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Dining Options in Dubai

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    Expat News

    DUBAI DINING : Dining in Dubai Guide

    Dubai’s cosmopolitan flavor is vastly enhanced by the wide selection of excellent restaurants to be found in the city – making dining in Dubai a real pleasure. From Michelin starred chefs and Chaine des Rotisseurs events, to streetside shisha (hubble bubble) cafes and budget bites, the Dubai dining scene is as expansive, as it is diverse, and has prices to suit every budget. Quality and presentation of food is usually extremely high, coupled with imaginative settings and locations, the highest standards of service and lively atmospheres, this all adds up to a fantastic culinary experience. It’s no wonder that dining out is a favorite Dubaiian pastime !

    Alcohol is widely available in 4 and 5 star hotels and in some leisure and entertainment complexes, and as a result of this, many of Dubai’s busiest and best restaurants are to be found here. Restaurants located outside of hotels are not permitted to serve alcohol, but should certainly not be dismissed, as many are culinary delights in their own right. The districts of Bur Dubai, Satwa and Karama are home to many small, independent outlets that take a great pride and passion in the food that they serve and are great value for money.

    Dubai’s favorable climate makes outdoor dining very popular for the majority of the year. Outdoor heaters and air conditioners take the chill from the winter nights and cool the summer heat, making al fresco dining at a number of restaurants perfectly possible, all year long. Dubai is simply spoilt with the number of exceptional restaurants in spectacular locations where you can dine under the stars.

    Popular global names sit alongside some great local innovations. Appleby’s Benihana, BiCE, Blue Elephant, Chili’s, Ciro’s Pomodoro, Hard Rock Café, Pizza Express, TGI Fridays, Trader Vic’s, Wagamama and Yo! Sushi, are just some of the familiar names to be found in Dubai – all long established and firm favourites. Zheng He’s, Le Classique, The Boardwalk, Vu’s Restaurant, Asha’s and Gordon Ramsay’s Verre are all noteworthy of inclusion in an essential selection of Dubai’s top dining destinations.

    A number of annual restaurant awards are coveted by the entertainment and hospitality industry, where public opinion is key in the selection and judging process. This ensures excellent dining standards all round. Several restaurants have won repeated accolades and are justifiably reluctant to lose their crowns – hotting up the competition – and ensuring the best in standards and choice for the discerning diner.

    It would be impossible to list all of Dubai’s outstanding venues here, so in the following categories, a few of the city’s favorite and most popular venues have been noted. Several publications, such as ‘Time Out Dubai’ and ‘What’s On’ magazines provide up-to-the-minute information regarding Dubai’s burgeoning restaurant scene.

    Fine Dining

    Dubai boasts some of the most sophisticated and refined fine dining experiences in any one city. For memorable special occasions and celebrations Al Mahara, the specialty seafood restaurant, located underneath Burj Al Arab is simply without comparison. A three minute submarine simulation ride takes you to your destination – an elegantly furnished dining room, surrounded by amazing seawater aquariums. Al Mahara serves the finest seafood with a Western and Chinese touch prepared by world-class chefs. Celebrities at the One&Only Royal Mirage resort is a landmark restaurant, offering a modern interpretation of Western and Middle Eastern fusion cuisine with a twist. An elegant and romantic atmosphere, coupled with outstanding views over the Arabian Sea makes this a memorable dining experience to enjoy. La Baie at the Ritz Carlton Hotel is possibly one of the most romantic restaurants in Dubai. Serving fine European progressive gourmet food, this elegant restaurant is both intimate and refined and overlooks the Arabian Sea. Vu’s Restaurant at Emirates Towers Hotel is an award-winning favorite in the heart of the city. Serving the best in modern European cuisine in a stylish setting, Vu’s Restaurant benefits from its fantastic location on the 50th floor, providing impressive, panoramic views of Dubai’s cityscape.


