Phil Rosenthal’s Dubai discovery is a touching tribute to a city that’s so much more than surface level…

It gets off to a shaky start. In the first clip of Somebody Feed Phil‘s Dubai episode, which just landed on Netflix, star Phil Rosenthal drops one of the world’s most expensive burger – a cheeseburger encased in 24 carat gold and served at At.mosphere on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa – on the floor.

But what follows from there, is a diverse and compelling of not only the city’s food scene, but the people behind it.

Dubai’s portrayal in mainstream media is typically rather one dimensional. The flashy, blingy side to the city always seems to be the route to go down for TV shows depicting Dubai. But this episode of Somebody Feed Phil, the fifth episode of the seventh series that takes the energetic American TV producer and creator all over the globe in his quest to discover the world’s best dishes, provides a refreshing take on what Dubai is really like.

In what would be many foodies dream set-up, Phil gets a private dining experience at Wasl 51’s multi award-winning Orfali Bros, with CEO and chef extraordinaire Mohamed Orfali. One third of the unstoppable Orfali Bros trio, the Syrian chef serves up his signature globally-inspired ‘bistronomy’ fare, including what Phil describes as ‘the best burger ever’ (it’s Dhs89, and on their regular a la carte menu).

While it would be easy for Phil to stick to the city’s well-trodden areas and best-known eateries, he instead offers a taste of Dubai’s true diversity, while still shining a light on the authentic and traditional. He tucks into spicy aloo methi paratha at Nihal’s, served by the restaurant’s beaming owner, in an unassuming corner of Old Dubai. He dines on a traditional Emirati chicken saloona and lamb machboos, the latter a recipe of owner Ali’s mother, in Al Fahidi’s beloved Arabian Teahouse. He feasts (almost) like the Bedouins would have in the desert, on the unfussy flavours of Arabic lamb madfoon – albeit cooked by the culinary masters of Dubai’s Nara desert escape under the camp’s twinkling lights. And on a tour of Al Ras with Frying Pan Adventures, one of the comedic highlights is watching Phil sample his first taste of camel milk chocolate.

Of course he dabbles with Dubai’s dazzling fine dining scene, too. The American foodie describes Ossiano as ‘mesmerising’ in conversation with its executive chef, Gregoire Berger, as the pair dine on a foie gras candles and sea urchin with kimchi ice cream.

One of the best moments in the show comes when Phil dines at Bait Maryam, the brainchild of chef Salam Dakkar, who serves up Levantine cuisine in a restaurant named after her mother. Watching these scenes, I couldn’t help but feel emotional. The Palestinian chef cooks in front of Phil with her hands, talking him through the spices and techniques in a way that makes you feel her passion and emotion even through the TV screen. But it’s something bigger than that. The way she talks about achieving her ambitions and dreams in Dubai is something that resonates with so many that have come here.

Towards the end of the episode, its tour guide Arva Ahmed, of Frying Pan Adventures, who sums up Dubai so well when talking to Phil about why people choose to move here: “It was the land – and continues to be the land – of opportunity for many people.”

Watch the episode now on Netflix

Lead image: Netflix