DUBAI FOOD 2014 FESTIVAL-ENG LOGO With datesI’ve been involved in a task recently for the Dubai Food Festival. They contacted me a short while ago, and asked me to assist with creating a “Gourmet Trail”, for visitors and residents alike, who would like a little more to get excited about for the food festival month. (As if all the events were not enough!)

The Dubai Food Festival has been a tourism leap for Dubai. It’s showing us that Dubai is realising that it’s possible to work a little more cohesively to aid the tourist, and also to bring what may have been initially considered to be competing events into a harmonious whole. I think they may have figured out that is is possible to make 1+1=3, because this year, the food events over February and March seem to carry a whole lot more weight. And from what I’ve seen so far this year, it’s quite possible they can make the sum =4 by 2015.

And for food bloggers, it means that it’s gone from being a few scattered pieces of excitement to a month of excess. Non-stop eating and drinking, hobnobbing and namedropping, catching up, dropping in, standing by, sliding through and sitting in. I’m only three steps of the way through, and I’m already exhausted and 2 kg heavier.

But back to the Gourmet Trail. The Dubai Food Festival got six bloggers together and asked them for their opinions on the Dubai culinary scene, and for our top 20 restaurants in 5 categories. Others involved are Forkitoverdubai, WhenShaikhaCooks, Foodiva, Saba Wahid, and Secretsquirrelfood,  Below you’ll find mine (there’s a couple more than 20, because there was a little doubling up on our first selections and so we were asked to pop in a few extras. And I just can’t bring myself to drop any off at this point.)

Arabian Inspirations

Chosing four was tricky for this category. I found it hard not to throw in my local shawarma joint, as it’s so heavily patroned by me, but really, I wanted to pop in some places that really excel. I’ve chosen four remarkably different venues across different origins and all price ranges.

Abshar 

Al Hadeera

 DGT-abshar DGT-Al-Hadheerah-Revised
Description and tips Divine Persian food in a lavish Jumeirah Beach road villa. This is my family’s favourite. The epitome of Arabian dining. Eat on carpets on the sand at the magical Bab al Shams resort.
Save room for dessert and visit the sweets shop. Try the Friday buffet Don’t eat all day, and bring a pashmina because it gets cold at night.
3-ft sangak bread-making in the kitchen at entry look for an inclusive dine and stay deal – it’s much cheaper.
Menu must-haves Kashk Bademjan, lamb masti and jojeh chicken Lamb ouzi, Umm Ali
Area Umm Suqeim 1 Desert – Al Qudra
Price pp 60-120 400+

Al Tawosal Yemini

Qbara

 DGT-Al Tawosal chicken  DGT-qbara
Description and tips Traditional majlis restaurant with separate male dining area. Take your family to a private tent and sit on the floor Modern Arabic fused with international nuances in a vibrant, luxurious licensed venue
Tent-dining inside – it’s awesome! Dubai’s first truly chic Arabic restaurant.
Eat with your fingers so you can lick the glutinous juices off them later. Take some time to sit at the bar for some lovely cocktails before dining
Menu must-haves Chicken Mandi and mazby Sea bass and the date desert
Area Deira Wafi
Price pp 40-80 180-250

 

Others on the list:

Al Nafoorah, Al Raslaan, Almaz by Momo, Burj Al Hamam, Café Bateel, Kebab Al Safa, Khan Murjan, Leila, Maraheb, Masgouf London, Massaad, Mezza House, Qwaider Al Nabulsi, Shabestan, Simsim, Turkish Village, Wafi Gourmet, Zaroob (linked ones also come with my thorough recommendation)

 

Around the World

These are my favourite restaurants providing an authentic look inside the kitchens, or at least the parlours of the country they represent. It was a broad theme to go with, considering Dubai’s extensively mixed ethnicity – nearly every single restaurant in the region could fit into this – but I’ve still got a few spots that immediately came to mind.

Barracuda

Bussola

 DGT-barracuda-sign copy DGT-bussola
Description and tips Busy Egyptian seafood restaurant with its iconic fish-tail on the roof. Casual and chic Italian dining on the rooftop of the Westin’s flagship beach restaurant.
very fresh fish, served cleanly and simply One of the best al-fresco spots in Dubai
Don’t over-order! You can always ask for more later Go early and watch the sunset over the Arabian Gulf
Menu must-haves Delicate Singary style fish to take your breath away. Pizza and antipasti
Area Jumeirah 3 Mina seyahi
Price pp 60-120 120-200

La Brasserie

Toro Toro

 DGT-Brasserie  DGT-torotoro
Description and tips One of the best places for French bread and cheese in Dubai, with wonderful French ingredients flown in daily. Modern Argentine restaurant sexy and oozing atmosphere. Great bar and cocktail food, and jumping music.
Luxurious Parisian cafe styled furnishing and beautiful french mirrors, very Parisian The marble wall at entry is stunning, but the entire interior is quite special
One of Dubai’s better breakfast buffets, make sure you have a couple of hours to spare Consider ditching dinner, and have tapas instead in the hopping bar area
Menu must-haves French cheeses and oysters ceviche and salt cod croquettes
Area Palm Jumeirah Dubai Marina
Price pp 200-250 180-300