    Revered Indian singing diva Asha Bhosle chose Dubai to launch her foray into the hospitality industry and to open her first restaurant, to widespread critical acclaim. Asha’s at Pyramids, Wafi City offers traditional North-Western Indian kebabs and cuisine and a selection of Ms Bhosle’s signature and favorite family dishes. Asha’s also features an extensive menu of unique speciality cocktails. Lotus One is possibly one of Dubai’s chicest restaurants and is described as ‘uber-cool’ by the fashionistas that hang out here. Lotus One exudes a calm sophistication and serves world-class cuisine within its an amazing décor, which features swing chairs suspended on wire ropes and state-of-the-art low lighting contrasting with funky glass floors and intimate wood paneling. Teatro at the Towers Rotana Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road features five different cuisines under one roof and is a perennial favorite of the Dubai dining scene for its consist quality and atmosphere.


    The staple Arabian ‘fast food’ is a delicious shwarma; marinated chicken or lamb, slowly cooked on a rotating grill, thinly sliced and then wrapped in flat Arabic bread with tomatoes, salad and tahina sauce. Inexpensive and instantly satisfying, shwarma stands can be found all over Dubai.

    Chinese and Thai

    Chinese and Thai are extremely popular cuisines in Dubai and there is a wide choice of restaurants that cater to these tastes. With the high quality of fresh seafood that Gulf waters provide, many dishes are priced considerably lower than one would expect and are packed full of flavor. Many small, independent Chinese and Thai restaurants are located in the Bur Dubai and Karama districts of the city.


    There are many inexpensive Indian restaurants, which offer filling thalis (several different ‘sampler’ dishes all served on one plate), curries, dhals and great, freshly baked breads, served alongside a mind – and mouth-blowing array of hot pickles, chutneys and chilli dips that accompany all dishes. Tucked away in the backstreets of Karama and Satwa, these restaurants are a sensory experience in their own right ! As is normal with Indian restaurants, they are classified into ‘vegetarian’ and ‘non-vegetarian’ and normally specify whether they specialize in the gorgeously rich curries of North India or the lighter, flavorful dishes, such as idlies, uttapatam and dosas, that South India is renowned for.

    Cafes & Coffee Shops

    Dubai has a huge coffee shop culture and with many cafes staying open till way past midnight. Cosmo is a favorite of Sheikh Zayed Road regulars. Serving innovative fusion snacks and dishes in a contemporary and modern setting, by day Cosmo is popular with nearby office workers and in the evenings, residents chill out and relax outside with a shisha (hubble bubble) pipe. More is a contemporary café located in Garhoud, which is a fusion of a café and an art gallery – an inspiring setting for a brainstorming lunch or to a great place to surf the Internet and sip a latte, as WiFi access is freely available. Shakespeare & Co is a home-grown chain of coffee shops with locations across the city. Taking culinary inspiration from popular Lebanese and Western snacks, these are served in a warm, homely atmosphere.

    Friday Brunch

    Friday Brunch is a veritable institution in the city and a number of venues ensure that there is something for everyone – from fun-filled family buffet brunches, complete with table entertainers, face painters and kid’s play areas, to free-flowing champagne and a smorgasbord of gastronomic delights on offer at Dubai’s leading gourmet restaurants. Sumptuous beach barbeques at the hotels on the shores of the Arabian Sea or authentic Arabian camps, set in the desert dunes are all popular and relaxing ways to get together with friends and contemplate and review ‘that was the week, that was’.

    Some of the most Recommended Restaurants in Dubai :


    Al Muntaha
    Al Muntaha has the best location in Dubai, suspended hundreds of meters above the Arabian Gulf, at the top of the Burj Al Arab hotel. Service is immaculate and the slanted glass windows give the restaurant the feel of a great ocean liner heading out to sea. Al Muntaha also delivers on the plate, with starters such as lobster Caesar salad or seared scallops and mains the likes of grilled hammour (a local fish) or roasted prime beef rib with mustard crust. An unusual dessert option, created by executive chef John Wood, is the Cranachan, a delicious Scottish oatmeal ice cream.

