The BEST dishes in Dubai, part one
We know New Year Resolutions are just around the corner and while we would never encourage you, dear reader, to break whatever good habits you wish to start, especially when it comes to diet. Yet we can’t help but think a flick through this list will get you pushing back the start date by a week or so to make sure you fit some of these delights in on top of all that Christmas dinner.
From casual cafes and burger joints, to the finest dining establishments in town, we’ve covered everything to tickle even the most worn out tastebuds.
So, without further ado…
They’re sticky, messy, tangy and very delicious. Served piping hot and sticky in a basket with a few sticks of celery and a pot of blue cheese dressing, our taste buds started tingling the moment they arrived. Grip one tight and start chomping, sucking and gnawing. But for goodness sake, keep several napkins close by.
Souk Al Bahar, Downtown, Dubai, daily 6pm to 2am. Tel: (04) 4322300. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. clawbbq.com
Ginger lotus sea bass
Not only did this taste wonderfully aromatic, with delicate Vietnamese flavours all coming together in just the right proportions, this dish also has a nice story behind it. Head chef at Blue Jade, Ta Van Huong, took this recipe from his grandmother and is keeping it alive in the best possible way. The plump fish is marinated in a sauce of coriander, ginger, garlic and lemon, and then lightly baked in a huge folded green lotus leaf. Served with fried rice containing chicken, prawn, green beans and sweet corn, it was a magical plate of food.
Ritz-Carlton, JBR, Dubai, 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (04) 3186150. Taxi: Ritz-Carlton, JBR. ritzcarlton.com
Coronation chicken sandwich
Sandwiches aren’t renowned for being pretty. Bread plus filling: job done. But the bright canary yellow roll, made with curry powder, that makes up this coronation chicken sarnie at Urban Bistro just leapt off the plate. Inside were juicy pieces of chicken, served in a delicious creamy blend of turmeric, cumin and butter, topped with halved red grapes and a slice of crunchy green apple.
Urban Bistro, Media City, Dubai, Sun to Thur 7am to 10pm, Fri and Sat 9am to 6pm. Tel: (04) 3624330. Metro: Al Nakheel. urbanbistro.ae
Sweet corn fritters
Lime Tree Café
A little bit of spice at breakfast is a great way to wake up your taste buds and the sweet corn fritters at Lime Tree Café provided it. These guys were dense without being doughy and packed with corn. Approaching an American style pancake in texture, they came with a big splodge of guacamole on top, sour cream on the side and some simple, roasted cherry tomatoes.
Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai, Sun to Thur 8am to 9pm, Fri and Sat 9am to 10pm. Tel: (04) 3256325. Metro: Ibn Battuta. thelimetreecafe.com
We admit we weren’t terribly familiar with poutine before we set foot in Fraiche Café in JLT but, boy, is it on our list of things to look out for on a menu from now on. A French/Canadian classic of chips, gravy and strands of crab surprised us, filled us up and made us want to go back the next day to eat it again.
Swiss Tower, Cluster Y, JLT, Dubai, daily 8am to 10pm. Tel: (04) 3697821. Metro: Dubai Marina. facebook.com/FraicheCafe
Steak & Shake
The fries at this new burger place deserve to be on the list for their taste but also for the effort that goes into making them. Staff at Steak & Shake start hand-cutting potatoes at 5am to make what we believe is the best chip in the UAE. These fries were long, skinny and kind of wonky, with some of the tasty skin left on to add some earthy flavour.
Level two, The Dubai Mall, Dubai, daily 10am to midnight. Tel: (04) 3308180. Metro: Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa. steaknshake.com
It was fishy, it was creamy, it was firm, it was light – this crab cake had it all. Moist chunks of crab were pressed into a fat patty and lightly grilled golden brown on top, joined by a squirt of tomato fondue, black olive powder and preserved lemon aioli. When we asked the restaurant’s manager, Bertrand, what was the secret ingredient holding the cake in place, he leant in and whispered, “A little bit of homemade mayonnaise.”
Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, Abu Dhabi, 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 8188282. ritzcarlton.com
Sea bream mango tartare
We felt mean prodding a fork into this beautifully constructed, rainbow-coloured tartare, but prod we did because it demanded to be eaten. Diced sea bream, mango and avocado did a little dance in our mouth with freshness and flavour.
Gate 5, DIFC, Dubai, daily 11am to 11pm. Tel: (800) 220. Metro: Financial Centre. mysushishop.ae
This might be the dish What’s On has had more than any other this year. It just never gets boring. Juicy, grilled chicken sits underneath a canopy of a spicy flatbread, with some roasted onion and peppers on the side. Plus, perfectly cooked chips, of course. We can’t get through the week without having it.
Greens Shopping Village, Dubai, noon to midnight. Tel: (04) 3617755. Taxi: Greens shopping centre. mashawi.ae
Most of us are familiar with the slim, spindly asparagus and there’s nothing wrong with that. But chunky is more fun. And the asparagus at Centre Cut sure was chunky. Big, fat stalks, packed with that lovely woody flavour make this the best green thing we ate this year. See, we told you this would be good for your new year resolutions.
