15 reasonably priced Dubai restaurants that scream date night
Dinner, drinks, vibes at less than Dhs500 for two…
Dubai’s dining scene is really amongst the best in the world right now, steadily evolving through the endeavours of celebrity chefs and homegrown kitchen heroes, each pushing the boundaries of what can be done with locally-sourced ingredients, multi-course menus, and sustainable, farm-to-table foam. But these heavy-weight experiences can come with heavy-weight bills. There is a money-clip flip side though, it’s incredibly simple to seek out and secure more-than-accessibly priced examples of stunning street food from all over the globe. But where do you go if you want a little of both worlds? Great food and service, fancy tablecloths, vibes, bread baskets, maybe a nice view, just zero need to look at remortgaging options. This is our pick of Dubai’s best places to dine out, where you can easily get a meal with drinks, for less than Dhs500 per couple.
Great dinners out that won’t break the bank.
When you say “from the team that brought you Tresind, Carnival and Avatara” there are certain assumptions that get attached to that statement. One is that the cuisine will likely be served with an astounding visual component; it will feature flavourful modern interpretations of classic Indian dishes; be set in gorgeously appointed interiors; and that there may be a bit of a spicy price tag for the experience. All of the above is true for Aamara, except for the pricing, and that the kitchen wizardry also incorporates some more local, Middle Eastern flexes. You can pick up the helmsman’s palate playlist (chef’s table) from just Dhs245 per head, which leaves a little wiggle room for drinks – but we’re more than happy hitting the a la carte for coconut prawn curry. Bonus tip for daytime diners: the five-course business lunch is just Dhs116.
Aamara, Voco Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road, Tel: (0)52 573 5723. aamara.ae
BB Social Dining
Three hot facts that make this particular ha-BB worth considering for your well-earned date night: the homegrown DIFC hot spot has been frequented by Dubai royalty on more than one occasion; BB Social Dining offers a blend of fine and more casual dining, and some of its dishes are genuine gastronomic icons of the Dubai scene; finally – the menu is (mostly) divided into taxonomical categories under the letter B – think baos, bites, and BBQ (no bears, beats or Battlestar Galacticas sadly). If you’re in the mood for sharing, we’d counsel knocking your chopsticks up against the prawn and lobster hargow (Dhs67); the original and still classy, crispy sprouts (Dhs49) – don’t argue just prepare to pull a 180º on your brussells prejudice; impossibly moreish tuna crispy rice (Dhs105); scallop carpaccio (Dhs65); truffle chicken skewers (Dhs65); and if you can make room, the soft shell crab bao is the Gram feed belle, but flavour fans know it’s all about the crispy duck bao (Dhs69).
Gate Village 8, DIFC, Sun to Wed midday to midnight, Thu midday to 1am, Fri and Sat midday to 2am. Tel: (0)4 407 4444 @bbdifc
If hearty Italian classics a la nonna is what you’re looking for in a date night, then make yourself a reservation at Fi’lia. Pronto. The restaurant is perched on the 70th floor of SLS Dubai, and the folia-filled terrace boasts some incredible views of the Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai. The menu celebrates multi-generational Italian cooking, with dishes inspired by family recipes passed on from generation to generation. Think rustic homemade foccacia, twirl-able ribbons of pasta and fresh fish served sharing style.
Fi’lia, SLS Dubai, Downtown Dubai, 12pm to 12am daily. Tel: (0)4 607 0770, sbe.com
Conceived by the charismatic pairing of Master Chef Jitin Joshi and sommelier-in-chief Magandeep Singh, The Crossing’s tasting menu puts on an incredible demonstration of craft, journeying, creativity, thoughtfulness, and culinary magic. The palate pixels of the four-course, 12-dish carnival of colour include a trio of creative crunchy chaat plates, naga chilli crab, gunpowder prawn, salmon tikka, lamb chop and mutton pulav. The price to take this joy ride around the highlands of South Asian food – just Dhs195 (wine pairing packages from Dhs145). You can find similar joy in the a la carte section too (it’s all about the vindaloo lamb chops). Excitingly, The Crossing’s has just undergone a pretty dramatic international expansion, with an outpost in Paris. What a flex.
