Time Out food critics look back on the 20 best meals of the year
After seemingly falling from the giddy heights of excess to financial despair a few years ago, Dubai has picked itself up, dusted itself down and chosen a more sustainable, sensible path into the second decade of the 20th century. This sentiment is echoed in the dining scene, with restaurants focusing less on style (think exclusivity, guest lists and astronomical bills) and more on substance (what happens on the plate). And about time too. Here, we pick the 20 tastiest dishes we’ve been lucky enough to taste over the past year. Of course, Dubai has plenty of great restaurants, so our readers have added their penny’s worth, too. Without further ado, let’s get stuck in.
Mutton rogan josh Zafran
When we first visited, we found it difficult to see past the mall setting. However, our misgivings were soon dispelled by the quality of the food. Executive chef Ankur Chakraborty has been readily compared to India’s first Michelin-starred chef, Atul Kochhar, thanks to his innovative approach to Indian cuisine. The rogan josh is indicative of this – a lamb shank, brought to life with Kashmiri chillies, that falls effortlessly away from the bone.
Dhs48. Mirdif City Centre (04 284 0987)
Fish and chips Rivington Grill
It’s difficult to find good fish and chips away from the east coast of Yorkshire in the UK, let alone in Dubai, but Rivington Grill seem to have made a mighty good job of this English favourite (even if it does look like a sausage). Soft, succulent cod encrusted in golden batter is served alongside huge cuboid chips and mushy peas.
Dhs115. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 423 0903)
Carpaccio de coquille St Jacques La Petite Maison
It’s only been open a few months, but La Petite Maison has established itself as one of Dubai’s must-visit dining venues – it boasts a fantastic location, bubbling atmosphere and dishes to die for. We were particularly taken by the carpaccio de coquille St Jacques (carpaccio of scallops, above), which is served as a plate of translucent slithers, sprinkled with shavings of almond, pistachio and juicy cranberries – the combination creates a perfect sweet/savoury balance.
Dhs90. DIFC (04 439 0505)
South Indian lunch Aryaas
This innocuous Karama eatery sets itself apart with its thalis. We’re particularly fond of the South Indian breakfast, a selection of dishes – curried mixed vegetables, sambar, rasam, baigan, and perup (lentils) – served in small metal dishes, presented on a large tray.
Dhs14. Al Nakheel building, Karama (04 335 5776)
Chilean sea bass Asado
Asado has made its name with Argentinian steaks, so it’s surprising that the best dish there is the Chilean sea bass. This succulent swimmer is served with courgette and a bean puree, its taste accentuated by the salty oyster leaves and cockles sauce. It’s not often we recommend you go to a steakhouse and order fish, but the fish is rarely this good.
Dhs200. The Palace, The Old Town, Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 428 7888)
Roast pigeon Rhodes Mezzanine
This much-maligned bird makes for divine dining, especially at Rhodes Mezzanine. The braised squab’s rich flesh is enough to satisfy any palette, and the rich lemon gravy rounds off the dish wonderfully.
Dhs245. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888)
Wagyu blade steak Tribes
Tribes is one happy place, thanks largely to the all-singing, all-dancing staff. What makes the atmosphere all the more convivial is the wagyu blade steak, which might as well be renamed ‘liquid steak’ since chewing isn’t necessary for its consumption.
Dhs165. Mall of the Emirates (04 395 0663)
Black cod yuzu miso Nobu
Ordering the black cod (above) at high-end Japanese restaurants has become a bit of a cliché, but who cares? Nobu’s take on this delectable dish is perhaps the best we’ve tasted. Cushioned by crisp lettuce leaf, the fish is so fresh and soft it’s nearly ethereal, ghosting on the palate before disappearing. The only proof of its existence is the explosion of taste it leaves in its wake.
Dhs185. Atlantis, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 0760)
We’re the first to admit that the quality of Loca’s ribs varies from visit to visit, but when they get it right, it’s one of the most satisfying meals you’ll have in Dubai. Served on a sizzling hotplate and a bed of onions and peppers, the juicy meat slides off the bone and down the gullet all too easily.
Dhs121. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah (04 346 1111)
Chicken boti Ravi Restaurant
It’s almost a cliché to recommend Ravi’s as a place to take visitors or recommend to guests, but the fact remains that this innocuous Satwa branch of the eatery consistently serves some of the best subcontinental fare in Dubai. We’ve always found the chicken boti (tender chicken, skewered and marinated with chillies, ginger, garlic, cumin, cardamom, and pepper) a sure-fire winner.
Dhs18. Satwa Road (04 331 5353)
Chorizo frito Al Hambra
The new-look Al Hambra restaurant has been something of a revelation. Not only does it boast one of the most picturesque terraces in Dubai and is located in one of the city’s most swish hotels, but it also offers an affordable array of tapas (below). They’re cheap and exceptionally tasty – especially the chorizo frito. The meat itself is cured to perfection and doused in a rich, thick and spicy sauce, meaning the small bowl in which it’s served is soon rendered empty.
