New restaurants in Dubai: 10 top options to try

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Bored of your usual hot spots? Mix it up with a trip to one of these new Dubai restaurants…

As much as we love our favourite foodie spots and watering holes (you can check out our 2018 award winning venues right here), we’re also all about trying something new.

Which is why we’ve rounded up our top 10 new restaurants in Dubai to try (bookmark this as we’ll keep updating it).

From international exports from New York to homegrown restaurants that are truly top notch, these new additions to the foodie scene all opened in the last few months and are well worth a visit…

1. Alici

Amalfi coast-inspired restaurant Alici is located on the waterfront of Bluewaters island, and walking inside feels like stepping into a cosy family-run trattoria on the Italian coast. Everything inside Alici – which means anchovy in Italian – is beautiful. Contemporary cream interiors are blissfully interrupted by art and pottery, most of which has been hand painted by ‘The Anchovy Man’, famed in Italy for his fish paintings. The two-storey restaurant is split into 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. It’s the only reminder you’ll get that you haven’t left Dubai for the glittering waters of the southern Italian coast. The menu is extensive but not overbearing, and a friendly waiter guides us through it, confidently recommending his favourite dishes while ensuring we don’t over order. Food is flawless, service is engaging without being obtrusive, and while dishes aren’t cheap – they’re not overly expensive either. We’re calling it, Alici is a strong contender for Dubai’s best new restaurant.

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

2. Lowe

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. 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

3. Netsu

On entering Netsu, a Japanese offering from the just-open Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai, something bizarre is happening. Namely: no one is looking at their phones. Everyone’s heads are turned instead towards the Warayaki grill slap-bang in the middle of the restaurant, where 900°C flames – as a waiter will casually inform you, should you get too close  – 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 fishes to come. Enthusiastic waiters (plus a sake sommelier) are on hand to advise on the somewhat extensive menu, comprised of various small, hot and cold dishes, sushi and sashimi, tempura, maki rolls, Netsu specials… you get the idea. There’s a lot of choice. Netsu is pricey, but the ambience – plus dedication to traditional cooking styles – renders it a must-go for an intimate evening.

Netsu, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai, 7pm to late, daily. Tel: (04) 7772232. mandarinoriental.com/dubai

4. Torno Subito

A certain level of expectation comes with any restaurant opening from a celebrity chef. But, when it’s the first restaurant outside of Italy from Massimo Bottura, the man behind world number one restaurant Osteria Francescana, the expectation is even higher. Inside Torno Subito serves as an ode to Bottura’s memories and childhood. Elements of Massimo’s playful side are everywhere. Modern, neutral colours and furnishings are forgone in favour of bold hues of green, yellow, pink, blue and red, mismatched together with monochrome stripes that give the restaurant a retro, Italian-Riviera feel. The menu is split into six simple sections: Starters, Pasta (available in medium and large portions), Main Courses, Sides, Pizza and Dessert, all available for lunch and dinner. Many of the staff have come from Massimo’s three-Michelin star Osteria Francescana in Modena, and talk animatedly and knowledgeably about the menu, which is a far more casual offering than its famous sister in Modena. Torno Subito may not be Osteria Francescana, but nor does it want to be. It’s certainly up there with some of the tastiest Italian dishes we’ve had in Dubai, and it certainly delivers on its promise of laid back, Italian Riviera-style dining.

Torno Subito, W Dubai – The Palm, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, daily 12pm to 3pm and 7pm to 11pm. Tel: (04) 245 5555. marriott.com

5. Taverna Greek Kitchen

Placed in the heart of Madinat Jumeirah, facing the iconic waterways is the new home-grown concept, Taverna Greek Kitchen. Neighboured by Trader Vic’s, the locale is buzzing. Taverna’s alfresco tables are placed in a hub of atmosphere, reminiscent of that you would find on a European strip. Stepping inside, the low ceiling, wooden beams and mosaicked thick brick walls surround you to give the sensation of an old country cellar. The rustic décor is drawn together with wood, stone and cotton to create a neutral colour palette throughout. A fresh fish display is brimming with sea bass, red snapper and rock fish; all of which can be grilled on the wood-fired grill, roasted or salt-baked with lemon oil. While modern Greek music plays in the background, waiters, bar staff and chefs can be seen dancing, singing and making each other laugh the entire night, providing a genuinely uplifting atmosphere.

Taverna Greek Kitchen, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Sun to Wed noon to midnight, Thur to Sat noon to 1am. Tel: (04) 589 5665. tavernagreek.ae

6. Opa

Greek restaurant Opa certainly looks the part. It’s accessed through a private lift on the side of the Fairmont hotel, so it feels separate, almost like you’re stepping into a Greek hideaway. Once you walk out of the elevator, there’s a lush Santorini vibe. The vast reception area is an oasis of leafy foliage and colourful florals, and as we approach the reception desk, diners are lining up to snap a selfie with the stunning backdrop. The authentic interiors continue as we’re led into the restaurant, which is a cosy whitewashed space, with bright blue accents and vibrant pink florals creeping along the walls. It’s a well laid-out space, with private booths and larger tables in the centre, designed for big groups enjoying Greek feasts as they would in the homeland. The menu is split simply into dips, cold starters, salads, hot starters, Greek-style pizzas and mains, with all dishes designed to share. You’ll want to stick around until later in the evening for some brilliant – and unique – live entertainment. Come 9.30pm, the serving staff transform into a line of Zorba dancers, who dance their way around the restaurant, making it almost impossible not to get up and join in, My Big Fat Greek Wedding style. Each table is also given a plate per person, which they’re invited to smash on the floor on cue – that’s one way to save washing up, we suppose.

