A Dubai dining bucket list meets Gourmet Trails

Dubai Food Festival Gourmet TrailsI’ve shared my short and sweet foodie bucket list for Dubai before, but with a flurry of new restaurant openings and a changing food scene, an update is long overdue. So with the launch of Dubai Food Festival’s Gourmet Trails, FooDiva along with five other food bloggers, Fork It Over Dubai, When Shaikha Cooks, The Hedonista, Culinary Delights and Secret Squirrel Food as guides, we have mapped our top picks across this emirate’s dining scene. Restaurants have been grouped into five trails – Ultimate dining, Around the world, Arabian inspirations, Best-kept secrets and Cheap eats – with each of us selecting four faves per category, but given some overlap we had to add more!

So how has the restaurant scene changed? With a primarily expat population, plus a local community hungry for imported brands, Dubai has in the past veered towards celebrity chef concepts and international restaurant chains, but the last couple of years has seen the market mature with more home-grown concepts taking shape. Furthermore, licensing laws are changing and it’s not just restaurants in hotels that serve alcohol, but the likes of DIFC, Souk Al Bahar and Dubai Marina are encouraging more restaurateurs to open shop here, with a shift away from hoteliers bringing in recognised brands.

Emirati cuisine which has been mostly home-based and restricted to a handful of restaurants is often neglected in favour of the more popular and much-marketed Levantine cooking. It is changing for the better though, but we still have a long way to go before a holidaymaker or business traveller seeks out local dishes before any other cuisine here. When in Naples, one eats pizza, so when in Dubai why not slow-roasted lamb ouzi or fragrant chicken muchboos? Arabic fare is also progressing into the fine dining arena with fusion twists thanks to the likes of Q’bara, so by Expo 2020 if not earlier, let’s hope Dubai can also welcome Michelin. We’ll be discussing restaurant trends in more depth at the Global Restaurant Investment Conference at Conrad Dubai next week if you’re around.

So killing two birds with one stone, here are FooDiva’s Gourmet Trail recommendations and my new Dubai dining bucket list. Click on each restaurant link for insider tips, location and price point.

La Petite Maison - DIFC

La Petite Maison – DIFC

Ultimate dining experiences

  • La Petite Maison – The number one restaurant in Dubai for consistency on all levels. Exquisite French-Mediterranean food, slick service, cosy décor and always buzzing. Worth every dirham.
  • Q’bara – Finally a fine dining restaurant that embraces the culture we live in. Dubai’s first top-end Arabesque fusion restaurant.
  • La Serre BistroLPM’s new rival lights up Downtown Dubai.
  • Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire – Cutting-edge French cuisine at its best in Dubai.
  • Hakkasan – Contemporary Cantonese cuisine in an ultra glam venue.
Tomo by Takahashi - Raffles

Tomo by Takahashi – Raffles

Around the world

  • Rivington Grill – Best of British cuisine in Dubai. The buzz of a London restaurant overlooking the magical dancing fountains.
  • Elia – Hidden away in Bur Dubai is a slice of Santorini, with the best typical Greek fare outside Greece.
  • Tomo by TakahashiJapanese does not get more authentic than this experience in Dubai.
  • ThiptaraA genuine taste of Thailand overlooking the magical fountains.
  • Asado – You may as well be dining in the heart of Buenos Aires on traditional Argentinian food with a spot of tango.
Q'bara - Wafi Dubai

Q’bara – Wafi Dubai

Arabian inspirations

  • Khan Murjan – The Aladdin’s cave of Arabic restaurants. Cuisine from around Arabia in a bustling courtyard.
  • Simsim – Home-cooked Palestinian fare. Undoubtedly the best café on JBR Walk.
  • Almaz by Momo – You may as well be dining in a Marrakech souk.
  • Massaad – Modern farm to table Lebanese fare.
Marta's Workshop - JLT, Dubai

Marta’s Workshop – JLT

Best-kept secrets

Moti Roti - Aswaaq

Moti Roti – Aswaaq

Cheap eats under Dhs20

  • Moti Roti The only permanent pop-up we have here in Dubai, with healthy Pakistani rotis worthy of your palate.
  • Taqado Mexican Kitchen – Posh food court munchies.
  • Shaikhath Al Arab Cafeteria – My go-to late-night (early morning) shawarma pit-stop.
  • Sumo Sushi & Bento – Affordable no-frills Japanese food.

So have I missed any goodies? What’s on your Dubai dining bucket list?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

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16 Responses to “A Dubai dining bucket list meets Gourmet Trails”

  1. Johann Z March 4, 2014 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for this list – looks pretty comprehensive and will surely be invaluable to Dubai Residents and especially to visitors to Dubai who only have a limited time to sample the varied dining options. Keep up the great flow of useful information.

    • FooDiva March 8, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks Johann. I hope you’ll be using it as a guide for your next visit!

  2. Sally - My Custard Pie March 5, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I would add Baker & Spice into the Arabian inspirations list because of the flavour combinations and local ingredients. Great list and interesting to see what everyone else picked too.

    • FooDiva March 8, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      I did actually have Baker & Spice in another category but due to overlap I had to pick another one! Always a firm favourite Sally, especially the deli-style salads and shakshouka. I am munching on their spiced nuts as I write 🙂

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