3 Fils: does the food sing as much as the setting?

3 Fils view of Jumeirah Fishing Harbour - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaAkmal Anuar was the opening chef of Zengo at Royal Meridien, a Dubai restaurant that suffered from fusion confusion when I reviewed. He subsequently changed the menu, and later departed to resurface with his own concept, the bizarrely named 3 Fils (expect to pay more) at Jumeirah Fishing Harbour, in the same development as Silvena Rowe’s Omnia Gourmet.

The selling point on a Friday lunchtime with Dubai’s weather at an optimum is the charming, al fresco, fishing harbour setting and the gorgeous view pictured here. There are only a couple of large trestle tables outside and we nab one. 3 Fils does provide an indoor dining area for the hot summer months, or should you wish to see the chefs in action.

Akmal’s one page website states 3 Fils serves “modern Asian cuisine with Japanese influence.” However the one-page menu appears to incorporate many fusion elements. It also boasts the annoying Dubai norm of a sharing concept, with dishes divided into six sections. I love the odd-ball descriptors of “use them hands” and “brain food”, but wish he had continued the theme by creatively naming the other sections of starters, sliders, sushi rolls and hot plates for consistency. I purposely steer away from ordering sliders and sushi rolls which you can practically get anywhere in Dubai, as I really want to test the kitchen on the more intriguing dishes.

A yellowtail (amberjack fish) dish is served raw, carpaccio-style. Akmal has torched the sliver thin fish which brings out the juices and therefore flavours – enhanced by a zingy ginger and sumac dressing.

Torched yellowtail - 3 Fils - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaCharcoal fry - 3 Fils - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

I am a bit of a purist when it comes to beef tartare believing that one should let the rich meaty flavours shine on their own – but here it’s served spiced with some shredded pickled lime skin – atop sour dough toast. The strong flavours are balanced however, and it works.

Spiced beef tartare - 3 Fils - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaRugyu steak - 3 Fils - Dubai restaurants - Foodiva

The menu has two dishes listed as brain food. One, the charcoal fry, is served on an aluminium plate – real charcoal is interspersed with edible pieces of squid ink tempura-fried aubergine. For dipping, we are served a spicy aji-like pepper sauce. Clever and delicious. The vegetable changes regularly to retain a level of mystery. Smart thinking. Gaggan thinks so too, given he mentions my Instagram photo at his pop-up dinner to highlight the similarity with one of his dishes.

Fremantle octopus - 3 Fils - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaA sole yet plump octopus tentacle (Australian Fremantle) is char-grilled and dotted with gremolata – super tender. A smooth base of potato and leek puree is mild enough to complement, yet not overpower the strong octopus flavours. Pretty presentation too.

A so-called ‘ru-gyu’ dish is, oddly, Russian (explains our waitress) skirt steak I think, served beautifully rare with an umami-laden bone marrow sauce, and grated horseradish. Moreishly good. One thing that stands out from the menu is the lack of veggies as side dishes, or even as an inclusion with the protein. They are almost an after-thought.

For dessert, we order the aptly named African powerhouse – a slice of velvety dark chocolate cake (from Ghana) with vanilla ice cream (from Madagascar). A dusting of dark chocolate makes this sweet ending even richer and more decadent.

3 Fils has no booze licence sadly, but the mocktails are creative concoctions. My yellow bird for instance is a mix of agave, lime and passion fruit.

African powerhouse dessert - 3 Fils - Dubai restaurants - FoodivaAkmal’s description of the cuisine, as “modern Asian with Japanese flavours” is not necessarily apt. A Japanese-cum-Far-Eastern cooking style is evident, but he does incorporate some fusion elements. Luckily there’s no confusion though – the ingredients pair favourably, the flavours are complementary and the dishes are well executed. I was reticent to dine here given my previous lacklustre experience of his food, but left to his own devices without the restrictions imposed by a hotel operation, he seems to have found his own ‘voice’, and the food sings as much as the setting.

Furthermore, the Kenyan staff is full of character, knowledge and efficiency. At AED145 per person based on three courses, 3 Fils lives up to its affordable name, providing more than value for money. For want of a much over-used descriptor, this ‘hidden gem’ is just what Dubai needs more of – an independent chef-owned concept with top notch food in a casual environment. The only thing missing is a glass of vino. Make sure to pay 3 Fils a visit.