Opa, Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, daily 7pm to 1am. Tel (04) 3570557. facebook.com/OpaDubai

7. Puerto 99

Puerto 99 is a Mexican seafood restaurant, but you won’t find a menu full of burritos and tex-mex here. With a rich heritage and Hispanic influences, the team behind it want to show Dubai the real Mexican cuisine, not the commercialised version we see so often. The love and energy that has gone into creating Puerto 99 can be felt immediately, through the staff, the interiors and most of all, the food. Every member of the kitchen team is from Mexico, they use authentic methods and ingredients and you can taste the difference.A highlight from the menu has to be the seafood cocktail, a bowl of mixed fresh fish including prawns and octopus is mixed with tomato, lime and a hint of chili to give a powerful dish. Add on a tortilla with fresh guac, and you have a perfect appetiser to prepare your palette. With such a passionate, knowledgable team behind the concept, we have no doubt that Puerto 99 will be a raging success.

Puerto 99, Bluewaters, off JBR, 12.30pm to 1.30am Sat-Mon & Wed, noon to 3am, Tues, Thurs & Fri. Tel: (04) 557 6627. @puerto99_dubai

8. Marea

Marea Dubai is the brand-new addition to Dubai International Financial Centre’s repertoire of exclusive venues. Having spent a decade at the top of its game in New York, Marea has earned two Michelin stars and been voted as one of the best Italian restaurants in Manhattan. Inside you’ll find space for 125 guests on the upper floor, with a luxurious leather seating and neat white tables angled around the space. There’s a chic cocktail bar as you walk in, with a wall of amber art glowing from behind and a row of plush blue velvet bar stalls for guests to enjoy a drink before their meal. Downstairs is a more expansive bar area, with low, intimate seating for 65 and a more metropolitan vibe, perfect for live music which will apparently come at a later stage. The first class food is certainly the restaurant’s pull, but we’ll see how the venue fares against the picky DIFC after-work drinks crowd. Not yet a thriving hotspot, Marea Dubai has the potential to reach the status of its American counterpart, only by playing its card right.

Marea, DIFC Gate Village 7, daily 12pm to 3pm then Sat to Tues 7pm to 1am, Weds & Thurs 7pm to 3am and Fridays 7pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 583 6366. marea.ae

9. Zhen Wei

Nestled next door to the bold and brash Hell’s Kitchen in Caesars Palace, is the understated pan-Asian restaurant, Zhen Wei. Access is via the hotel’s outdoor pool club Neptune, with rows of back-lit palm trees guiding the way. We’re greeted with a warm, welcoming smile by the head hostess and escorted to a table next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooking neighbouring beach club, Cove Beach. The interiors mix traditional oriental styles with a contemporary flair. Every detail and design has been carefully thought out, from the open industrial-style kitchen right down to the gold-tipped chopsticks. The menu is split into small, large and grand plates, as well as a hefty selection of dim sum. The grand plates are for two to four people and feature dishes such as whole Beijing Duck (Dhs140) and kung pao lobster (Dhs495).A final note about the staff, who were truly excellent. Able to make (spot on) recommendations, and seamlessly replace plates and cutlery without disturbing the meal, they were both present and absent in all the right ways. Zhen Wei’s is an excellent addition to Dubai’s restaurant scene and proof that the city does have room for one more high-end pan-Asian restaurant. In fact, in terms of quality, service and location, we’d say it offers the best value in town.

Zhen Wei, Caesars Bluewaters Dubai, daily noon to 3.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm. Tel: (04) 5566666. caesars.com

10. Kizmet

We’re not going to lie to you: Kizmet has the kind of globe-trotting menu that normally fills us with dread. How can a kitchen pull off Mexican tostadas and Middle Eastern-spiced lamb alongside pizzas and pierogi? Generally, not well. But this is Dubai, a multicultural mixing pot if ever there was one, and so this intrepid selection of soul-food favourites from around the world not only works – it excels. Like the waitstaff who are switched-on, seasoned professionals, the sharing menu is packed with bravado, with the smarts to back it up. Overlooking the plaza at Dubai Opera, Kizmet is perfectly positioned for pre- and post-show dining, with a surprisingly affordable bill. But when the theatre isn’t in full swing, it’s lacking foot traffic. It takes some seeking, but those who do chance upon Kizmet (meaning ‘fate’) will be richly rewarded.

Kizmet, Dubai Opera, Sat to Wed noon to 1am, Thur and Fri noon to 2am. Tel: (04) 3888717. kizmetrestaurant.com

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