Solero Tapas & Bodega
If you wondering if you could find Spanish food in Dubai, the answer would be yes. Why, is a separate question. Honestly, the only reason I paid week-old Solero a visit was because my hotel was “dry,” I wanted a glass of wine (something non-residents can’t purchase in stores without a license) and this new tapas bar in inside the Kempinksi Hotel inside the Mall of the Emirates was technically across the street (the NYC equivalent of being on the other side of a BQE overpass).
Pa amb tomàquet, the simple toasty snack that I never bother attempting because how often do you get a tomato with enough juice and flavor? I have no idea where tomatoes come from in Dubai in December, but this rendition wasn’t an atrocity.
Neither was the cazuela filled with stacks of meaty coins of octopus, doused with smoked paprika and olive oil. Being mildly pork-deprived, the logical choice would’ve been a plate of jamon, but I feared not only the dirham to dollar gouging but the metric to imperial conversion. I always screw up ordering in measures that aren’t ounces or pounds and end up with double instead of half of what I’d intended. Pulpo a la gallega was safer–and satisfying. I decided to stay a little longer and sip a gin and tonic, despite my aversion to dining alone.
The staff, both service and behind the open kitchen with bar seating, was almost wholly imported from Spain (minus the one Chilean cook I spoke to). Even the DJ appeared be playing Spanish pop hits of the ’80s, which only the hard-partying couple next to me, two chefs from another restaurant, seemed to know, based on their shrieks and hollers. The rest of the diners were far more subdued. There were even a few obviously Muslim women present–I mention this only because there’s a security guard outside the door at the mall’s entrance who on a different occasion had steered a group of curious men away by saying, “That’s a bar.” It’s really more of a restaurant, though.
Solero Tapas & Bodega * Kempinsski Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Rd. * Dubai, UAE