Whether well done or rare, T-bone or fillet, drenched in pepper or Béarnaise sauce, served with chips or, er, chunkier chips, everybody loves a good steak. Correction: everybody who is not vegetarian loves a good steak.
But where to go in Dubai for the perfect cut of meat, fried to your exact specifications? Time Out sharpened its teeth and set out to find the best steaks in Dubai ...
The Meat Co: This restaurant means business when it comes to steak. It has become a Dubai institution – it even has a celebrity following, the names of whom can be found scrawled on plates adorning the walls of the Madinat venue (our favourite is Jordan’s barely legible ‘signature’). Despite the place being busy most nights, service is always attentive and swift; on our last visit, it took longer for us to peruse the book-like menu than it did for our order to arrive. Within 15 minutes, two glistening New Zealand sirloin steaks arrived at our table. Aesthetically speaking, there wasn’t much to them, but there’s little room for fussy presentation in a steakhouse and, without a second thought, we happily tucked into the juicy giants that sat before us. The meat was perfectly seasoned and cooked, slipping down our gullets with oyster-like ease. A consistent restaurant is a good one, and being guaranteed a satisfying steak every visit is no bad thing.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 368 6040). Other location: Souk al Bahar (04 420 0737).
La Parrilla: This fine steakhouse on the uppermost floor of Jumeirah Beach Hotel is so dedicated to creating its South American sass that a pair of tango dancers accompanies your meal, whether you like it or not. The warmth of its Argentine dark woods and reds extends to the staff, who are friendly, just the right kind of attentive and well-versed in the menu – essential here, as there a few items that go unexplained, (would a rookie know what cassava is without asking, for example? It’s fried yucca). The usual chorizo and empanadas are safe bets for starters, although a cheese fondue packed with chili makes for a rewarding risk. Mains straddle the line between ‘good’ and ‘great’. The Argentine tenderloin is an acceptably tender cut, but doesn’t hit the high notes of the sublime steaks we’ve sampled in Argentina itself; still, it’s among the better moments for meat-lovers in Dubai. Sides veer away from the steakhouse’s standard fries and onion rings into more traditional territory, such as creamy mash with fava beans and suitably crunchy cassava. Unexpectedly, where La Parilla really excels is the fish – the best meal we sampled here was a sweetly nuanced light hunk of seabass, paired with a silky pumpkin mash. You’ll pay the price for a good meal here, but avoid the wagyu and it’s actually one of the more reasonable swish joints around town.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 348 0000).
Seafire: Dining at Seafire can be a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Despite its cavernous appearance, it feels more intimate than some of the hotel's more casual eateries. The restaurant is proud of its commitment to providing Dubai's diners with something different –so how's this? Atlantis breeds its own cows in Australia. This means that its corn fed beef literally slides off the knife (the cows have a very nice life) and for anyone who is concerned about where their food is coming from, proactive steps like this will surely impress. Although a meal out here isn't one of the cheapest steakhouse options, it is a dazzler. The chips also are worthy of a mention, they arrive satisfyingly chunky and coated in a slight sheen of tempura batter, with that fantastic double crunch effect, that in our minds make them some of the best in town.
Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
St Maxim’s: If you haven’t already discovered this little gem of a steakhouse, it’s well worth seeking out. Tucked away in Mall of the Emirates (next to Après), St Maxim’s offers a respite from your standard mall fare – the Parisian-inspired décor is sleek and classy, with plenty of plush red velvet and a resident pianist, while the low lighting feels a world away from the harsh strip lights of the MoE food court. The knowledgeable staff are some of the best we’ve encountered, willing to offer recommendations and chat, yet never overstaying their welcome. And let’s not forget the steaks. Alongside some well-priced entry-level New Zealand beef, Australian Angus and wagyu, there are chicken, seafood and duck options. The selling point is that it offers patrons the chance to cook their steak ‘on stone’ – staff will bring a searing stone tablet to your table, so you grill your own meat.
Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 3415).
Exchange Grill: There are many fine-dining restaurants to choose from in Dubai that promise mouth-watering cuisine and a handful that offer an impressive steaks. However, many restaurants lack atmosphere and ambience to go with the food, which is where The Exchange Grill places itself above the rest. Situated on the second floor of the Fairmont Dubai, it's charmingly cosy, perfectly lit and the size of a large dining room. Specialising in grills and seafood with ‘modern flair’, this is the place to go to for steaks with a twist – but don’t be tempted to forego starters. The tuna tartare with avocado is generous in size and taste, while the tasty blue crab cakes with smoked bell pepper butter are perfection. For mains, we opted for the 10oz filet mignon, which was grilled just so, and the steaks were served alongside a medley of potatoes (the crisp truffle and parmesan fries were particular standouts). If red meat’s not your thing, there are abundant offerings, such as the pistachio-stuffed chicken, and butternut squash ravioli.
Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 5555).
