A new dining guide for Dubai, plus musings on restaurant concepts

Zomato Dubai Dining GuideDubai; My passion and business of reviewing restaurants may be primarily online, but I still like to delve into print reviews and guides. There’s something reassuring about leafing through a book that my ipad’s Kindle reader will never replicate. If you think so too, you may like to check out a new dining guide book for Dubai launched by the talented yet humble folks at Zomato, a website dedicated to sharing diners’ opinions on restaurants. I should disclose that FooDiva provided some consultancy with impartial restaurant recommendations for this new insightful resource now on Dubai’s shelves – along with fellow food bloggers The Hedonista and Discover Spice.

In the first Zomato Connoisseur’s Guide to Eating Out in Dubai, 202 handpicked restaurants are grouped into 19 categories (20 would be too predictable, wouldn’t it) mainly according to occasion, but also cuisine and location. A 1 to 5 user rating is assigned for each outlet based on votes by what Zomato calls ‘Top Connoisseurs’ and ‘Super Foodies’ – in some cases food bloggers like us included, who are deemed trustworthy because of their genuine, informative reviews. Each restaurant shortlisted in the guide is accompanied by one of these online reviews, with the idea that we know a thing or two about what makes or breaks a dining experience.Zomato restaurant categories

Talking of which, the panel discussion I participated in at Zomato’s restaurant industry summit last week (along with the head honchos from Gaucho, Kcal, Sheikh & Shake and Idea Spice Design) where this guide was unwrapped, was exactly that, and developing restaurant concepts. Whilst researching discussion points for the latter, the most interesting aspect I always find is identifying global trends and gaps in the local market for new restaurant concepts, something I’ve blogged about before. So what are the biggest potentials in the restaurant industry right now in Dubai, apart from creating more home-grown concepts which has been discussed to death? Here’s a snapshot of the top five opportunities garnered from my insights and yours, my lovely readers, when I posed that question on my social media channels.

  • Fine dining Emirati cuisine – not just restricted to the odd café around town.
  • Immersive dining and underground supper clubs for paying customers – similar to Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet in Shanghai and Gingerline in London. Taking what Lime & Tonic is already doing one step further or one step under rather.
  • Pop-up restaurants and food trucks – coming soon I hear.
  • Casual sea-facing restaurants – Dubai has a fantastic shoreline but hardly any cafes and restaurants by the beach unless you go to a fancy hotel. We need more than Bu’Qtair.
  • Deli-style restaurants – to eat in, or take out a really good quality meal worthy of heating up at home.

The list could and will go on but I’ll save that for another post. What do you reckon? Any more to add?

The Zomato 2014 Connoisseur’s Guide To Eating Out in Dubai is priced at AED 50 and is available across all leading bookstores and supermarkets in the Emirate. Zomato handpicks some of FooDiva’s restaurant reviews for its website here.

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

P.S – for another blogger’s perspective on Zomato, check out IshitaUnblogged’s post.

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    Dubai, Food blogging, Food trends, Foodie Happenings, Hotels, Restaurants

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21 Responses to “A new dining guide for Dubai, plus musings on restaurant concepts”

  1. IshitaUnblogged September 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I had missed up on your panel discussion, so good to get an update on that. Talking about Food trucks, I am back from San Fransisco where Food Trucks have elevated beyond mobile food kiosks. They are epic, some of the popular ones having thousands of fan following on Twitter. My initial post had a link to your site, just updated it with this post. Great going for FooDiva and an amazing journey for Zomato.

    • FooDiva September 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      The Zomato team will be releasing an edited video of the event shortly so that should give a good snapshot of all the panel sessions. Food trucks in London are also hugely popular with some of them moving onto open restaurants. There is a company working on introducing a food truck concept here, but I understand municipality licensing is an issue hence why it’s taken so long. Thanks for your kind words and the link too 🙂

      • IshitaUnblogged September 30, 2013 at 10:01 pm

        The only issue with Food Trucks that I see is, it’s going to be seasonal. Cannot imagine Food Trucks on the road in July heat, until and unless they have many trucks lining up in an airconditioned exhibit hall! Agree with GA about street food – but then again it would depend upon the weather. Thanks so much for the pingback too:)

        • FooDiva October 1, 2013 at 9:59 am

          The idea with food trucks here is they would come to you…a little like what Desert Chill does with ice cream. I think!