Rivington Grill

Voi

 DGT-rivington  DGT-voi
Description and tips Dubai’s best gourmet British cuisine – one of the first, and still the most polished. Elegant dining in the extravagant Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on the end of the Jumeirah Palm crescent.
Both casual and classy, with dreamy outdoor terrace at Madinat Jumeirah  Adorable fusion cuisine – French and Vietnamese.
Souq al Bahar venue just as good, with super burj fountain views  Light and easy food that is also inventive and exciting.
Menu must-haves Welsh rarebit, anything with eggs, fish and chips. Entree quail, duck main, white chocolate dessert
Area Al Sufouh/Downtown Palm Jumeirah
Price pp 150-300 250+

 

Others on the list:

Asado, Baker and Spice, Barbecue Delights, Bentoya, Eataly, El Sur, Elia, Ibn Hamido, Jamie’s Italian, Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen, Mekong, Pai Thai, Samad Al Iraqi, Shogun, Special Ostadi, Thiptara, Tom & Serg, Tomo. (linked ones also come with my thorough recommendation.

Cheap Eats

These are the places I hit up when I want something gorgeous for around the 20AED mark per head. Interestingly enough, many of my hot-spots (some not mentioned here) were discovered thanks to Arva of Frying Pan Adventures. That 350AED spent on a tour of hers will save any resident buckets in the long run.

Al Amoor

Kabab BQ

DGT-fateer-fresh from the oven  DGT-kababBQ_curries
Description and tips Watch the guys flip fateer better than Italian Pizza masters great cheap Pakistani food in affluent Jumeirah.
Skip dessert somewhere else, and come here instead. Check the menu for healthier options – there are plenty there
Noise, vibrancy and tradition meet and give unceremonious high-fives Slightly healthier versions of traditional fat-laden Pakistani food
Menu must-haves A cream cheese feteer will set you back all of 15aed and feed 2 Thali, mutton seekh kabab and garlic naan
Area Hor al Anz/Karama Umm Suqeim 1
Price pp 10-25 20-45

Khatmandu Highland Palace

Bait al Baghdadi

 DGT-momos DGT-baghdadi-masgoof smoking
Description and tips Hole-in-the-wall falling-down shack in the heart of vibrant Meena Bazaar Traditional restaurant in old Dubai with happy, knowledgable Iraqi staff
Introduced to me on a Frying Pan Adventures tour, and never forgotten Masghouf (or Masgouf or Masqouf) – best in Dubai and an Iraqi delicacy
Best momos ever – I would (and do) cross town for them. Sammi the kebab man is awesome – his smile will keep you happy all night.
Menu must-haves Nepalese Chicken Momos masghouf (Iraqi whole flame-grilled fish) or lamb shawarma in Iraqi bread
Area Bur Dubai Muteena
Price pp 5-20 15-70

Ravi’s

Description and tips Pakistani cheap-eat in Satwa, known by everybody for a very good reason DGT-ravi
Sit outside in the cacophony of the Satwa street scene, and watch people drool over your food.
Menu must-haves Order any kind of flat bread (I love the butter naan) and chicken kadai
Area Satwa (also in Karama and Al Nahda
Price pp 15-40

 

Others on the list:

Al Mallah Cafeteria, Al Safadi, Farwaniya Cafeteria, Fraiche, Global Village, Haretna Restaurant, Just Falafel, Karachi Darbar, Lafayette Gourmet, Moti Roti, Noodle Bowl, PapaRotti, Rice Creamery, Shaikhath Al Arab Cafeteria, Sumo Sushi & Bento, Taqado Mexican Kitchen, Tea Way, The Curry Leaf. Many of these venues I have not tried, so I cannot with authority agree with the selections, but if you visit the Dubai Gourmet Trail page, there is a little more info on each.

 

Ultimate Dining

Such a tight category. In this section, where expectations are higher, it’s easier for a restaurant to fall down on occasion and give some an experiense lesser than others. The question of cost also prohibits us from trying all the options out there. My choices are all from venues where I have dined recently, which have wowed me in some way or another. I’d also like to add Toro Toro and Voi to this list, and possibly Qbara (although it’s a little more casual), but there is information on them already above.

Pier Chic

Eau Zone 

 DGT-Madinat_Jumeirah_-_Pierchic_-_Pier_View DGT-eauzone
Description and tips End-of-the-pier fine dining seafood restaurant Seafood and grill restaurant positioned over a water garden on boardwalks.
Best view in Dubai at ground level One of Dubai’s most romantic venues
Views of the Burj al Arab and the candle-like wind towers of Madinat Jumeirah Have a drink at “The rooftop” bar – a gorgeous outdoor bar in the resort – before or afterwards
Menu must-haves Tuna carpaccio, scallops Asian seafood dishes, sorbet
Area Al Sufouh Mina seyahi
Price pp 250+ 250+