    Burj Al Arab Hotel, Jumeirah Beach, PO Box 7147
    Tel: (04) 301 7777. Fax: (04) 301 7000.
    Price: Dh550. Wine: Dh250.

    La Baie
    Under the expert guidance of head chef Carl Stockenstrom, this fine dining restaurant rather fancies itself to be located in a major European capital, with its mellow piano music, unfaltering service and elegant table settings. The food is similarly impressive and it all adds up to a meal that may stretch the credit card but is guaranteed to be of the highest quality. One of the most exotic starters is the marinated sturgeon carpaccio with caviar and yoghurt sauce, while a highlight among the mains – and rumoured to be the chef’s favourite – is the grilled hammour on a bed of green lentils.

    Ritz Carlton Dubai, PO Box 26525
    Tel: (04) 399 4000. Fax: (04) 399 4001.
    Price: Dh350. Wine: Dh140.

    This excellent French restaurant is well worth the trip out to Jebel Ali. The open kitchen allows diners to watch the chefs in action as they conjure up such innovative starter treats as lobster salad with foie gras and seared scallops wrapped in pastry. The highlight of the main menu is the sea bass served on a bed of red cabbage and cooked to perfection. Candles add to the cosy decor, making this the perfect place to take a loved one for an evening of fine French cooking.

    Jebel Ali Hotel, Bur Dubai
    Tel: (04) 883 6000. Fax: (04) 883 5543.
    Price: Dh300. Wine: Dh120.

    Sphinx has been amongst Dubai’s finest restaurants for a number of years now and its reputation is well deserved. The setting is spectacular in the Wafi Pyramid complex, with Egyptian-style decor and candlelight dining. The service is attentive without being overbearing and food presentation is imaginative. Starters include the excellent lobster bisque and the unusual fried goats cheese and beetroot sorbet, served with walnut and blue cheese salad. The first rate ‘surf n’ turf’ is the highlight of the main menu.

    Pyramids Complex, Wafi City, PO Box 26631
    Tel: (04) 324 9603.
    Price: Dh250. Wine: Dh120.

    Gordon Ramsey’s Dubai venture has proved a resounding success and is already regarded by many discerning locals as the best place to eat in Dubai. With Britain’s only three-star Michelin chef behind things, Verre could not really go wrong. The minimalist decor might not suit all tastes but the simple surrounds and the well thought-out lighting help focus deserved attention on the food. A nice touch is the chef’s specialities – tasty morsels of food that come between the impressive courses. Mains include salmon with a fricassee of peas and horseradish or poached chicken on a bed of tagliatelle. The desserts are divine. The three course lunch specials offer excellent value.

    Hilton Dubai Creek, PO Box 30880
    Tel: (04) 227 1111.
    Price: Dh300. Wine: Dh150.


    Al Boom Floating Restaurant
    This is one of Dubai’s finest seafood restaurants and is located on board a traditional style dhow. Diners choose which fish they want from those on display and the chefs cook it to order. There is also a river cruise every night, creating a unique setting for a relaxed business dinner.

    Al Boom Tourist Village, PO Box 12650
    Tel: (04) 324 3000. Fax: (04) 324 3930.
    Price: Dh200. Wine: Dh100.

    Al Dawaar
    Dubai’s only revolving restaurant, atop the Hyatt Regency Hotel, on the 25th floor, has some of the best views of any restaurant in the city. Refurbished to a contemporary and sophisticated design in 2002, this restaurant revolves over a two-hour period, offering panoramic views of the entire city and out towards the Arabian Gulf. The most popular dining option is the international buffet, which features dishes from all corners of the globe, including options such as Chinese stir-fries, spring rolls and local Dubai dishes. Early diners willing to give up their tables by 2100 are rewarded with special offers.