JW Steakhouse: It’s not often nowadays that you find a cosy hideaway, rather than an oversized, modern affair but JW likes to keep things traditional. Green leather wing-back chairs bookend small solid tables draped with rich linen and the restaurant itself, tucked away in the basement of the JW Marriott hotel is quiet, dark (in a good way) and reserved. Steaks take prime place here, on the oversized chalkboard menu, (as they should) and there’s a good selection including rib-eye and wagyu. Starters veer towards the heavier side , with plenty of foie gras and crab cakes. While you’re waiting for the steak to be seared to perfection, tuck into the fluffy home-made onion bread which comes in its own plant pot or the seabass amuse-bouche. Side orders for the main affair are plentiful and we particularly liked the various potato options including French fries and proper chips – an important choice for any steak lover. We were impressed with the weighted plate-holder that arrives before the meat, designed to make sawing into that marbled slab even easier. Our steaks melted in our mouths, fries were crisp, green beans not too limp and each dish came with a choice of sauces and mustards. JW shouldn’t be overlooked, even if it means a special trip to Deira.
JW Marriott Dubai, Deira (04 607 7977).
Manhattan Grill: Somewhere amidst the wonderful rainforest of the Grand Hyatt lies the sublimely sleek and silky gem of a restaurant, Manhattan Grill. It's a classy affair from the moment you walk in: darkly-lit, it has a sophisticated yet gentle atmosphere – one that, true to name, you'd be likely to find in New York. Every member of staff strikes the balance of good service perfectly – they're there when you need and not so when you're after a bit of privacy. Finished plates are cleared immediately and there's a confidence instilled to handle even the most complex of requests with a broad smile. If the service is good, the food is a delight. The grills, from the wagyu beef to the lobster, are knockouts. You'll struggle to find better in Dubai in terms of taste and texture. The chefs demonstrate an excellent understanding of what makes a good grill and this, combined with a presentation full of finesse and panache, makes Manhattan Grill a true winner in a land of faux-grills. Throw in, too, a mouth-watering selection of desserts, particularly the yummy cheesecake, and you have everything. This is by no means a cheap eat but you'll have no regrets parting with your dirhams for what will be a special meal.
Grand Hyatt (04 317 2222).
MJs Steakhouse: MJs has a sophisticated Manhattan vibe inside, thanks to the New York cityscape prints that adorn the walls, but the restaurant has a relaxed feel and in no way gives off a pretentious air. The menu boasts all the staples, and does them to a high standard. The steaks are accompanied by a side dish and sauce of your choice. You can even choose which knife you need to tackle the thick juicy steaks, from the immense French knife selection presented to you before your main course arrives. The dessert menu has all of the classics, from sticky toffee pudding to chocolate fondant, and hits the sweet craving you get after finishing a main. The service is excellent, as it is smooth, professional, and attentive without being overbearing. MJs is worth keeping in mind for a special occasion; it is not a restaurant that creates culinary surprises but is a pretty good failsafe option.
Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6750).
Rare: Set in the hidden-gem hotel Desert Palm, which is a study in understated chic, Rare is a favourite. The menu has been toned down lately (they’ve ditched the more adventurous meats such as elk in favour of more cuts of beef) but the quality remains high. As you sit down you’ll be served an opening of oily but perfect olive bread served in the pan it was baked in, with delicious tomato salsa, and from this moment on you can be assured that the meal will be a taste (and calorie) explosion. Steaks are always cooked just right; lamb is flavoursome and seafood fresh. When you order your main you’ll get an option of sides – we love the truffle-oil mash and the goose fat potatoes and delicious sauces; all of which are on the money – and, trust us, we’re picky about our béarnaise. Food aside, the view of the green polo field and the out-of-the-city location of Rare, are pluses. On a winter's night outdoor heaters and a live musician warm you up, it's a rare, memorable treat.
Desert Palm Resort & Spa, Al Awir Road (04 323 8888).
Ruth’s Chris Steak House: Proud of its 45-year-old American heritage, the chain has restaurants in more than 32 US states. Far from being stereotypically brash and boisterous, it takes the best bits of American hospitality (first-class service, a lively vibe), then adds sleek, modern décor and sinfully tasty food for a dining experience that ticks all the boxes. The Dubai outpost of the chain, nestled in The Monarch, doesn’t have the same heritage, but that hasn’t stopped it from drawing a loyal following – unlike many restaurants in this city, it attracts a buzzing crowd most nights. As for the steaks? You can always trust the Yanks to get it right: prime cuts of meltingly tender USA Midwestern beef are served on plates heated to 500F and sloshed with diet-busting melted butter. Sides are sold separately and follow the American tradition of bigger-is-better: we’d advise sharing, provided you can agree on which of the seven different types of potato to try (the sweet potato casserole is divine). If all those carbs haven’t done you in, the sizeable desserts are the perfect way to round off your meal.
The Monarch Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 501 8666).