If you’ve not been to these, then you really need to go…

As another year in Dubai draws to a close, we’re reflecting on a year of change in the city’s restaurant industry. While we’ve said farewell to some brilliant restaurants, they’ve made room for some incredible new openings.

From seafood to Italian to Asian, these are the best new restaurant openings in Dubai in 2019.

1. Alici

Order: Capesante scottate (Dhs170)

Stepping inside Amalfi coast-inspired restaurant Alici, on Bluewaters, feels like stepping into a cosy family-run trattoria on the Italian coast. We love everything about Alici, which is why we awarded it newcomer of the year at the What’s On Awards 2019. The two-storey restaurant is split between an intimate restaurant space with a raw bar downstairs, and a livelier upstairs where you’ll find an inviting bar, private dining area and partially open-plan kitchen, where you can just see in to watch chefs at work as you pass by. Both floors open up to terraces, with the ground floor terrace lined with flowers native to the Amalfi Coast, and the upper outdoor area offering stunning views towards the twinkling Dubai Marina skyline. The menu is extensive but not overbearing, and every time we visit, we’d order the raw amberjack, fritto misto and capesante scottate – seared scallops with roasted cauliflower, mushroom and beef bacon. Food is flawless, service is engaging without being obtrusive, and while dishes aren’t cheap – they’re not overly expensive either. Book now – you won’t regret it.

Alici, Bluewaters, off JBR, Dubai Marina, daily noon to 3.30pm and 7pm to 11.30pm. Tel: (04) 2752577. alici.com

2. REIF Kushiyaki

Order: Sandchoku Wagyu Sando (Dhs145)

We’ve been big fans of chef Reif Othman since his days at the helm of Zuma, and have been consistently impressed by his culinary endeavors ever since. For his latest venture though, Othman has turned his back on big brands, lavish décor and sparkler shows in favour of an altogether simpler approach. His self-titled restaurant, Reif Kushiyaki, is a humble, 29-seater unlicensed Asian venue in Dar Wasl mall. As the name suggests, there’s a big focus on kushiyaki (traditional Japanese meat and poultry skewers) here, but you’re making a mistake if you don’t also make your way through the South-East Asian influences elsewhere on the menu from the ‘Snacks’ and ‘Star Dishes’ section. The undeniable highlight is the Sanchoku Wagyu Sando, which is essentially the tastiest sandwich we’ve eaten this year. Already an Instagram star in its own right, cuts of perfectly pink Wagyu are sandwiched between a punchy tonkatsu sauce and two slices of toast.

Dar Wasl Mall, Jumeirah, Sat to Wed noon to 11pm, Thur and Fri noon to midnight. Tel: (04) 3450761. reifkushiyaki.com

ALSO READ: Top 10 new restaurants in Dubai to try

3. Lowe

Order: House fries and aioli (Dhs15)

Unless you live or work in KOA Canvas, a cutting-edge development near Al Barari, you’re not just going to happen upon Lowe. This sleek new eatery takes some seeking – but those who do make the drive to Mohammed Bin Rashid Gardens are in for a treat. Helmed by chefs Jesse Blake and Kate Christou, who came up through the kitchen ranks in Australia and New Zealand, this all-day restaurant is a rare beast for Dubai: a laid-back ambience with whip-smart service, and a menu that’s accomplished, but still deliciously approachable. Jesse and Kate met while working at Melbourne dining icon Cumulus Inc., and that seasonal, produce-driven approach is writ large across their sharing menu. It might sound silly when the menu is filled with so many brilliant dishes, but their house fries are the real highlight of this gem of a restaurant. The chocolate and sunchoke dessert (Dhs57), is another highlight. Gather as many of your pals as you can for the trip to Lowe, because you’re going to want to taste it all.

Lowe, KOA Canvas, Wadi Al Safa 3, daily, 7am to 11.30am (8am on weekends), 12pm to 3.30pm, 5pm to 11pm. Tel: (04) 320 1890. lowe-dubai.com

4. Akira Back

Order: Tuna pizza (Dhs110)

A vortex-style entrance leads into Akira Back’s signature restaurant at W Dubai – The Palm. Inside, tables are split between cushy velvet booths set back against the wall and lower level tables that look out through floor-to-ceiling windows. If the weather permits, try the terrace. It’s got a sultry, LA rooftop vibe that Akira Back restaurants are synonymous for, with dim lighting interrupted by neon pink hues, a floating bar surrounded by water, and smooth house hits providing the perfect soundtrack to the setting. The views are stunning.  The restaurant’s slick sophistication extends to the menu. All dishes designed to share, it’s split into soup, cold and hot dishes, salads, signature rolls, robata, sushi and sashimi, mains and sides. It’s an extensive selection, and although we note some pan-Asian influences, it focusing mostly on Japanese cuisine. Akira’s signature tuna pizza is a standout dish, and there’s a veggie alternative too that’s just as impressive. Elsewhere on the menu, order the Horenzo shira AE (Dhs50). While spinach salad may not be an obvious choice, it’s a flavour sensation. With most dishes upwards of Dhs80, dining at Akira Back can be quite pricey. But for the stunning setting, sleek atmosphere and delicious dishes, it’s worth it. 

Akira Back, W Dubai – The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Sat to Thur 7pm to 12.30am, Fri 12.30pm to 4pm, 7pm to 12.30am. Tel: (04) 245 5555. marriott.com

5. Netsu

Order: Wagyu short rib (Dhs220)

We love the layout of Netsu, the Japanese steakhouse housed in the newly opened Mandarin Oriental Jumiera, Dubai. Upstairs, you’ll find a sleek lounge bar perfect for a pre-dinner drink, while downstairs, tables and chairs are cleverly laid out around the Warayaki grill slap-bang in the middle of the restaurant, where 900°C flames shoot two metres into the air. Traditionally a practice from the Kochi region of Japan, where fishermen roast their tuna over straw fires for maximum searing and a rare centre, the centerpiece sets the tone for some excellent meats and fish dishes. Londoners might know Ross Shonhan, the chef at the helm, from Bone Daddies or Flesh & Buns, and the chef has brought his talents here in an upmarket display of what he does best: Japanese-style cooking that’s super accessible.The Wagyu short rib (Dhs220) is a real standout. Marinated in just salt and pepper, it’s first vacuum packed in 70-degree water and then grilled simply with soy and sesame.    

Netsu, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai, 6.30pm to 11.30pm weekdays, 12.30pm to 4pm and 6.30pm to 11.30pm weekends. Tel: (04) 7772232. mandarinoriental.com/dubai

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Images: Supplied