Thursday, July 16, 2020

Welcome to Te Deseo (Dallas, TX)

Across the din of the dining room at Te Deseo, we can hear them. A table of women is celebrating a birthday and every few minutes there’s a group yell — AAAaaaaah!!! — that sounds like a roller coaster making a circuit through the booked-up restaurant.

Are they opening presents? Ogling the other gorgeous customers in Dallas’ primo see-and-be-seen spot? Or maybe they just ordered one of Te Deseo’s more dramatic dishes, say, the picada Argentina, an extravaganza of grilled meat that is borne aloft and — wheeee! — served on a four-legged butcher block with an enormous cleaver holstered at its side.

Wait till they find out that an even bigger, wilder party is busting out in the rooftop bar - all year round!

Te Deseo is fun. Big fun. A kind of gorgeous delirium rules at this stylish Pan-Latin restaurant in the Harwood District, like a slightly debauched Miami Beach villa washed up on a grassy spit of land amid the office towers near downtown.

The dimly lit dining room has its own atmospheric conditions, warm even when the retractable roof is open in cold weather, & I swear, there’s a mist floating around the surreal turquoise tree at the center of it, the fake bougainvillea climbing the walls & the fire roaring in a painted-tile hearth.

Snake down a narrow dark corridor and you’ll hit the packed bar. Find a staircase and it’s up to the roof, where miniskirted waitresses are parading through the crowd with sparklers and bottles of Patrón tequila held aloft in neon halos.

It’s a scene, and we know what that means: It’s the kind of place where food is usually an afterthought, and not a good one. A glance through chef Ty Thaxton’s menu — a mashup of Mexico, Peru, Argentina and everyplace else between here and the South Pole — doesn’t exactly reassure you.

But Thaxton, it turns out, spent about six years living in Mexico, where he was a hotel chef, and devoted a good deal of his off-time to traveling through South America. Rather than offering a menu filled with dishes from here and there, he’s combining influences from everywhere, plate by plate.

Price: $$-$$$ (Starters and small plates $8 to $16, mains $24 to $44, family-style main courses $32 to $98, desserts $8 to $12.)

Service: Friendlier and generally better than you’d expect at a clubby restaurant

Ambience: A kind of gorgeous delirium rules at this Pan-Latin restaurant in the Harwood District, blotting out the rigid office towers and planned development surrounding it with the design of a fever-dream villa. It’s packed with party-minded millennials, from the rooftop cigar bar to the dimly lit dining room with a turquoise-painted tree in the center of it. Chef Ty Thaxton’s menu mashes up the cuisines of Mexico, Peru, Argentina and more, for better and for worse, and serves the results with a wink, from an Argentine grilled meat spread that arrives on a mini butcher-block table sporting a giant cleaver to the fat chocolate “Cubano” cigar nestled in an ashtray.

Noise: Loud (84 decibels)

Drinks: Agave spirits are the thing here, with a selection of more than 50 tequilas and 17 mezcals ($9 to $180), plus flights of both. The dozen house cocktails ($11 to $14) are mostly based on tequila, cachaça and rum, though I didn’t find a standout in the bunch. A short list of beer ($5 to $7) tilts toward South America, with bottles such as Xingu from Brazil and Cusqueña from Peru; same with the 70-bottle wine list, which delves deeply into Argentina.

Recommended: Yellowtail tiradito, charred octopus, flautas, arroz chaufa, picada Argentina

GPS: Of course you want a table in the center of the dining room. You don’t go to Te Deseo to sit semi-hidden behind a wall along the periphery.

Address: 2700 Olive St., Dallas; 214-646-1314;

Hours: Dinner Mon -Thurs and Sunday from 5 to 11 p.m., Fri -Sat from 5 p.m. to midnight. Brunch Sat and Sun from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bar is open Mon - Thurs and Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Fri - Sat from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Reservations: Accepted. (Note: There is a dress code that forbids, among other things, hats and “open-toed flat footwear.”)

Credit cards: All major