    Hyatt Regency Hotel, PO Box 5588
    Tel: (04) 209 1100. Fax: (04) 209 1000.
    Email: hyattregency@hytdubai
    Price: Dh320. Wine: Dh250.

    Casa Mia
    Casa Mia is bit of a local secret. Savvy natives know it as the best Italian restaurant in Dubai – far better than the second-rate Italian cuisine that many of the big hotels offer. It is run by an Italian couple who lovingly look after all the cooking and tend to the decent wine list. The decor is authentic too, with an Italian style that just manages to avoid looking kitsch. It is advisable to book well ahead for one of the coveted dinner spots. Starters include beef carpaccio or red mullet and fennel salad, with mains of the likes of potato gnocchi or baked veal cannelloni.

    Behind Le Meridien Hotel, PO Box 10001
    Tel: (04) 282 4040.
    Price: Dh180. Wine: Dh40.

    China Times
    For diners tired of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel restaurants, China Times offers arguably the finest Chinese cuisine in town. Some of the spicier dishes, like the Szechwan chicken or pork, might be toned down a touch for the palates of visiting businesspeople but China Times usually hits the spot. The decor is modern and the service polite without being too stuffy. The open kitchen is fun, as diners can see their meals being prepared.

    Jumeirah Plaza, Jumeirah Beach, PO Box 1038
    Tel: (04) 344 2930. Fax: (04) 344 3946.
    Price: Dh90. Wine: Dh40.

    This modern and spacious Chinese restaurant is located in the Sheraton Jumeirah, at the very end of the Beach strip, so it is a good place for business diners to take clients to escape the city. The etched-glass walls allow for fine views of the garden, pool and beach. The cuisine of both Shanghai and the Hunan provinces, as well as the fiery tastes of the Szechwan region, are explored in a restaurant that caters for those who normally might not like what is conventionally thought of as ‘Chinese’ food. Service is friendly and efficient, with highlights on the menu being wonton soup as a starter and aromatic crispy duck or the unusual red snapper fillet, Cantonese style.

    Sheraton Jumeirah Beach, PO Box 12650
    Tel: (04) 399 5533. Fax: (04) 399 5577
    Price: Dh110. Wine: Dh70.


    Cafe Chic
    As French as the name suggests, Café Chic is a welcome new addition to the Dubai gastronomic scene. This split-level venue has an open kitchen, so diners can see head chef Pieric Cizeron working his magic. The ground floor is light and airy, while the second floor is a bit more sombre and stylish. Dishes on the menu include healthy starters, such as asparagus salad, or the less healthy fried duck liver, while the fish dishes are the highlight of the main menu. The sea bream is especially good. Diners should not miss the signature dessert, the chocolate soufflé – a truly divine creation that alone encourages repeat reservations. Decadent Epicureans might want to explore the range of cigars after dinner. Business lunches for Dh66 are especially good value.

    Le Meridien Hotel, Garhoud.
    Tel: (04) 282 4040. Fax: (04) 282 4672.
    Price: Dh190. Wine: Dh100.

    Dubai’s first Vietnamese restaurant, Indochine, is housed within the new Grand Hyatt Dubai and is predictably chic, with polished wooden floors, discreet palms and stylish lighting. The cooking is light and fresh -lemongrass and lime infuse many dishes with the taste of East Asia. Menu items include prawn dumplings, ‘morning glory’ (water spinach with garlic) and tom rang me (shrimp soup). While Vietnamese dishes are the highlight, responsible for bringing in the crowds, there are also regional excursions into Thai, Malaysian and Chinese cuisine. Attached to Indochine is the Tea House, where diners can relax with a calming cup of Asian tea after their meal.

    Al Qutaeyat Road, PO Box 7978
    Tel: (04) 317 1234. Fax: (04) 317 1235.
    Price: Dh95. Wine: Dh70.