The H Dubai, WTC Area, Mon to Sun midday to 1am, Dhs195 per person. Tel: (0)4 491 9695, @thecrossingdubai
Kinoya started as a passion project supper club, sired by the keen culinary mind of Chef Neha Mishra. It says a lot about a business when the leap from invite-only IYKYKs to hostess-fronted, hot-ticket eateries just looks like manifest destiny. Bricks and mortar Kinoya exploded onto the notoriously sticky ramen circuit of Dubai, applauded for its authentic Japanese noodle soup among other delights (go on a Friday and make sure you get the spicy duck special ramen, alongside the beef gyoza), hosted in a space with traditional Shoji paper walls that feels every bit the Tokoyo izakaya. The private dining rooms have a no-shoes policy, you’ll probably have to stoop down to get in one and then perform entry-level gymnastics to sink your legs into the lowered floor seating. But nothing short of cherry blossom blizzard could enhance the Rising Sun spirit. Kinoya was recently ranked in seventh place on the MENA 50 Best Restaurants list, was featured in the Bib Gourmand (good food at affordable prices) section of the Michelin Guide and is now heading to London, opening inside the luxury department store Harrods next year.
The Onyx Tower, The Greens Tue to Sun 12pm to 1am, Mon closed, Tel: (0)4 220 2920, kinoya.ae
Lola Taberna Española
One hack for finding the best examples of a particular cuisine in a cosmopolitan city – do a quick survey of friends from that particular country, about where they go when they want a taste of home. And if you’re talking about Spanish food, you’re going to hear ‘Lola Taberna’ a lot. Here the mains, from Spain are priced on an even plane (we gusta mucho the chicken and green bean paella) – and the authentic tapas items are too (smash the huevos rotos); there are flamenco dancing nights; a breezy terrace; real jamon Iberico; sangria no-scoping; and take this as a reminder, if you both order the gambas al ajilo – you’ll both smell like garlic. Love is mutually assured destruction.
Tryp by Wyndham Dubai, Barsha Height, Sun to Thur 5pm to 1am, Fri and Sat 1pm to 2am. Tel: (0)4 2476688. @lolataberna
Couqley French Bistro and Bar
This grand dame of the Dubai dining scene will never go out of fashion. Forget the Roman Empire, there’s barely a week (day, minute) that goes by where we don’t think about their butterflied tenderloin steak frites robed in the unnecessarily lascivious signature sauce. Shadows and dust Maximus. And it’s clear we’re not alone, the dining area rarely features anything less than a vibrant hum of contented date-nighters, swirling Bordeaux and fizzing with polished rizz. Special mention goes out to their always-on moules (mussels) frites (chips) deal – Dhs149, but on Mondays the menu gets beefed up with a steak and chips combo, plus a bottle of wine at Dhs349 for two. It’s also available at the new(ish) Downtown Pullman Hotel location too.
Couqley, JLT Cluster A, Dubai, daily midday to 1am. couqley.ae
If your experience of Thai food has been limited to food colouring laced curry, tom yum instant ramen, or packets of sweet chilli crisps – you owe it to the land of smiles, to make a reparation trip to Cafe Isan. You can pick up deeply authentic, insanely aromatic versions of the Thai classics such as green curry (Dhs43), pad Thai (Dhs42), papaya salad (Dhs37), and jumbo spring rolls (Dhs34). But there’s more. Trek deeper into the South-East Asian heartlands with Chef New’s off-piste specials, fusion dishes, and less conventional concoctions.
Level 1, Armada Avenue Hotel, Cluster P, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Dubai. Sunday to Thursday 12pm to 12am, Friday and Saturday 12pm to 2am. Tel:(0)58-5291003.
Not Only Fish
One thing I’ve learned from having two young kids is that when they offer oddly specific denials, entirely unprompted, (“I didn’t bury the TV remote in the cat litter”) they’re usually false. But we’ve checked this restaurant out, and can confirm it does serve more than fish. Found in JLT, this Pan Asian but predominantly Japanese flavoured eatery has a loyal following built on its unfussy menu that serves *checks notes* not only fish. Although the sushi and tataki do make a poissonate and individual plea for you to visit. As with many Dubai restaurants, sharing is encouraged if not explicitly engineered by the menu. Find highlights in the duck katsu (Dhs85), crab tacos (Dhs80), cauliflower popcorn (Dhs30), tom yum seabass (Dhs150) and beef brisket which is part of their special set menu (Thu to Sat, from 7pm). The deal here includes three courses and unlimited beer, wine and prosecco for Dhs369 per couple.
