A Dubai dining bucket list meets Gourmet Trails
I’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.
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 Bistro – LPM’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.
Around the world
- Rivington Grill – Best of British cuisine in Dubai. The buzz of a London restaurant overlooking the magical dancing fountains or Madinat’s waterway and Burj Al Arab.
- Elia – Hidden away in Bur Dubai is a slice of Santorini, with the best typical Greek fare outside Greece.
- Tomo by Takahashi – Japanese does not get more authentic than this experience in Dubai.
- Thiptara – A genuine taste of Thailand overlooking the magical fountains.
- Voi – Exquisite Vietnamese dining meets 1920’s French colonial era.
- Asado – You may as well be dining in the heart of Buenos Aires on traditional Argentinian food with a spot of tango.
- 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.
- Bu’qtair – Cheap and cheerful seafood shack in the shadow of Burj Al Arab.
- Comptoir 102 – A chic, charming and calming café with healthy fare.
- Marta’s Workshop – A patio hidden away in JLT where you’re served by chef Marta. Delightful, top-notch cuisine influenced by her San Sebastian upbringing.
- Rossovivo – Without a doubt the best original Napoli pizza in Dubai and as good as anything you will eat in Naples.
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?