Part of the tapas menu, Dhs60-Dhs145. Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730)
Bangkok burrito Freshii
Yes, it’s only a lunchtime snack, but we’re mightily impressed by the piping hot, fresh and flavoursome contents of the Freshii Bangkok burrito: brown rice, soft chicken, carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts and peanut sauce. Needless to say the result is tasty and healthy – a refreshing change to the neverending lifeless lunchtime options that clog the café counters here in Dubai.
Dhs30. DIFC (04 327 8083)
Beef Wellington Verre by Gordon Ramsay
Verre’s beef Wellington marries Michelin-star mastery and homely, comforting cuisine. It’s designed as a meal for two, but you’ll likely begrudge having to share it with anyone. This prime cut of tender beef is enclosed in a rich slather of parma ham and exquisite pastry.
Part of the Verre set menu, Dhs395 (three courses), Dhs495 (six courses). Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira (04 212 7551)
Rhodes Twenty10 burger Rhodes Twenty10
If Dubai took burger form, it would be the Rhodes Twenty10 burger – decadent and a lot of fun. We’re talking eight ounces of fillet-steak burger served with seared foie gras. It’s all a bit silly, really, but we’re quite sure its creator, Gary Rhodes, was well aware of this when he conceived the meaty treat.
Dhs165. Le Royal Méridien
Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 399 5555)
Chelo kebab sultani Tehran
We visited Tehran not really knowing what to expect and were rather perturbed to find the restaurant empty, save for a lone diner – a silver-haired gentleman who shouted (yes, shouted) at us to order the chelo kabab sultani. We were in no position to argue and are glad we didn’t – the sultani comes in two forms: a slither of smooth, buttery meat and a coarse, rippling kebab that exudes flavour.
Dhs150. Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim 2 (04 348 2814)
Tikki chat Chor Bazaar
Not only does the aloo tikki chat stand out as the best dish at Chor Bazaar, but it’s also one of the most memorable appetisers we’ve had in Dubai. First, it looks great – embellished with an intricate pattern of riata and a sprinkling of dried mangoes – and the taste does the aesthetic justice.
Dhs15. Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel (04 444 0000)
Tuna sashimi Karma Kafé
We’re always pleasantly surprised by the consistent quality of Karma Kafé’s food, especially considering it’s as much a nightspot as it is a restaurant. The key is that Karma does the simple things right, which is why the tuna sashimi is such a winner. The fresh, velvet-like slices are as meaty as they are delicate, meaning the dish can double for a sophisticated bar snack and a cornerstone to a sit-down meal.
Dhs18 per piece. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 423 0909)
Wagyu gunkan Zuma
It’s a pity that Zuma is known primarily for its black cod when its menu is host to a sparkling array of culinary gems. Our favourite is the wagyu gunkan – wagyu beef sushi served with Sevruga caviar. The combination of these ludicrously luxurious dishes works to dizzying effect, making it the most memorable dish in Zuma, and certainly among the best in Dubai.
Dhs185. DIFC (04 425 5660)
Kadai chole Sai Dham
Sai Dham prepares saatvik food, which basically means the chefs don’t use any onions or garlic in their dishes. Why? It’s believed that food tastes purest when cooked without; it’s also claimed that saatvik food promotes mental clarity. We’re not sure about this, but we agree the food tastes great. If we had to pick one dish, it’d be the boiled chick peas in a flavourful, spicy gravy– it prickles the palate in the best possible way.
Dhs18. Saleh Bin Lahej Buildings, Oud Metha Road (04 335 8788)
Chilled Valrhona chocolate fondant Verre by Gordon Ramsay
One of the few desserts to make it onto the list, but with good reason – an intricately structured tower of taste, with walls of crisp honeycomb and an interior of dark, rich chocolate, which in turn conceals a delicate heart of pear sorbet. The contrast of texture and taste is a marvel.
Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira (04 212 7551)
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Andres Mar 30, 2011 08:30 am
Seems a tad bit biased that none of your choices for Dubai’s “best dishes” of 2010 featured any Italian, African, Thai, or Chinese cuisine: it would be interesting to see how if your so called “experts” would rise to the challenge of writing a review for 2011, without resorting to the incessant need to favour “British inclined” meals only, and truly introduce TimeOut readers to the plethora of delectable cuisines Dubai has to offer!
david Feb 20, 2011 04:19 pm
Palate Vs Palette is an ubiquitous mistake but food critics should really know the difference between one and the other.....
Kim Feb 13, 2011 09:22 am
Cheaper than 14Dhs for all that?
Debbie Feb 08, 2011 02:11 pm
Tried this dish, and my pertner had a fillet steak, and dont agree with your critique I'm afraid. There are lots of good/better restuarants in Dubai and at cheaper prices!,