  2. dave reeder September 30, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Despite the plethora of restaurants in Dubai, there are still some very noticeable gaps. These on my list:
    1 – Fine dining Spanish that goes beyond the cliched paella and tapas. Some take of the whole San Sebastian scene would be great.
    2 – Ditto Scandinavian – currently the world’s hottest food scene.
    3 – Emirati cuisine should get a kickstart with the Zabeel Palace initiative in November, but even the high profile conversion of Radisson Blu’s Italian to Emirati outlet promises only a wider Arabian take on cuisines.
    4 – My big dream! One Italian that takes the lead and does a monthly reinvention, working its way through the regional cuisines of the country. Can’r wait for Venice month!

  3. GA September 30, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I would like to see a real street food market, and I agree about the seafront locations, but they will use their location to charge more. Great review 🙂

    • FooDiva September 30, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Yes please to true street food – not just holes in the wall. But the hot summer months would challenge the operation. Very true GA – there is the Beach House that you reviewed earlier this year…I presume it’s still around? Thanks!

      • GA September 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm

        The Beach House is still there but the last time I called in they were have a short break to replace Chef, which I am sure must have happened by now. A street food market will never happen due to the Municipality rulings etc, I am surprised they manage to pull it off at Taste of Dubai.

        • FooDiva October 1, 2013 at 10:02 am

          I will try Beach House once the weather cools down a little more. We do have the new consumer food festival next year Dubai Food Fiesta http://www.dubaifoodfiesta.com/ They’re looking to incorporate many of the more affordable haunts in Dubai…so it won’t be as top end as Taste.

          • GA October 1, 2013 at 11:04 am

            I had heard about the Fiesta and then completely forgotten about it! thanks for the reminder, we must catch up soon, it’s been too long 🙂

  4. dave reeder September 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Re Emirati food. According to today’s announcement of the Dubai World Culinary Championship (DWTC 16-8 Nov), which is supposed to excite interest in local cuisine, there are three elements. A professional cook-off between Emirati chefs working in hotels and restaurants. A global Salon Culinaire with a dozen teams from around the world having to reproduce local dishes. And a ‘bring food from home’ to encourage Emirati women to share their techniques and recipes. However, I think we face the problem of a cuisine that is largely home and family based having to transition to the restaurant scene – always hard. Had some local desserts prepared by Zabeel Hospitality – a revelation!

    • FooDiva October 1, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Thanks Dave, that’s good to know. Seems a little complicated, but am glad the focus is Emirati. Will help with my freelance article!

  5. Baker & Spice Dubai October 1, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Interesting article and interested to see how Zomato calculate their rankings (a complex algorithm). Re your comment that Dubai needs a deli where you can ‘take out a really good quality meal worthy of heating up at home’, Baker & Spice do provide this. At Souk al Manzil and Dubai Marina particularly, a high proportion of our customers take away their meal for the evening to eat at home. We will even cook food in your own dishes if you are doing a dinner party at home with prior arrangement.

    • FooDiva October 1, 2013 at 10:18 am

      Indeed you do Baker & Spice, and very wholesome food too 🙂 This particular insight came from a follower on FB, but I would say we need to see similar concepts to Marks & Spencer’s style affordable take-out meals. No doubt that will come with time from the Table 9 chefs once they join the Spinney’s group. Out of interest are your take-out prices the same or less as eating in? Thanks so much for dropping by with a comment!

      • Baker & Spice Dubai October 3, 2013 at 10:07 am

        The prices are the same for our meals in Al Manzil for instance as we actually opened as a take away shop but added tables due to demand. Yes – watching Spinney’s developments with interest but how fresh can it be?

  6. Mitzie Mee October 1, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    I would love to see a Nordic restaurant in Dubai. The modern Nordic cuisine is healthy, innovative and trending globally, but in Dubai, IKEA’s meatballs are the closest I get to genuine Nordic food. Christian F. Puglisi and René Redzepi, get your stuff down here! 🙂

  7. Shy October 1, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Great post.. Good to know that Zomato has now launched a food guide as well…all though I have to admit I refer to your reviews very often…and never disappointed:))
    On another note interesting food trends to watch out for…Yes the Food truck concepts seems huge and catching up fast…we were in Vancouver over the summer and was surprised to see a whole lot of interesting food concepts vending via Food trucks…yes but will Dubai follow?? will have to wait and watch…Good on you Foodiva I’m certain the guys at Zomato would have been more than happy with your suggestions and guidance…Bravo!

    • FooDiva October 2, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks so much Shy – well you can read my reviews here and on Zomato 🙂 I so need to take a trip to North America and Canada…all in the name of research of course. I hope it’s not just this one company that will introduce food trucks – we need plenty of choice. Appreciate you dropping by with such a lovely comment.

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