Almas Tower, Jumeriah Lake Towers, open Sun to Wed midday to midnight, Thur to Sat midday to 2am. Tel: (0)4 554 0707 @not_only_fish.dxb
Mythos Urban Greek Eatery
The Mythos Odyssey is now two titans of Greek cuisine strong, with the original location still looming large in JLT and a newer outpost of the empire bossing City Walk’s C2. We’re focusing here on the 2.0. Ordering aggressively from their collection of more substantial signature dishes might push you beyond budget, but you can share treats like the suckling goat Kleftiko (Dhs295) and just about make the cut. But you’d be missing out on the little plates and dips – which are an epic in their own. Mythos’ taramasalata might be tricky to pronounce, even harder to spell, but its rewards are Homeric in their poetry.
City Walk. Sun to Thu, 12.30pm to 12am. Fri and Sat, 12.30pm to 1am. Tel:(0)4 225 3313. mythosdubai.com
From Russia (St Petersburg to be exact) with love, the award-winning DUO has officially landed in the Dubai desert. DUO is known for its reasonable prices, quality ingredients, delicious signature cocktails, and lively atmosphere. The menu blends modern European cuisine, with a slight touch of Asia. Chef Dmitry Blinov is bringing his 40 best dishes from DUO Band’s restaurants to the Dubai Hills outpost including the tuna ceviche (Dhs65), broccoli pate (Dhs35), and oxtail pie with taleggio (Dhs75).
Dubai Hills Business Park 4. Weekdays 12pm to 11pm, Weekends 12pm to 12am. @duo.uae
In with a shout of being one of Dubai’s most underrated dining experiences, Americana deserves a place on your revelling radar. The 1920s US art deco aesthetic is executed flawlessly, making you feel like you’re soiree-ing in an animated Edward Hopper painting. Their beautifully concise-but-mighty menu includes up-tempo fine dining small plates, as a proud flag-barer of Americana – you’ll find big old steaks, gourmet burgers (from Dhs78), a couple of home run-hitting pizzas (from Dhs95) and charcoal harissa chicken (Dhs125). I’m not a dessert man myself, and I have a severe nut allergy (the two might be related), but I’m told the Viennoise noisette (Dhs42) should rightly think highly of itself. Apt for a venue that sums up its chief deliverables as dinner, drinks and Tomfoolery.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Sun to Thu, midday to 1am, Fri and Sat, midday to 2am. Tel: (0)4 584 6475. @americanodubai
Also in the Madinat and worthy of date destination attention – is the big fat (only in the right places) Greek restau, Taverna. It really does whisper Ionian holiday vibes quite sweetly in your ear, partly because of the intelligently curated design touches but also because they source a lot of their premium produce from various regions across Greece. For those of Dionysian disposition, Eleusinian mysteries are uncorked in the Hellenic wine on tap, which you can order by the glass, carafe, bottle or magnum. We’d recommend ordering the small plates, to ensure you taste a good range of what’s on offer – selections such as tuna carpaccio (Dhs70), lamb souvlaki served with fries (Dhs90), gemista (stuffed peppers, Dhs98), moussaka (Dhs120), baby squid (Dhs58), skopelitiki cheese pie (Dhs70).
Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, weekdays, midday to midnight. Tel: (04) 589 5665. @tavernagreek.ae
We truly are spoiled for choice when it comes to Italian restaurants in Dubai, but some are far more worthy of our animated, appreciative hand gestures than others. One of our favourite examples, is the still relatively new ragazzo on the block, Cucina at Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. And it’s not joining the gang by grace of pizza/pasta alone (although the monthly pasta menu is an absolute essential study for the European carb-cabal) – there’s a rumbling Vesuvian vein of fire in its menu of authentic pan-Italian dishes. You can choose between sharing as well as solo portions on almost all the mains (our top picks are the braised goat (Dhs170 sharing), cartoccio sea bream (Dhs190 sharing), and grilled octopus (Dhs190 sharing)). You can find a Bacchanalian selection of wine and prosecco dispensed from taps on the wall (in addition to bottles), and there’s an on-site Gelateria, serving gelato – full of the flavours of Florence.
Marriott Resort, Palm West Beach, Palm Jumeirah Dubai, daily, 7am to 1am. Tel:(0)4 666 1408. cucinadubai.com