Have you tried 3 Fils? Where’s your go-to spot for an al fresco weekend lunch?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

  • Jumeirah Fishing Harbour, Dubai
  • +971 56 2730030
  • Far-Eastern, Fusion
  • Yes
  • AED 143 per person
  • Open Monday to Wednesday 1-5pm and 7-11pm, and Thursday to Saturday 12pm - 12am
  • http://3fils.com/
  • Posted under
    Asian, Cafes, Dubai, Far Eastern, Fusion, Japanese, Jumeirah, Location, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants
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8 Responses to “3 Fils: does the food sing as much as the setting?”

  1. Sunny Dhama March 20, 2017 at 10:47 am

    I visited a few weeks ago. Apparently the Russian beef is due to the fact that the temperatures there encourage a higher fat content – wagyu like without the price tag. I loved the place and agree – I think it is exactly the sort of place Dubai needs more of, I hope people will overlook the lack of an alcohol licence.

    • FooDiva March 26, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Interestingly I also spotted Russian beef on the menu at a new Uzbek-cum-Georgian restaurant Eshak this weekend Sunny 🙂 I think there’s definitely a market for non-boozy restaurants, but I just wish we could have more casual concepts like 3 Fils which do serve alcohol.

  2. Nancy March 23, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Went here 2 weekends ago and was so pleasantly surprised. Superb, five-star restaurant quality food at affordable prices. Also, its not “Instafied” just yet (a term I’ve given to restaurants that are all over Instagram where everyones raving about it but it has no substance, only fluff, pretty tiles, cycle hanging on the wall etc.) – so truly felt like a hidden gem. Loved it and Dubai definitely needs lots more of these. Also, the day we were there, Chef Anuar’s wife was waiting the tables so felt like a real family run place, which won my heart even more so.

    • FooDiva March 26, 2017 at 3:27 pm

      Very true about Instagram. I find that generally the restaurants that are photogenic tend to disappoint. Tub of Butter is one recent example of that. How lovely to have the family running 3 Fils 🙂 Bring on more concepts like these.

  3. Terrence Bramble April 29, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Samantha I have to say that I went because of your positive review, since that first visit 3 Fils has become a firm favourite of mine either alone or with friends. Both you and 3 Fils have something in common as you both tell it like it is and it’s why I value your opinion, DXB is awash with food bloggers who wouldn’t know their artichokes from their potatoes. I really don’t think we should get too hung up on or overanalyse a menu, fusion or whatever especially if it’s a sincere rather than a contrived selection which at 3 Fils it most certainly is and after all isn’t variety is the spice of life? Mixing food genres from different continents has been around for as long as goodies have been crawling westward along the inimitable “yawn” Silk Road. “The range is good” I can go many times and decide according to my mood, be it a chicken slider, lamb ribs, Indomie or Dragon Belly; it’ll take many visits before I’m tired of the choice and I’m sure that by then Chef Akmal will have conjured up new dishes to excite my palate and keep me coming back. The restaurant reflects Chef Akmal Anuar’s challenging attitude, his passion and personality and being a little off kilter (like its name) is why it’s so good. Sure the lack of hooch is a shame but there’s enough else to entice you, stellar food and location being but two and is probably why there’s always a refreshingly cosmopolitan mix of fellow diners be they Emiratis, expats from all corners and almost always a table of visiting admiring chefs mumbling amongst themselves “why wouldn’t we do something like this” why indeed…….

    • FooDiva May 31, 2017 at 11:09 am

      A belated thank you Terence appreciated ?. Glad you loved it. We need more establishments like 3 Fils that have so much character without compromising on the quality of the food. I am all for fusion if it’s done well like here, but in some cases the flavour combinations just don’t work. Life’s too short to not be creative!

  4. george papadopoulos May 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Finally made it to 3 fils tonight with a group of 6 friends, thus having the opportunity to order (and often re-order) almost the whole menu. I must say that in my 6 years in Dubai, other than Zuma, it is the first time that i’ve felt that a meal was “memorable” and worth driving 30 minutes for. No dish was less than above average, and several were simply outstanding. The duck waffle being one of them, as well as the shrimp and the chichen sliders (like no other sliders I’ve had in Dubai or elsewhere) as well as the eel skin roll and the most original take on beef carpaccio i’ve ever tasted.
    In addition, it was heartworming to see that it’s a familly affair (while the husband – chef runs the kitchen, his wife runs the dining room), adding intelligent, efficient and witty interraction to the superb food. Yes, the lack of vino is a bit of an issue at first, but the food experience is so good that it is quickly forgotten. Bravo 3 fils and see you after the summer!

    • FooDiva May 31, 2017 at 11:12 am

      Wow George that’s some credit! Looks like you tried different dishes to me, which is making me want to return for second helpings 🙂 It’s so rare to find family-run restaurant concepts here that if done well, like with 3 Fils, they deserve our support.

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