Eclectic dining and some Dubai classics available in Bur Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
Aangan: The decor at this Indian stalwart tends to be a bit dreary (it’s dark and could certainly use a refurb), and the live entertainment may not be to everyone’s taste, but the food never disappoints. Butter naan is pliant and decadent, and the signature nali gosht (a toasty lamb curry) is one of the most tender things we’ve stuck a fork into. Dishes stand out here for their inventive use of spices. Nothing’s ever bland and recipes are never an afterthought. Service is sweet and accommodating, too.
Dhow Palace Hotel, Call 04 359 9992 for reservations
Bon Chon Chicken: In New York, Bon Chon Chicken is an established star. It is one of several South Korean fried chicken joints and, following the craze for cupcakes and frozen yoghurt, it has captured the Big Apple’s imagination. The chicken wing specialist has just launched its first Middle Eastern branch on Trade Centre Road in Bur Dubai, tucked next door to a KFC (which, we suspect, will start to lose business).
For a fast-food chain, the venue is spacious, colourful and clean. Tables are bright and well scrubbed, and the walls boast a handful of media clippings extolling the brand.
Call 055 266 2466 for reservations
Special Ostadi: It would be difficult to hold on to a bad mood at Special Ostadi. Even a chronic grump can’t help but smile at the manager’s efforts to track down your homeland’s currency from the bills from almost every nationality pasted on the tabletops and walls. This Iranian dig has been run by the same family since 1978, and they take great, heart-warming pride in that fact. Carnivores are in luck, as the restaurant offers meat, meat and more meat, and the grilled options are inevitably juicy nuggets, often infused with saffron, or marinated in yoghurt. Recommended.
Call 04 397 1933 for reservations
Nefertiti: Nefertiti seems a little confused: it has an Egyptian name and hieroglyphics adorn the walls, but the menu is populated by Arabic and Russian dishes. But the moment you spoon a mouthful of the heartwarming, droolingly delicious fare, any identity crisis will be forgotten. Entertain yourself with the charmingly translated menu intro and decide between the countless meat, chicken, seafood and, er, mushroom dishes on offer. Nefertiti may be simple and it may be a little confused, but it sure does know its food.
Call 04 355 8855 for reservations
Mithaas: They say never judge a book by its cover. Well, this couldn’t be more fitting for this hole-in-the wall Bur Dubai eatery. A (very) narrow and rickety staircase leads you to a pocket-sized and humble dining space which appears to pull in streams of locals; always a good sign. Vegetarian street food is one of the cornerstones of Mithaas’menu, and boy is it good. For as little as Dhs25 you can quite literally fill the table with chatts and thalis and put your taste buds into overdrive.
Call 04 359 1300 for reservations
Gazebo: A stalwart of the Dubai Indian dining scene, Gazebo has been a favourite with locals and expatriates from the subcontinent ever since its early days on Trade Centre Road. Though it’s unfortunately still populated by a glut of lost-looking waiters, it’s nearly always packed to the gills, offering a voluminous menu like a virtual encyclopaedia from the northern states of India, specialising in the royal cuisine of dum pukth, which traps flavours under a bread covering. Gazebo has attracted a loyal following, where diners witness Indian culinary artistry at its best.
Call 04 359 8555 for reservations
Bombay Chowpatty: This no-frills street counter gets crowded on evenings and weekends, when Indian families vie for chaat. It’s a great spot for a quick bite, and the shockingly reasonable prices make it a favourite with all the neighbourhood misers, regardless of nationality. The queues can be a little unruly, and at times confusing, but in the end, chomping down on exotic and flavoursome pani puris and dosas at less than Dhs10 makes it worth it.
Call 04 396 4937 for reservations
XVA Café: A trip to the XVA is a Dubai necessity. It might not have the ‘gastrocaf’ credentials of more celebrated rivals but its setting at the heart of Bastakiya’s unofficial art quarter gives it the edge over most rivals. We’re not saying the food is substandard – on the contrary – more than a dozen salads and vegetarian dishes make this a healthy eater’s paradise. We especially recommend the fragrant mojardara to first timers. Housed in the XVA Hotel it ticks every box for a cool weekend hangout right down to the friendly staff, resident cat and sleepy backstreet vibe.
XVA Art Hotel, Call 04 353 5383 for reservations
Kabalen Restaurant: This is Time Out’s favourite Filipino restaurant. It tempts diners to give it a shot with its homely interior – lovingly decorated with clean, bright yellow walls and fruity tablecloths. Once you start on the dishes, you will be glad you gave it a chance. Even the quality of the simple beverage buko pandan juice makes it clear there is someone in the kitchen that cares deeply about food and fresh produce. The adobong manok, which the waitress describes as a tamarind chicken soup, has an old-school feel, as if it is a recipe that had been passed down through generations.
Call 04 397 8839 for reservations
Bait Al Wakeel: Nestled amidst a haphazard array of textile shops and bric-a-brac vendours in the heart of the souk, this Arabic-seafood hybrid is the perfect setting to watch the life and soul of the city’s creek burst to life – the perfect setting for a hearty feast of grilled lamb kebabs, fried calamari or succulent crab and prawn salad.
With enough zesty punch in its lemon and mint juices and enough garlic infused in its shish tawouk grills to knockout the hardiest Lebanese vampire, it is an absolute must for any visitor or jaded city resident.
Call 04 353 0530 for reservations