Toko

Zuma

toko-hall sq  DGT-zuma
Description and tips New Japanese fusion restaurant on the Boulevard, with all-encompassing menu and fantastic service. Always the go-to for swanky fine dining in Dubai. It’s been at the top for 5 years and counting.
Managing a balance between casual and fancy-pants, super cool Japanese meets cocktail bar in a cavernous surrounding
Have your desert and a cocktail in the bar and go from dinner to dancing in your seat. Also great for brunch and after work sushi platters and drinks.
Menu must-haves Beef tataki, quail with bonito Black cod – it will make you weep
Area Downtown Burj Khalifa DIFC
Price pp 200-300 250+

Buddha Bar

DGT-buddhabar
Description and tips Oldie but still a goodie. It’s hard not to be awed by the monstrous gold Buddha or the rest of the opulent interior, the chic crowd and the delicious Thai tidbits
Benchmark venue, the first in Dubai to successfully mix restaurant and club.
Don’t look at the bill – just enjoy yourself.
Menu must-haves Thai duck curry, lobster dumplings
Area Dubai Marina
Price pp 250+

 

Others on the list:

Atelier M, Bice, Casa Mia, Center Cut, Hakkasan, Icho, La Petite Maison, La Serre Bistro, Marrakech, Mizu, Okku, Rang Mahal, Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, Roberto’s, Studio Du Chefs, Table 9, The Exchange Grill, Tokyo @ The Towers, Traiteur. I thoroughly agree with the linked restaurants, however in this category where expectations are higher, I cannot guarantee that the restaurants are still as good as I remember (Table 9 has a new chef). There are also a couple of very good restaurants in here, but they don’t really fit into my “Ultimate Dining” parameters.

 

Best Kept Secrets

 

Now here’s an interesting one. Which word do you want to put the stress on? The word “best”, or “kept”? If I share them, are they still secrets? If they really are the best, then why ARE they secrets? Do I really want you all to know anyway? I might not be able to get a table at my best kept secret if I tell you all…

Seaview

Sind Punjab

 DGT-seaview_2 DGT-sind punjab
Description and tips A new seafood restaurant in the hard-to-find Umm Suqeim 1 fishing harbour, serving fresh-caught seafood in many Asian styles an unassuming Indian restaurant in Bur Dubai serving up Dubai’s very best chicken tikka.
Take a pashmina – arctic AC. Don’t sit next to the fish display – it’s fresh, but a little strong smelling while you’re eating. Half the restaurant is prettier than the other half – if ambience is what you’re looking for, look around before sitting down.
Menu must-haves Malay Sea bream, tandoori prawns Chicken Tikka, tandoori parotha
Area Umm Suqeim 1 Bur Dubai
Price pp 40-80 35-70

Bait Al Wakeel

101

 DGT-bait al wakeel DGT-101
Description and tips The perfect Souk-stop, hidden between the buildings of the old souk in Bur Dubai, with buzzing water views and some simple levant fare. The prettiest bar in Dubai, built entirely over water with marina views, and serving Spanish tapas and super cocktails.
Go all the way up to the top and catch a view of the blue mosque in the streets behind Catch a boat from the One and Only Royal Mirage to save 50AED on the cab fare around the crescent
THE place to view the creek at it’s best Incredible views in an almost secret space
Menu must-haves Fattoush, fatayer, Morroccan mint tea Pintxo de pimentos y sardines, tuna belly
Area Bur Dubai Palm Jumeirah
Price pp 35-60 150-300

Khan Murjan

Tom & Serg

 DGT-Khan Murjan-KM6 DGT-tomandserg-coffee wall
Description and tips Centerpiece of the hidden Khan Murjan Souk at Wafi. Urban café that probably should be in a different city, but thankfully here in Dubai
You’d think there’s a carpark under this sleepy mall, and then you find this Around the corner of a slip-road, in the factory-district of Al Quoz
Extensive arabic menu, gorgeous lighting, dreamy ambience – very special. The café is warehouse-like, serves great coffee and simple western-fusion café food
Menu must-haves Chicken soaked in yoghurt, fresh juices, shisha Breakfast (eggs and avocado salsa), salads
Area Oud Metha Al Quoz
Price pp 60-120 50-120

 

Others on the list: Bu’qtair, Caspian Restaurant, Chicken Tikka Inn, Chinese Pavilion, Claypot, Comptoir 102, Kabab Kolony, Maharaja Bhog, Manhattan Grill, Marta’s Workshop, PepperCrab, Prime 68, Rossovivo, Tangerine, The Farm, The Pavilion Café, Wok It, Wox. I totally agree with the linked restaurants, but there’s a whole heap of secrets here for me to explore too.

So how much of our “Gourmet Trail” have you picked up? Do you agree with any? Have some more to list? Totally disagree? I’d love to hear your comments!

 

23 thoughts on “The Dubai Gourmet Trail”

  1. Wow! Khan Murjan???? Just saw this in FooDiva’s Instagram pics as well. Was it always there? Or had I been blind? Ravi + Sind Punjab – yeah! No Bu Qtair? A bit saddened:( Kathmandu Highland Palace? Yake me there pls.

    This post is for bookmarking:)

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