Yikes! Just before we finish October, here are last month’s food and drink bites from Dubai. This month was the wind down of Summer, so plenty of indoor dining still on the agenda.
A guide to ratings: These take into account the price, quality, service and the facilities, and in effect are a value rating.
- 0-2/10 = you’re likely to get food poisoning
- 3-4/10 = overpriced in respect to quality. Don’t eat there unless you are dying of hunger.
- 5-6/10 = you probably won’t need the activated charcoal after a meal, but it’s unlikely you’ll rave about this place.
- 7-8/10 = reasonable value. Check other options in the area just in case, but not a bad choice over-all.
- 9/10= worth seeking out if you are nearby. One of if not the best option in the area.
- 10/10= super place. Stop what you’re doing, book a taxi and go there now.
This was the restaurant I waited a year for. Was it worth it? Ohhhh, yes. Coya is one of the scarce examples that Dubai’s restaurant scene is growing up. Sure, it’s expensive, the service errs on the sassy side, it’s dark, noisy and quite a bit pretentious, but this place has decadent-eclectic atmosphere in buckets. Food is generally pretty exceptional, and waiters are knowledgable enough to guide you through the menu. Make sure you have time for a drink in the Pisco lounge or members-only speakeasy, or try a lunch deal if you want to get better value.
Being Antipodean, I was very dubious of an “Australian” restaurant. Our cuisine is only great because it’s a sum of other cultural parts (unless you count burned lamb chops off the barbecue and ANZAC biscuits). But I must say, I’m impressed by the corrugated iron water tank and the Aussie folk crooner on the guitar. Food has a leaning towards down under style without being twee or bush tucker (although I’m not really tempted by the emu antipasti). “Australian dessert prepared at your table” was the Pro Hart-style sweetie splat on butchers paper that I’m getting a little tired of, but the davidson plum ice-cream was fairly special.
Pier Chic has been renovated since I last visited. Gone is the oppressive dark wood with colonial nuances, replaced by a beachy-chic interior, swarovski in fishing nets and a couple of pods on the pier that look ripe for champagne and caviar once the furnace that is the Dubai summer is gone. Food has also lifted – not necessarily better, but a little more exciting and contemporary. Drinks are still outrageously priced, but hey – it’s not an everyday venue. (And a 750aed bubbly brunch might make up for that if you need more than one or two)
I’ve started a food club at my office, and every month we seek out a new cuisine, and aim for a cheap eat to try out. First stop was Japanese, and after reading some very positive reviews online, mainly hinting at authenticity, we ended up here. Whilst not being disappointed, I had been hoping for more to the menu than sushi, bento boxes and ramen, but unfortunately that’s about it. There was a decent katsu curry (chicken of course, no pork here), frilly gyoza, and the soft serve black sesame ice cream was a treat. Service is friendly and casual, and downstairs needs a new AC unit. Best thing Bento Ya has going for it is the price, which is about half that of licensed Japanese around town.
If I’d been a little more timely in my write up, this place would not have blown up by now. Yes, a gas explosion at 6am a couple of weeks ago has scattered all dreams of metre-long kebabs in Jumeirah for at least the next few months. There is a very large alternative now open in Wafi, but as yet that is untested by me. All I can say is that the bread WAS very good, the service WAS a little nonchalant, the kids’ doner kebabs WERE fabulous, and yes, two 11 year olds can easily scoff a 1-metre beef kebab in ten minutes flat. So yes, I WILL miss it.
In one of my periodic health epiphanies, I started to order a few meals from K-cal. Ordering is done online, but you still have to speak to a driver that can barely speak your language, and explain where your office is, even though your suburb has two names and your street doesn’t even have one. Food is listed with calorie content, which is very helpful. Order minimum is 40AED, which is not so helpful, because everything I want to order is about 25AED. Meaning of course that you end up ordering more than you need to eat. And therefore consume more calories. That beside, food is fresh, crisp, sufficiently rabbity and arrives in good time.
I’ve been told this is the new south-of-the-creek Yalumba. I.e. the biggest booze-up, knees-up, fall-down, free-for-all in New Dubai. Perhaps all the chavs were hiding the week I went, because I found it far more restrained than a Bubblicious or Imperium Friday. Brunch is A-la-carte, which is a little tricky when you have a table of ten or more. However the only ones bothered are the waiters, who will try and figure our whether you have eaten more than you deserve. Food is good asian fusion but no better than many other flamboyant Dubai Brunch deals. Drinks are a fair bargain (395 AED for food and basic alcohol package) offering terrible wine but a good range of spirits, and Aperol Spritzes, which are the perfect slurp-100-and-don’t-get-drunk drink. Why they think cheap and nasty Prosecco is worth a 50AED upgrade from this, I have no idea. Setting is plush, may well return.
Finally, I have found an Italian restaurant in the UAE that measures up to what I might find back home. True, it is probably in the vein of 1990s Melbourne Italian restaurants, with its frescos, fresh pasta and pizza oven, but there’s nothing wrong with nostalgia. Together with the 1990s classics are a swathe of even more authentic Tuscan, Umbrian and Bolognese dishes, with delicate antipasti through to full-flavoured protein dishes that had me reeling for choice. Risottos are superb – it’s rare in this country that I find one that can’t hold it’s shape underwater – but these are silky, al dente and slide all over the copper pan they arrive in. Only downer is the slightly slow service, nothing a little assertiveness on my part didn’t fix.