filet, rack of lamb and Brazilian sausage. While the price point may seem daunting to guests, it’s basically as much as one would pay for two people at a Brazillian steak house.
Plus, Te Deseo’s meats are seasoned with a variety of Latin spices and contain flavors one won’t find most other places, and the picada Argentina plate could possibly serve even three people.
Desserts include the flan ($9), a silky custard served alongside tres leches cake and berries, and the churrones ($8), thick street churros slathered in a sauce made with Nestle Abuelita chocolate.
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In addition to beautiful Latin decor and incredible food, Te Deseo also incorporates elements that offer guests a taste of Latin nightlife. Guests can enjoy cigars in a lounge upstairs, and they can also dance to Latin music on the rooftop or in the courtyard. On weekends, there will be DJs and live bands providing entertainment throughout the night.
“We’re not really forcing ourselves into one particular niche,” Thaxton says. “We’ve taken flavors and inspirations from Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico and Nicaragua. From our cigars, to our drinks, to our entertainment and our food menu. Nobody else is doing anything like this.”
Te Deseo Cocina Latina, 2700 Olive St. (Harwood District)