This new style of post is designed to be read for a short time only. Dubai changes so constantly, I think it’s important to note that information dates quickly, so if it’s after September 2017, go looking for a new post!
Here, I’m going to talk about the places I’ve been, unvisited restaurants I’m excited about, what’s buzzing on social media, chef movements and general food news. The idea is to share information and encourage dialogue with other Dubai foodies, rather than provide strong opinions and reviews.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments – have you been anywhere amazing recently? Is there a chef you’d like to hear more about? Is there a rare batch of seasonal cheese available in Carrefour right now? Please talk to me!
Restaurants I want to eat at
This beautiful venue has Colin Clague at the helm, serving his trademark fusion between Middle Eastern and Japanese cuisines, the similarly flavour-bomb/exotic-elegant mashup he produced so ingeniously at Qbara when they opened several years ago. Although it is termed a Turkish restaurant, and the menu includes classic kibbeh, pides and kofta, you’ll also find items that cross cultures, and dishes with surprising ingredients that give them just the edge they seem to need. The Friday brunch also has a great spread of raw and cured seafood – perfect for a warm afternoon. Partner all this great food with the pretty styling and clever outside-in terrace design, and you have a restaurant that slides into Dubai’s unique culture very nicely. I’ve dined twice and will again.
Nick and Scott (Previous heads of Gordon Ramsey’s Verre, and then their own venture Table 9) are finally back in a licensed venue, and it looks like it’s going to be a doozy. I’ve only been down for the Friday lunch (which is a set menu), but the exceptional views and happy hour are going to get me back many times. The menu is the lads’ trademark small/medium/large plate offering, meaning you don’t really dine entree-main, but instead graze and share. Flavours almost fit into the ‘Modern British’ genre, but there is the occasional twist with Middle Eastern ingredients and styling. Most of the restaurant is on a series of terraces wrapped around Madinat Jumeirah’s candle-like wind towers, and they’re all broken up by stone walls, arches and levels, so I imagine that as it gets busy, the exterior retains its intimate feel. The interior only seats 40, so it’s going to be hard to get a table come summer – best to head in now.
All the serious foodies I know are talking about this little Japanese-ish joint in the sleepy but burgeoning Jumeirah Fishing Harbour on the border of Jumeirah 1 and 2. From what I hear, they are plating up some serious five-star dishes for around 50 dirhams a plate (yes, a bit more than 3 fils). The menu is very small, but also has some very unpretentious fare like sliders, wings and BBQ ribs, so I can see why such a wide range of people are fans. Chef Akmal Anuar is the former head of the former Iggy’s in Singapore (closed and recently reopened), formerly ranked as one of the World’s 50 best Restaurants on San Pellegrino’s guides (2009-12). He’s also had a stint at Zengo’s in Dubai, and so this little unlicensed restaurant is quite a deviation for him. Haven’t been and definitely need to get myself down there.
I dined at Tim Raue’s flagship restaurant (2 Michelin star, number 34 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants) in Berlin recently and was completely blown away. Although my blog post about food in Berlin is still in the making, I would say that even if this was the only place you ate, you would come away claiming Berlin must be one of the top food cities in the world. Dragonfly Dubai has many of the same dishes on the menu, a collection of Asian-inspired, complex and clever recipes, including the one I list as my favourite dish of 2016: Turbot with 10 years aged kamebishi soy (pictured). Unfortunately the City Walk location is not licensed to serve alcohol, so the clever wine pairing achieved in Restaurant Tim Raue cannot be replicated. Fortunately, prices for food of this standard (in Dubai) are not outrageous, with most mains around 130 dirhams.
Peruvian Nikkei cuisine is Dubai’s new black, you might just not realise it yet. This fusion that has developed in the kitchens of the Peruvian Japanese diaspora has all those lovely ceviches, tiraditos and marinaded grills we love, but with the addition of Japanese flavours like ginger, yuzu and soy, partnered with some ingredients the Peruvians did not quite understand previously, and the Japanese flair for presentation (a good rundown on Peruvian Nikkei principles on Fine Dining Lovers here). Aji is a sprawling venue with Art Nouveau-cum-Inca interiors and a spacious terrace overlooking the beach at Club Vista Mare. There’s a sweeping sushi counter, and Fridays bring a reasonably priced ‘Machu Pisco’ set menu. Drinks are expensive, but the food and the surrounding makes it worth it. Dined twice, will again.
Social media food buzz
I haven’t been, but have had my social media profiles inundated with this muscular, strangely balletic Turkish chef (currently in Dubai). My particular favourite of Salt Bae, AKA Nusret Gokce, is his shirtless bend-it-like-Beckham moment. I’m a little turned off by the whole touchy-feely thing with raw meat, but I can understand his love of a good product, and I applaud his niche style, which has gone appropriately viral. It’s put a very expensive Turkish meat restaurant with little previous claim to fame, solidly on the world map (Nusret was a dishwasher in 2010, so this guy is really going places fast). I’m still not rushing in, but if you want to see a celebrity, this is probably the best restaurant in Dubai to hit right now. Just watch out for salt in your wine (and the 1000+AED bill per person).
I enjoyed this piece by Kari in KT Wknd last week (long-time acquaintance and blogger at Chef and Steward) – There’s quite a few comments by key food bloggers in Dubai on there, mainly about why they don’t work for free, and what kind of blogger does. One of the iterated points is: “No one benefits when the market is saturated with free content”. And in Dubai, where blogs are born and killed off several times a day in many different formats, this is painfully obvious. There is so much content out there, that it’s hard as a reader to isolate quality, particularly on a continuous platform. I’ll provide a list of my go-to Dubai food blogs in a coming post, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear how you sort the wheat from the chaff, and how you figure out which 4.9/5 marks on Zomato have not been paid for by free meals to ‘influencers’.
A new booking initiative for unique experiences in regular restaurants allows diners to connect with Dubai’s top chefs personally and experience secret menus. In the city where we constantly get offered a pay-as-you-go VIP service, it seems no surprise that something like this has come up. Some may cringe at what looks like another gold-plated offering, but I think this is different. Let’s diverge for a moment…. About 12 years ago, before it was world-famous, Attica (currently 33 on the World’s 50 Best restaurants) used to be my local diner. Every Tuesday, Chef Ben Shewry used to offer a set menu at a discounted price, because these were dishes he was trialing for his main menu. He’d come out of the kitchen and present them personally. He’d ask for feedback. It was a way to connect with his customers, and the reciprocation was enjoyable. I’m convinced this helped bring his restaurant to the pedestal it currently sits on. I’m hoping 50 Chefs will offer a similar experience – time will tell.
Pinnacle of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and stayer on the international list, Chef Gaggan Anand looks like he is sniffing around for a site in Dubai. He put together a 3-day pop-up at the One and Only Royal Mirage in early March. Hotelier Middle East and Foodiva have more…
Fabulous food in season
Recent finds at the supermarket and farmers’ market – these are in season and tasting great.
- Blood oranges and garlic – Spain
- Clementines – Tunisia
- Strawberries and asparagus – Holland
- Apples and rhubarb – UK
- Pears and grapes – Australia
- Cherry tomatoes, broccoli and carrots – UAE (farmers market)
- Lamb – Wales
- Trout (fjord trout) – Norway
- Saint Maure goat’s cheese – France