MENA 50 Best 2023: The UAE restaurants that made the cut
Orfali Bros Bistro in Dubai is named MENA’s 50 Best Restaurant 2023…
The second Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony took place tonight, Monday January 30, at Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers.
Over the past few months, a secret cabal of the region’s most informed foodies, have been posting their votes on the restaurants they think deserve to be known as the MENA’s best.
So, *drum roll please* here are the UAE restaurants that made the cut.
49: Hakkasan Abu Dhabi
Returning a little further down the list than in 2022 when it was recognised as number 25 is Hakkasan Abu Dhabi. The newly crowned One Michelin Star restaurant is found at Emirates Palace, and plates up artful servings of dim sum, seafood, spice and other food fire, often based on ancient Chinese recipes.
A new entry for the 2023 list, chef Kelvin Cheung’s global culinary influence and personal stories provide the backdrop to a creative menu at his first Dubai restaurant, Jun’s. Coupled with stunning interiors and a sleek setting on Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, the nostalgic narrative that comes with each dish chef Kelvin presents gives Jun’s an intimacy that is rarely offered in Dubai.
43: Zuma Abu Dhabi
New for 2023, Zuma Abu Dhabi joins sister restaurant Zuma Dubai in the MENA 50 Best Restaurant list, coming in at number 43. A restaurant that needs no introduction, this upscale ode to Japanese izakaya’s is one of Abu Dhabi’s most covetous fine-dining restaurants.
35: 11 Woodfire
Singaporean chef-owner Akmal Anuar transformed a large villa in Jumeirah 1 into his One Michelin Star restaurant, 11 Woodfire, a contemporary eatery specialising in open-fire cooking. Entering the MENA 50 Best Restaurant list at a confident number 35, the restaurant offers a global variety of vegetables, seafood and meats grilled to perfection over oak, hickory or hay.
33: Coya Abu Dhabi
Peruvian-inspired plates and great views across the water at Al Maryal Island, Coya Abu Dhabi has been a highlight on the Abu Dhabi dining scene since 2017. Coya Abu Dhabi improves its position by one place, climbing from 34 in 2022 to 33 in 2023.
28: Coya Dubai
Five places above its Abu Dhabi sister restaurant is Coya Dubai. Founded in London’s Mayfair, this vibrant hotspot serves as a restaurant, pisco bar and a private members’ club in the Four Seasons Restaurant Village.
The decadent dining experience at Bulgari’s nine-seater restaurant has been recognised as number 26 on the MENA 50 Best Restaurant list for 2023, an impressive jump from number 44 in 2022. The intimate but impactful dining room comes with stunning Dubai skyline views, and guests enjoy an omakase-tailored experience from sushi master Masahiro Sugiyama, a sixth generation sushi master.
21: LPM Dubai
A stalwart restaurant on DIFC’s dining scene, LPM Dubai refuses to go out of fashion. Tried and tested recipes and staff that make you feel special provide the backdrop to a Dubai dining expereince that keeps getting better.
This gorgeous Greek Mediterranean restaurant in DIFC is consistently recognised as one of Dubai’s finest establishments. Dropping seven places this year from 10th to 17th, Gaia is the brainchild of charismatic local chef Izu Ani.
Last year’s recipient of the Sustainable Restaurant Award 2022, Lowe climbs 7 places from 22 last year to number 15 in 2023. Applying an experimental approach to the main menu, the dishes pack a culinary punch, while still being sustainably driven.
13: Zuma Dubai
Zuma has become a true dining institution in Dubai, paving the way for DIFC’s dining scene to evolve in a way unlike any other foodie enclave of the city. Making the list alongside its sister restaurant in Abu Dhabi, Zuma’s fine Japanese fare is in a different league. It drops 11 places from the number two spot in 2022.
11. Reif Kushiyaki
Known in equal measure for its legendary Wagyu katsu sando and the local legend at the helm, Reif Japanese Kushiyaki has drawn foodies to Dar Wasl Mall since it opened. Inventive plates and playful Japanese dishes in an intimate, casual setting make this one of the best restaurants in Dubai. Reif Kushiyaki climbs 5 places to number 11 in 2023.
A new entry at Number 10, foodies across Dubai adore Moonrise – and for good reason. The almost enitrely self-taught chef Solemann Haddad is just 26 years old, and was recognised with the 2022 Michelin Dubai Young Chef Award. At Moonrise, guests enjoy chef Solemann’s love letter to his favourite parts of growing up in the UAE. The grilled cheese might just be Dubai’s finest dish.
Chef Neha Mishra’s restaurant Kinoya was recognised as the one to watch at the inaugural MENA 50 Best Restaurants list in 2022. A sold out supper club that turned into a permanent restaurant in 2021, ramen is the star of the show at this cosy spot in The Greens.
Last year’s number one, 3 Fils drops to number 5 in the MENA 50 Best Restuarants list for 2023. 3Fils first opened in 2016 in Jumeirah Fishing Harbour, and quickly developed a loyal following, despite its petite size. The year after opening, it was recognised as Indie Restaurant of the Year at the What’s On Dubai Awards 2017. It’s an independently owned, unflashy, unlicensed, super-casual, no-reservations joint that also happens to serve delicious food.
This fish-focused restaurant inside a functioning aquarium catapults onto the list for the first time to be named the Highest New Entry Award. The ingenuity of chef Grégoire Berger, along with a narrative approach to reimagining French cuisine, has seen Ossiano not only debut on this list at number 3, but also snap up a Michelin Star in the last twelve months. Ossiano has the trifecta of luxurious setting, complete with sideshow of 65,000 marine life passing by; unrivalled hospitality that comes from years of expert training; and exquisite presentation of seafood specialities that impresses time and again.
2. Tresind Studio
Chef Himanshu Saini, and his restaurant, is – and will always be – a force to be reckoned with. On the rooftop of Nakheel Mall, this restaurant is an intimate dining experience, helmed by a humble chef with genius ambition. His offering is an ever-evolving menu that elevates modern Indian cuisine into the stratosphere. Tresind Studio is the recipient of the Restaurant of the Year at the What’s On Awards Dubai 2022, a coveted Michelin Star in June 2022 and now the MENA 50 Best Restaurants coveted number two spot.
1. Orfali Bros Bistro
Every flavour, ingredient and technique plays a special part in the story at this restaurant, which is run by a formidable trio of talented brothers. This fabulous bistro in Wasl 51 has found the perfect balance of respecting tradition while pushing boundaries. What you get at Orfali Bros Bistro, apart from a happy belly of creative dishes, is the sense that this really is a passion project by three men who love what they do. Nice people. Good price. Great food. Six words that tell you all you need to know.
Alongside the restaurant awards, UAE chefs and personalities scooped up some individual awards on the night.
Announced back in December 2022, Salam Dakkak, the chef and owner of Dubai’s Levantine restaurant Bait Maryam, has been named by World’s 50 Best as the Middle East & North Africa’s (MENA) best female chef of 2023. The Michelin Guide listed restaurant is known for its authentic flavours and home-style cooking and has won a legion of fans since opening in JLT in 2017.
You can see the full list here.