Ritz-Carlton DIFC, Dubai, 6.30pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 3722222. Metro: Emirates Towers. Taxi: Ritz-Carlton DIFC. ritzcarlton.com
Isn’t it satisfying to gently slice a knife into the fluffy pastry topping of a steaming hot pie? At Rivington Grill, this simple pleasure was enjoyed with the arrival of the chicken pie. The pastry was buttery and the colour of golden sunshine. Inside was a rich, thick, meaty filling. Put the two together and you’re in pie paradise.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, Sat to Wed noon to 11pm, Thur and Fri noon to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 3666464. Taxi: Madinat Jumeirah. rivingtongrill.ae
La Petite Maison
Ask anyone who’s been to La Petite Maison what they recommend and the lamb will be up there. Is it hype? Absolutely not. The cutlets were grilled medium rare, then served with smoked aubergine and, as with most dishes on the menu, they’re designed to be shared. We advise you to order extra.
Gate Village 8, DIFC, Dubai, daily noon to 3.30pm, 7pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 4390505. Metro: Emirates Towers. lpmdubai.ae
Suzuki no osashimi
Thin and silky slices of tender sea bass served with yuzu, truffle oil and salmon roe. So clean, so pure and so ridiculously tasty.
Gate Village 6, DIFC, Dubai, Sat to Thur 12.30pm to 3pm, Sat to Wed 7pm to midnight, Thur and Fri 7pm to 1am. Tel: (04) 4255660. Metro: Emirates Towers. zumarestaurant.com
This was superbly creamy handcrafted burrata cheese, paired simply with a few slices of prosciutto, drizzled with olive oil and topped with freshly ground black pepper.
JW Marriott Marquis, Business Bay, Dubai, daily 6pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 4143000. Metro: Business Bay. jwmarriottmarquisdubailife.com
A vegetarian pizza can sometimes be a little insipid compared to its meaty cousins. Not so at Urbano. Their primavera pizza topped with aubergine, artichoke, courgette, sun-blushed tomato and smoked mozzarella was complex with several tantalising flavours.
Souk Al Bahar, Dubai, daily 10.30am to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 4355777. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. urbanorestaurants.com
They say it’s the best burger in Dubai. That’s a big claim, but the burger backs it up. It’s a 9oz black angus with caramelised onions and cheddar cheese – and it is phenomenally good.
Fairmont The Palm, Dubai, Sat to Wed noon to 11.30pm, Thur and Fri noon to 12.30am. Tel: (04) 4573388. Taxi: Fairmont The Palm. fairmont.com
Mixed seafood platter
An elegant dish at an elegant restaurant, this fishy feast is the king of the menu at this seafood empire.
Jumeirah At Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, Mon to Sun noon to 3pm, 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (02) 8115666. Taxi: Etihad Towers Corniche. scotts-restaurant.ae
Burj Al Arab
We had this dish at iftar during Ramadan and we’ve been thinking about it ever since. A creamy pudding of bread, dried fruit and nuts with a hint of coconut flavour stopped us in our tracks even more than the décor of the restaurant did.
Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah, Dubai, 6pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 3017600. Taxi: Burj Al Arab. jumeirah.com
After dishing these cookies out to the What’s On team in the office all you could hear for three minutes was the gentle satisfied murmur of “Mmmm.” There were so many spicy, warming flavours packed into this cookie. It was soft but not gooey, crumbly but not feeble. Could it be the best cookie in Dubai?
Fairmont The Palm, Dubai, daily 7am to 7pm. Tel: (04) 4573388. Taxi: Fairmont The Palm. fairmont.com
The secret to good guacamole is, of course, good avocado. The Mexican chef at Fuego insists on importing them from Mexico. The guacamole was furiously chopped and mashed at the table to create a little bowl of paradise for the lucky tortilla chip that got the first dip.
Souk Al Bahar, Dubai, daily noon to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 4490977. Taxi: Souk Al Bahar. fuego.ae
Potato and chicken gratin
Fournil de Pierrre
Great food doesn’t need to be fancy and complicated. Sometimes it just needs to have one or two simple flavours working well together to hit the sweet spot. The potato and chicken gratin at Fournil de Pierre was a good example. Slices of potato and big chunks of chicken smothered in creamy cheesy sauce made a great and hearty dish.
Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, daily 7am to 3am. Tel: (04) 4203070. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. facebook.com/pages/Fournil-de-Pierre-UAE
A warm chocolate sauce was poured over a ball filled with strawberry mousse and chocolate ice cream. Everything started to melt and collapse in a theatrical fashion, creating a rich and indulgent combination. Let’s just say Chef Alexandre Pernetta hit the nail on the head when he named this one.
Between The Bridges, Shangri-La Hotel, Abu Dhabi, daily 6.30pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (02) 5098888. Taxi: Shangri-La Hotel. shangri-la.com
Yes, the taco is soft and goes nicely with the crunchy fish finger inside, but it’s the supporting cast who boost this simple dish to the next level: a jalapeno tartare sauce and homemade coleslaw.
Dubai Mall, daily 11.30am to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 3882505. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. rosamexicano.com
It’s the weekend, you’re tired and hungry and it’s been a long week at work. You need something hearty and tasty to set you up for the weekend. Say hello to the duck hash at The Ivy. A big, juicy patty of fried bubble and squeak mixed with shreds of duck and topped with two fried eggs.
The Boulevard, Emirates Towers, Dubai, daily 7.30am to 11am. Tel: (04) 3198767. Metro: Emirates Towers. theivy.ae
Crispy duck salad
Hakkasan Abu Dhabi
This signature dish had sweetness, a citrus twang, the crunch of fresh greens and some deep meaty flavour from the strips of duck. A dish that, even though it’s fried, still tasted healthy.
Emirates Palace, Corniche Road West, Abu Dhabi, lunch Fri and Sat noon to 3pm, dinner daily 6pm to midnight. Tel: (02) 6907999. Taxi: Corniche Road West. hakkasan.com
Not tempted yet? Then check out part two.