    This space at the Dubai Creek Golf Club was recently reincarnated as Legends, a classic steak house. The views out over the Creek are impressive, particularly from the terrace, which catches the cooling river breezes. Diners should be sure to book a table on this popular terrace, although indoors is equally charming – a luxurious room with the feel of a grand hotel lobby in New York, an ambience enhanced when the pianist is playing. Unsurprisingly the steaks are the highlight, although the seafood is also good, with a popular main the beef and lobster combination of Surf n’ Turf. Service is seamless.

    Dubai Creek Golf Club, Garhoud
    Tel: (04) 295 6000. Fax: (04) 295 6044.
    Price: Dh250. Wine: Dh100.

    More is not a hotel restaurant, which is something unusual among Dubai’s better places to eat. This new haunt of the beautiful people is a bright, modern venue with a main space that is awash with colour, comfy seating and black and white photographs. Newspapers and magazines lying around tempt patrons to do the same, although the food is no slouch. The menu is as hard to pin down as the patrons, with Australian steaks mingling with Indonesian nasi goreng (fried rice) among the mix of businessmen and fashion-conscious ex-pats. The patio outside is an alternative space when the weather allows.

    Near Welcare hospital, Garhoud
    Tel: (04) 283 0224.
    Price: Dh220. Wine: Dh100.

    The local cognoscenti continue their love affair with Splendido, which is located at the Ritz Carlton and is arguably the city’s finest Mediterranean restaurant. The setting is luxurious without being overbearing and there is a terrace for days when the sun is not too strong. The menu is fresh and innovative, with starters including marinated salmon with quail egg, pesto and pine nuts, or potato leek soup with lobster. Impressive main courses include rolled homemade pasta filled with ricotta and spinach, or black ink tagliolini with pesto, truffle oil and sautéed prawns. The delicious chocolate crème brulee is legendary.

    Ritz Carlton Hotel, Jumeirah Beach, PO Box 26525
    Tel: (04) 399 4000. Fax: (04) 399 4001.
    Price: Dh250. Wine: Dh110.


    Cactus Jacks
    It may never win any culinary awards but Cactus Jacks seldom disappoints a hungry stomach. A Mexican theme for the decor includes Aztec fabrics and bright designs, as well as multicolour tiled pillars. Upstairs there are five tables for diners looking for a touch more privacy. The restaurant has a live DJ at weekends and things can turn quite wild after 2300, when the spicy Tex Mex food and the tequila kick in. Cactus Jacks dishes up all of the usual suspects – fajitas, burritos and tortillas – with plenty of meal deals and drinks specials. Parties of eight diners or more receive a 30% discount on their bill, which gives a good idea of the market that the restaurant is leaning toward.

    Airport Hotel, Al Garhoud
    Tel: (04) 282 3464.
    Price: Dh100. Wine: Dh75.

    Da Vinci’s Restaurant
    This popular Italian restaurant offers an unpretentious setting and menu in a friendly environment. All of the usual pasta and pizza dishes are on offer and, although there are no real highlights, most dishes are consistently good. One popular offering is the gamberoni grigliati (jumbo prawn with capers and potatoes). The dark decor and red, white and green chequered tablecloths might be a touch on the garish side but for an evening meal that does not break the bank or challenge a delicate palate, Da Vinci’s is a good choice.

    Airport Hotel, Al Garhoud
    Tel: (04) 7039 1233.
    Price: Dh95. Wine: Dh90.

    Deira City Centre Food Court
    Of the many food courts that are dotted all around Dubai, this is one of the most popular. On sale is the full smorgasbord of international foods, with the only unifying feature being that all the stands are cheap. The most popular stands serve up simple Chinese and Indian specialities accompanied by boiled rice. They also have a play area for kids, which takes some of the pressure off harassed mums and dads.

    Deira City Centre Mall, Deira
    Tel: (04) 295 1010.
    Price: Dh80. Unlicensed.

    This excellent South Indian restaurant serves great-value food. Diners sit on long, wooden benches and are surrounded by film posters on the walls. The Kerala-influenced dishes include kappa erachi (tapioca and chicken curry) and karimeem porichathu (fish fry).

