Here are 11 under-hyped and often overlooked restaurants that you need to put on your radar…

In a city as diverse as Dubai, it’s no surprise we have some pretty impressive restaurants (some of the best in the world, actually). But the spotlight giveth, and the spotlight taketh away, and there are a whole lot of great restaurants that don’t get a tonne of spotlight. Well, consider us their hype man – whether they’re buried within a nondescript building or stand in the shadow of their more popular big brother, here are 11 severely under-hyped and often overlooked restaurants – according to Dubai’s chefs, experts and critics – that you need to put on your radar.

Falafel Sultan, Deira

As recommended by: Alexander Stumpf, co-founder of BB Social Dining and Soule Soups
“Unless guided by a local or people who grew up here, you would never know about Falafel Sultan, deep in the heart of Deira.  For me, it’s the best falafel in town. They have a recipe they just won’t give away. The falafel is crunchy on the outside, melting on the inside, with a beautiful green colour.”

Dibba Bay, Fishing Harbour 2

As recommended by: Samantha Wood founder of impartial restaurant review website,, and curator of dining experiences
“Dubai has been calling out for a casual oyster shack for years, and, thankfully, now we have just that. The Fishing Harbour 2 complex, sandwiched between Kite Beach and Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, houses not only any oyster shack, but one dedicated to locally farmed bi-valve molluscs from the UAE’s eastern coast of Dibba Bay. Plump and meaty Dibba Bay oyster no 3s, shucked to order. A compact menu also boasts organic smoked salmon, local soft cheeses, bruschetta and even caviar. Plus, a side of sea breeze. If it’s too steamy over the summer, Dibba Bay offers delivery or pick-up.”

Maisan15, Barsha South

As recommended by: Troy Payne chef at The Pangolin
“My answer is Maisan15. It’s a restaurant, café, gallery, garden and library all rolled into one, and a truly underrated restaurant and experience that is our go to place for a meal, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in between. Owner and artist Rami Farook together with chef Rita Soueidan have created a little slice of paradise, full of calming creativity and comfort, from the cosy welcoming booths, open kitchen, coffee bar, art, music and covered garden courtyard – everything has been put together wonderfully. Then there is the food. Rita and the team are consistently putting together thoughtful, creative and damn tasty dishes. Add to that, always being greeted with a smile and a wave goodbye when you leave. Not much else you could ask for. Thank you for being in Dubai Maisan15, a hidden gem that shines and deserves to light up many more people’s days.”

The Little Bali, Jumeirah Lakes Towers

As recommended by: Reif Othman, chef-owner, Reif Japanese Kushiyaki
“JLT is my go-to destination when I am craving comfort food with my family. The Little Bali in particular, as Indonesian cuisine is hugely under-represented here in Dubai, which is a real shame. It also has some similarities to the cooking of my motherland, Singapore. A simple and casual joint. Quality is always on point and consistent. And if offers value for money.”

Mama’esh, Al Manara

As recommended by: Sandy Hayek, General Manager at Time Out Market Dubai
“Outside of the Market, one of my favourite places to dine is Mama’esh. I have so much love for this place, especially the Al Manara branch. The warm and welcoming villa has such a relaxed setting, and it serves some of the best Middle Eastern food. It is simply unpretentious, delicious and always consistent and my to-go to for comfort food. Whenever I have visitors in town I take them his for a ‘local’ authentic experience and it never disappoints. The za’atar manakish topped with tomatoes, onion and fresh green zaatar is probably one of my Top 3 constant cravings.”

Calicut Paragon, Al Karama

As recommended by: Gilles Bosquet, group corporate executive chef at La Cantine du Faubourg, Twiggy, Ninive Dubai, Lana Lusa, and Mimikakushi
“I always have a place in my heart of Calicut Paragon. It’s a very casual restaurant that shines a light predominantly on south Indian food with a focus on seafood and vegetarian options. I love it because the food brings people together on many different levels. I believe you can find true love in their food.”

Rawabi AlSham, Al Barsha

As recommended by: Hattem Mattar, pitmaster and owner of The Mattar Farm
“Deep in the heart of Barsha, beneath a nondescript low-rise building lies one of Dubai’s largest diamonds in the rough. Rawabi AlSham is a Syrian restaurant that has its roots and its fame from Sharjah. Their food across the board is executed flawlessly. Their bakery brings piping hot bread for you to dip in a myriad of mezze that show the difference between Lebanese and Syrian cuisine. Their claypots have meats hidden beneath rich tomato stews and veggies dishes to boot. There’s also a manakeesh/muajinat portion of the menu with pomegranate-soaked beef in fresh bread. It’s always busy with all nationalities welcome, and all leaving with a smile on their face. We eat there regularly.”

Shri Krishna Bhavan, Al Karama

As recommended by: Himanshu Saini, What’s On Chef of the Year 2020 and chef at Tresind and Tresind Studio

“In my opinion, Shri Krishna Bhavan is hugely underrated for its south Indian vegetarian food. A southern India breakfast is my favourite meal, and I could easily have it for lunch and dinner, too. I was on a hunt for years to find something like this restaurant. This restaurant is almost always busy and you can tell that the food is cooked fresh everyday. The sambhar (lentil stew), is so flavorful and balanced that I believe it’s one of the best in the city. The service is quick and food is great. I feel sad to see it underpriced.”

Flooka, Dubai Marine Beach Club

As recommended by: Stasha Toncev, owner of 21grams
“My recommendation is an olden-goldie that’s been here for a while, but I think it’s unfortunately slipped under the Dubai radar. Flooka is my go-to place for alfresco dining with friends, perfect Levantine flavours and lazy afternoon vibes. And their fresh, warm bread. Pair it with their hummus with avocado, roca zaatar salad and shrimp provenciale and it’s the perfect summer treat. They are licensed, too.”

Hyu Korean Restaurant, Jumeirah Lakes Towers

As recommended by: Domenico Santagada, head chef of Alici
“For me, Hyu is as authentic as it gets. The friendly staff, warm and cosy atmosphere paired with traditional flavours of Korea that make Hyu one of Dubai’s hidden gems. The owner, Annie, is the embodiment of all these factors with her genuine hospitality. A few dishes that need to be mentioned are the undeniably delicious BBQ short ribs (yangnyum galbi) with kimchi as well as the ttukbokki (stir fried rice cake).  Hyu is a spot that shouldn’t be overlooked and that never disappoints.”

Lana Lusa, Wasl 51

As recommended by: Laura Coughlin, head of content – What’s On
“La Cantine Group – the umbrella brand known for Twiggy, La Cantine du Faubourg and Mimikakushi, to name three – is definitely a power player in the Dubai food scene. But somehow, their coastal Portuguese concept, Lana Lusa, oft flies under the radar not receiving nearly enough props. Maybe thoughts of a heart-warming cod pie baked until golden brown, mouthwatering Portuguese custard tarts, and ridiculously pretty decor will remind everyone to go ahead and give it a whirl.”

Images: Instagram/ Jade Wills Photography
Hero image (left to right): Dibba Bay, Maisan15, Mama’esh