Celebrity chef Sandro Silva tells us what’s in store at the newly opened Amazonico in DIFC, which promises a flavourful journey around Latin America
Hailing from the shores of sunny Spain, Amazonico has officially opened its doors in Dubai. The flagship rainforest-themed venue in Madrid has won acclaim for its cuisine and boasts a glamorous clientele that includes the Beckhams, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rita Ora as well as top European politicians and socialites.
At the helm is chef Sandro Silva, who together with his wife, Marta Seco, brought the concept to life in Spain in 2016. Building on the brand’s success, the duo expanded into London last year and soon followed it up with a Dubai outpost, bringing a slice of South America to the emirate.
Although the DIFC venue is only a few months old, acquiring a reservation is already proving challenging with waitlists stretching for several weeks. But when you finally get in, you’ll discover that the venue is definitely worth the buzz.
Amazonico stands out as the only haunt in DIFC to offer a sprawling three-storey space comprising a ground-floor lounge, a mid-level main dining area and a rooftop bar. The design is a visual feast with heavy tropical influences present throughout, including lush foliage hanging from the ceiling and exotic plants adorning the walls. It sets the tone for an immersive dining experience that Dubai’s gourmands are sure to love.
The menu explores the vibrant Latin American culinary landscape, with subtle hints of European and Asian flavours. We recently had the chance to go behind the scenes and talk to chef Silva about his latest venture, while sampling his signature creations, such as the marinated lamb kofta as well as the avocado and mango salad, which is the most requested item on the menu.
You’ve added a third venue to the Amazonico portfolio within a span of three years. How different is the experience in Dubai, compared to Madrid and London? “Each Amazonico is unique, specific to their respective locations. The DIFC venue has been thoughtfully designed, keeping Dubai’s opulent dining scene in mind. We adapted the menu to suit local preferences. But at every location, Amazonico strives to provide a fine dining experience that far exceeds the region’s standards of Latin American cuisine, offering impeccable service and a transcendent atmosphere.”
Would you say that’s the Amazonico philosophy? “I’d say it is to create an atmosphere where the guests bring the energy into the restaurant as soon as they step in through the front door. The venue belongs to them; they create the vibe and liven it up. We’ve designed the whole concept as a bubble, one that allows every diner to truly disconnect from reality while enjoying the vibrant ambience and savouring the delectable cuisine.”
What is the Amazonico experience all about? “It can be summed up as an ode to nature. Anyone who visits will instantly recognise that greenery is an integral part of the restaurant’s DNA. The concept is inspired by the foundations of South American culture, the cuisine, local eating rituals and the lush, natural environment. Through the intriguing décor and menu, visitors can expect a visual and gastronomical journey that explores the cultural diversity of Latin America. It’s an invitation to take a trip down the Amazon river to experience the heritage of Brazil, Colombia and Peru, with subtle influences from Japan, China and India. Farm-fresh, organic ingredients of the highest quality are used to craft the award-winning menu. And we rely on unique cooking techniques, inspired by our individual heritage, giving each dish a distinctive touch.”
Tell us more about your background. What inspired your passion for cooking? “The list of people who’ve inspired me is endless, right from my mum and my uncle to Spanish-American chef José Andrés. It also includes the people I’ve met during my travels around the globe and at various stages of my life. These people not only taught me how to cook, but they also showed me how to draw from various life experiences to make each dish truly unique and wonderful. I believe that travel is the key to learning more about various cuisines and cook- ing techniques first hand. And this philosophy holds true in our kitchens at Amazonico.”
What is your earliest memory in the kitchen? “That would be when I moved from Brazil to Asturias in Spain at the age of 11. After school, I used to visit my uncle’s restaurant. I vividly remember him cooking the traditional Brazilian picanha. I still remember the way he used to cut and prepare the meat with such dexterity, the sounds of the outer part of the tender meat crackling under the intense heat and the delicious scents emanating from the grill.”
What’s your favourite dish on the menu? “It’s the traditional Brazilian picanha. I have so many childhood memories associated with this simple yet flavourful dish. It brings all those fond memories back. My uncle once told me the story behind its name. It originated in the city of São Paulo at a popular churrascaria called Bambu, which Brazilian industrialist Francisco Pignatari often visited. His favourite type of meat was the top sirloin but on one occasion, the restaurant mistakenly served him another cut of meat instead. Although he did not notice the difference initially, he ate it, loved it and enquired about the cut, to which the Argentine server replied, ‘donde se pica la aña, which means, where the cow is branded with a hot iron.”
How do you spend your free time when you’re not busy in the kitchen? “You will find me with my wife, Marta, and our kids. We are always in the quest for new adventures. I like to bring them with me on my travels to cultural events and different countries. It helps broaden our horizons as a family.”
Any tips for up and coming chefs? “I truly believe that real food doesn’t have ingredients. Real food is ingredients. To be a great chef, you have to be willing to experiment. All great chefs are willing to try something new and push the boundaries of what they know.”