Time Out selects the 10 best Middle Eastern and North African Restaurants in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
Abajour: Due to its location on a lonely road in Garhoud, you don’t expect much from Abajour. But enter its doors on any night of the week and you will find a heart-warming slice of Syria right here in Dubai. A large space, divided by a glass panel to protect the non-smokers from the shisha fans, a night sky is bewitchingly painted on the ceiling, and there are traditional shutters placed on the windows – referencing the ‘abajour’ itself: a wooden device traditionally used to maximise light in rooms in the Levantine. The eatery clearly has a devoted following who go every night to smoke, eat, socialise and listen to the live Arabic music (though this is slightly muffled from the non-smokers’ side of the restaurant). Service is prompt and friendly, and the menu offers the standard dishes as well as a few more adventurous options, such as sparrow, and a range of delicious creative shakes. Certainly worth the trip, Abajour is a true taste of Syria right here in Dubai.
Call 04 283 4556 for more information.
Al Hallab: A perennial lunchtime favourite, this Lebanese standby serves some of the best Arabic food in town. Every item on the menu is made with an extra level of care. Fattoush is given spark with the use of fresh herbs, and sesame-inflected balls of falafel find the perfect balance between a crisp exterior and a soft, giving interior. The bread, dusted with hints of cinnamon, is fresh baked, and a far cry from the limp, packaged pitas that are served in many of the city’s other established eateries. To boot, it’s exceedingly reasonable. If you order wisely, it’s quite possible for a large group to fill up on Dhs30 each. The baklava is also sublime, and we highly recommend bringing home a batch for relatives abroad.
For more information call 04 282 3388.
Al Nafoorah: Regarded as one of the finest Lebanese restaurants in Dubai, Al Nafoorah, which sits conveniently at the entrance of the Emirates Towers, does most, if not all things well. As far as al fresco dining goes, you'd be hard pressed to find better this side of Dubai; the space is beautifully laid and furnished; there's an air of sophistication and refinement to the set-up. The food, well, most of it, is fresh and authentic, and equally impresses. The zataar salad is sharp and zesty and the houmous will have you scraping the bowl for more. The spinach fatayer, with its crisp pastry, ranks as one of the best around and with that in mind, it's fair to say it's the starters that do Al Nafoorah proud. The service is friendly, attentive and diligent for the most part.
For more information call 04 330 0000.
Almaz by Momo: It’s hard to know what to expect when the route to a restaurant involves a stroll through Harvey Nichols and passing beneath a giant pink neon sign that screams ‘Almaz forever’. Bizarrely, neither of these prepares you for what’s actually inside Almaz by Momo, as this Moroccan eatery is decked out with sumptuous couches, intimately lit booths and tasteful North African decor. Once the shock of the neon has faded, allow the attentive staff to recommend the ‘harira’ – a chickpea, lentil and lamb soup that is full-bodied and rich, if a little on the oily side. Follow this up with the ‘kefta tagine’, which boasts tender balls of lamb with tomato, potato and egg, cooked and served in the traditional clay dish, unveiled with a suitably theatrical flourish at your table. The couscous chicken, though uninspiring on the menu, is actually a hotbed of delicate flavours. Fruity without being cloying and served with skewers of moist chicken, the giant-sized portion of couscous will sate even the most voracious of appetites. If you can exercise a little restraint, do so to make room for dessert. While it may not be the most Moroccan of dishes, the chocolate moelleux is as good as any in the city.
For more information call 04 409 8877.
Awtar: There are endless unmemorable mundane versions of fattoush, houmous and shish taouk that get devoured at Lebanese restaurants across the city. Awtar however is more of a standout addition. Set within sophisticated surroundings with a draped ceiling and Arabian lanterns, this restaurant is well worth a visit. The option of the outdoor area is a welcome call in the cooler winter months. The menu is vast, divided from hot and cold mezze to meats, and has some interesting options. The fish mixed grill was huge, with the prawns being soft and juicy and the hammour taking on a great char-grilled taste, and the houmous Beiruty was a welcome change from its traditional counterpart, as the fava beans and paprika were a nice touch. You will pay slightly more than some other Lebanese restaurants in town, but it is worth it.
For more information call 04 317 2222.
