Can this fine-dining Emirati restaurant in Dubai impress?

As far as cusine options in Dubai are concerned, residents are spoilt for choice. There are more Peruvian restaurants than you can shake your ceviche at, gastro pubs galore and even Nordic cuisine is making an appearance. However, the unavoidable irony of living in Dubai is that while we have a world of flavours at our fingertips, Emirati food continues to feel just out of our reach.

JBR introduced some local flavour when Seven Sands opened at The Beach a year ago, and now, Souk Al Bahar has revealed the fine-dining Emirati fusion restaurant Siraj. But without the fountain views, is this latest spot worth checking out?

sirajThe art is opulent in this new Emirati restaurant 

It’s certainly worth a visit, if only to admire its interior, which looks like a cross between a classy lounge and modern art gallery. A sandstone dome takes centre stage, which, along with the gold Arab horses lining the bar and poetry by HH Sheikh Mohammed scribed on the walls, hammers home the Emirati theme. The beautiful blue floor tiles hint at the larger Levant influences and the warehouse-style archways add a touch of modernity. There’s a lot going on, but it manages to transform a boxy space into an attractive dinner spot.

warm-dates-and-kale-saladWarm date and kale salad

Appetisers were served sharing style, with plate after plate of colourful salads. The sweetness of the gooey dates in the warm date and kale salad (Dhs44) contrasted deliciously with the saltiness of the Syrian string cheese and crunch of walnuts, making it a winning dish. The signature halawa salad (Dhs47) was a sugary step too far though; the heavy helping of sweet, nutty dressing along with the caramelised nuts overpowered any freshness from the greens. Fortunately it was saved by the juicy, tender and authentic meat kebbeh (Dhs46).

Siraj's-Signature-Halawa-SaladThe halawa salad 

The menu raises the question how ‘Emirati’ the dishes really are: there’s veal from Canada, fine Australian Wagyu steaks and Norwegian sea bass. Regardless, it works. The generous serving of veal chop (Dhs199) was light and delicious with the right amount of fat. Make sure to leave room for a few mouthfuls of the date crème brûlée (Dhs64). An Emirati twist on a French classic, breaking through the thick caramel reveals the sweet flavours of the date syrup-infused custard beneath.

siraj-dining-roomThe dining room is a highlight (and very gold) 

Siraj can’t (and doesn’t) claim to be strictly Emirati. Rather, it’s a modern interpretation of UAE and Levant flavours with a touch of artistic licence but, still, it’s perfectly placed to introduce Dubai foodies and tourists alike to something a little more traditional – even if it doesn’t have those stunning fountain views.

Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, Dubai, daily noon until 1am. Tel: (04) 5136207. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall.


Food: B

Atmosphere: Family friendly & casual     

Price: Dhs250 to Dhs749 for two