We ate last night at Deseo, the "Latin influenced" restaurant at the Westin Keirland. My wife and I arrived early, and sat in the restaurant's lounge. It's small and smart looking just off the main dining room. They do an "Unwind Hour" from 5:30 to 7:30 every night with half priced mojitos and some appetizers.
I tried the mojito especiale with blackberrys and pineapple ($7 in the bar). I'm not generally a fruity drink guy, but mojitos are their specialty and the waiter recommended this one. They use only fresh fruit on the bar and offer about 10 different mojitos. The drink was excellent...not too sweet but very flavorful. I don't usually enjoy mojitos that much (too much mint or sugar) but this was really very good.
We eventually made our way to the restaurant as our friends arrived. A table of 8, some started with mojitos and we ordered a bottle of white and a bottle of red for the table. The white was Ferrari-Carrano Fume Blanc ($40), and the red was Gary Farrell Pinot Noir ($78). Both were very good. The sommelier recommended sauvignon blancs with the ceviche the restaurant specializes in, although he also said a reisling would be a good match. They have an interesting wine list with well thought out selections. The pricing is about normal for this area which is to say 2 1/2 to 3 times retail.
The ceviches are pretty small, and the waiter said they are not set up for sharing, so we each ordered our own starters. I tried the rainbow ceviche ($14) containing a little ahi, hamachi and another fish I can't remember. The white soy and citrus marinade was light, and much less acidic then some of the cerviche I've had before. The fish was very delicate, and not entirely "cooked" through. It kind of had a sushi quality too it. Pickled jalapenos were also on the plate. This was a great dish.
My wife had the trio of cerviche ($20), which included lobster and two others. It was served on a big plate with 4 compartments, each containing a separate fish...kind of a sampler plate. She let me try a little of the lobster. The fish itself was very good, but the marinade was much heavier than my dish, and made me pucker a bit. My wife liked it, but didn't love it.
One friend went with the hot appetizers (entradas) and tried the shrimp chicharron ($12). The 15 or so small shrimp were very lightly breaded and served with aji amarillo and the pickled jalepenos. He let me try one, and it was fantastic. The sauce had a little kick, and the shrimp was cooked perfectly. He couldn't say enough about it. Somone also tried the black been soup with creme fraiche ($6), and he said it was very good. Everyone else either ordered the rainbow or trio cerviche, so I didn't get to see or try more.
The entrees or split into fish and meat. I tried the lomo wrapped diver scallops with plaintain sauce ($28). These were incredible. The scallops were firm and flavorful, and the sauce with thin plaintains was a great accent. I really enjoyed the 4 large scallops.
The cuban enchilado shrimp ($27) was ordered by 2 or 3 people and brought 3 huge shrimp. These were gigantic, at least U-6. I didn't get to try it, but everyone who had it said it was a wonderful dish.
The meat entrees were also a big hit. The korobuta pork chop ($28) looked great and got rave reviews. The half lamb rack ($29) was awesome, as well. The waiter recommended churrasco of beef ($30) with crab mojo, camote and herb chimichurri. 2 people tried it and said it was ok.
The entrees are ala carte, so we added 4 sides for the eight of us. The chifa style crab fried rice ($12) with jumpo lump crab, chorizo, corn, asparagus and egg was really great. I'd say it was better than Eddie V's/Wildfish's version. The brie potato mash ($10) sounded better than it was. I would not get this again. The sauteed wild mushrooms ($7) and garbonzos and spinach ($6) witih spanish chorizo and garlic were both excellent.
We had another bottle of wine with dinner, and the woman of honor's husband decided to choose. He chose a Malbec from Argentina ($49), and I can't remember the name of it for the life of me. I've had Malbac's before with mixed success, but this one was very good. Very dark in color, it was soft and delicious. I don't know how well it went with our food, but I enjoyed the wine. I still don't know why he chose it, but it was fun to try something new.
No one ordered dessert, but they brought one complimentary since we were celebrating a birthday. The chocolate cigar ($10) looked just like a thick cigar complete with cohiba ring. The semi hard chocolate casing was filled with chocolate mouse (espuma?), and had a little glass of what they called cappuccino gelato on the side (seemed like another mouse to me). One bite was enough for me, but it had a light chocalate sweetness.
Service was above average overall, but spotty. Our waiter was very quick to get the wine service going, but then disappeared for 15 minutes before taking appetizer orders. Several of us also noticed that whenever we asked for a suggestion regarding wine or food he always steered us to the most expensive items on the menu. This is the second time in as many weeks that I've had waiters pushing us toward expensive menu items (Ocean Club last week). I guess they are trying to drive up the check a little in hopes of a bigger corresponding tip, but will it really make that much of a difference if we order a $30 entree instead of a $27 one? How much would all that add to the tip...$5? It doesn't make any sense, especially when it is so transparent that everyone notices it. He was pleasant and knowledgable though. Interestingly, the tip was included (18%), which was fine, although he probably cost himself a little money with this group. Total bill, including tip, was $174 per couple.
The room itself is quite well done, and not as big as I expected. The kitchen is open and exhibition style. They have a nice private room that seats 10-12, and would be great for private group. They put us in there at first (we were supposed to be 10), but moved us to the dining room at our request since the table was too big and the room kind of sterile for us. It's a very beatifully designed space, though.
It was also my first visit to the Westin Keirland, and I must say the place is nicer than I expected. It's got the corporate/group look you'd expect, but there is a "library" area with leather chairs and couches off the bar, a two man band playing center stage, and a huge outdoor patio with one gigantic fire pit a bit further out. It reminded me a little of the Hyatt Gainey Ranch in the layout. Definately a nice place to get a drink while the weather is so nice.
I would absolutely go back for dinner, although popping into the lounge before 7:30 would be smarter and probably as much fun. You could easily make two or three starters into a meal with a mojito or glass of wine and be out the door for under $25! I would love to try a few more of the cerviches, and they have a very nice wines by the glass list. It's small though, so no guarantees about a place to sit.
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