    Palm Beach Rotana Inn, PO Box 5822
    Tel: (04) 393 1999.
    Price: Dh120. Unlicensed.

    Woodland Avenue
    This ultra-cheap South Indian restaurant has to be one of the best-value places in town. The decor is very plain, with yellow checked tablecloths and little attempt to make things aesthetically pleasing. Diners do not come here for aesthetic, rather for the good-value food. The menu is mainly vegetarian and there are few frills but for value for money, an Indian meal at Woodland Avenue seldom disappoints. The vegetable thali is one of the most popular dishes and deservedly so.

    Al Karama, PO Box 7529
    Tel: (04) 336 6632.
    Price: Dh60. Unlicensed.

    Personal Recommendations

    Al Mansour
    This old double-decked dhow (a traditional trading ship) has been converted into one of Dubai’s most unusual restaurants. It can seat over 150 diners on busy nights, however, booking ahead is still essential for the decent buffet food (stir fries, spring rolls and the like), which is eaten facing the lights of the Dubai skyscrapers glimmering across the waters of Dubai Creek, seen en route during a two-hour gastronomic adventure.

    Intercontinental Hotel, PO Box 476
    Tel: (04) 222 7171. Fax: (04) 228 4777.
    Price: Dh165 (buffet dinner), Dh125 (buffet lunch). Wine: Dh100.

    India Palace
    India Palace opened in late 2001 and became popular with the local ex-pat community. The emphasis on Rajasthani cooking is backed up by themed decor and artefacts shipped in from the region. The open kitchen is a nice touch, as are the family booths upstairs, with privacy available at no extra charge. The excellent value menu features starters such as lentil soup and prawn bisque with fresh vegetables, while mains include chicken and vegetarian kebabs and a range of delicately spiced curries. Alcohol is not available but the lassis are excellent, especially an unusual lassi seasoned with salt.

    Opposite Dubai Marine Hotel, Bur Dubai
    Tel: (04) 286 9600. Fax: (04) 286 5355.
    Price: Dh100. Unlicensed.

    The Manhattan Grill
    The signature restaurant at the newly opened Grand Hyatt Dubai is the Manhattan Grill. Housed in the atrium of the hotel, this stylish restaurant is already a favourite with the local smart set, despite only opening in spring 2003. The steaks are to die for, with fresh prime beef flown in from the USA. Other offerings on the menu include local and international seafood and grilled lamb. Wine is available by the glass or the bottle, with both New and Old World tastes catered for.

    Al Qutaeyat Road, PO Box 7978
    Tel: (04) 317 1234. Fax: (04) 317 1235.
    Price: Dh180. Wine: Dh110.

    Noodle House
    New in 2002 was the funky, laid-back Noodle House. In contrast to the stuffy business restaurants that tend to be associated with this part of Dubai, the emphasis here is on light, tasty food served up in relaxed surrounds. Patrons can forget table reservations and join the rest of the diners at the long communal tables in enjoying some delightful Asian noodle soups. Also served are spring rolls and more substantial dishes, such as sweet and sour chicken. The desserts are a bit hit and miss but, for a quick and cheerful meal, Noodle House is hard to beat.

    Emirates Towers Shopping Boulevard
    Tel: (04) 330 0000.
    Price: Dh85. Wine: Unlicensed.

    There is no restaurant in Dubai quite like Venezia. The recreation of all things Venetian, with mock Venetian buildings, classical musicians and real gondolas drifting around the indoor canal is truly bizarre. The standard Italian cuisine on offer, such as tortellini arrabiatta or veal with lemon sauce, is nothing special but with patrons invited to pick their own wine from their cellar and the sheer surreal ambience of the place make it worth a visit.

    Metropolitan Hotel, Sheik Zayed Road
    Tel: (04) 343 0000. Fax: (04) 343 1146.
    Price: Dh150. Wine: Dh90.

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