Khan Murjan Restaurant: You might find it difficult to find Khan Murjan in WAFI, but persevere. Inside, amid the many charming paths lined with tourist-loving stores, you’ll come across their courtyard restaurant. It has a Moroccan vibe to it thanks to the Fez-topped waiters, but the restaurant has dishes from all over MENA. The ta’amiah washed down with fresh juice, was only a precursor for greater things to come. Vegetarians (yes, vegetarians!) will love the Egyptian koshari, while meat eaters should try the Iranian kebabs - served with rice, the meat is tender, juicy and flavoured just right. The service is friendly and quite exceptional. The experience will leave you more than satisfied.
For more information call 04 324 4555.
Mezza House: Dubai is awash with Lebanese food joints, so it takes something pretty special to make one stand out. Mezza House has opted for a modern café approach: the cool jade-green decor certainly makes a change from the Persian carpet-clad interiors of many of its rivals, and the upbeat funk tunes and shisha-smokers that grace the corner tables give the place an easy-going, friendly vibe. The extensive menus, presented by rather brusque waiters, are ideal for MENA newcomers because each dish is explained in detail, with plenty of reassuring pictures and in-depth descriptions of some of the more popular options. All the staples are here (ridiculously creamy houmous , succulent shish taouk and the crispiest, squeakiest halloumi we’ve tasted this side of Beirut) alongside plenty more unusual options – those willing to order 24 hours in advance can indulge in traditional Palestinian ‘makloubeh’, a huge upside-down chicken, meat and vegetable casserole.
For more information call 04 420 5444.
Sarai: If you’re fed up with the usual Lebanese and Middle Eastern fare such as kebab halabi and shish taouk you’ve been scoffing around town, head to Sarai. The decor is charming and waiters in their fez caps even more so. There are several dishes here that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. Be sure to ask waiters for recommendations as they can match your taste cravings to what’s on offer rather well. The tochka is our preferred starter – grilled Arabic bread stuffed with kebabs, cheese, garlic and chopped parsley and paprika. For mains, kebab intakli where minced meat is mixed with red chilli peppers, is a refreshing flavour take on the humble kebab, and the kebab agha where minced chicken is stuffed with mushrooms, turkey ham and kashkaval cheese is beyond sublime.
For more information call (04 438 0640.
Shabestan: Shabestan is, was, and probably will be for a while, one of the best Iranian restaurants in Dubai. We recommend you start out off with a couple of shared starters, the nargesi is really very good – finely sliced and entwined with spinach that falls onto your fork and has a wholesome yet spicy flavour. Alternatively, try the fried aubergine mirza ghasemi dip. Mains are fairly typical Persian kebabs, but the kebab e soltani – fillets of tangy lamb served with some of the finest mast we’ve tasted – is excellent, and comes with generously saffron-ed rice.
For more information call 04 222 7171.
Tagine: Named after the popular Moroccan dish, Tagine is set besides the shisha courtyard in the One & Only Royal Mirage Hotel. The restaurant makes an impact from the offset with its impressive entrance that has guests duck into what feels like an underground tavern straight from 1001 Nights. The decoration has both style and charm, with the dim lighting really adding to the romantic ambience. The menu offers standard Moroccan fare – harira soup, couscous, and, of course, tagines. The starters impressed, with the Moroccan salads tasting particularly fresh and light. The mains however weren’t quite as convincing. The bubbling chicken tagine with apricots, cinnamon, honey and almonds was delicious but, as we were warned, incredibly sweet – even for those with a sweet tooth.
For more information call 04 399 9999.
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Mimi Apr 06, 2011 06:23 pm
Just click on the name of the restaurant and you will find the location, phone number and whatever else you need.
Roxanne Apr 03, 2011 11:24 am
All your '10 to try...' collections are very informative but they could be helpful to a reader only if you add the location. A restaurant review without a location is plain dumb! We readers are fishing in the dark!
Manfred Man Apr 02, 2011 07:36 am
You are right on this one. Al Hallab is the best Lebanese restaurant in Dubai. I've been eating there for 15 years and I have always been impressed with most of their dishes, cleanliness and good service. Above all, their prices are reasonable and they don't try to over-charge like many other Lebanese restaurants. Excellent choice!