Check out our favourite city spots for fish dishes
Time Out Dubai staff
Winner – Best Seafood Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2012
Pierchic, Madinat Jumeirah: It’s clear from the offset that Pierchic is a picture-postcard of a restaurant. Situated at the end of a pier off Al Qasr, it’s achingly romantic and this is without the aid of violins or live ‘jazz’ singers all too common in Dubai’s restaurants. Staff are courteous and charming, while the food is equally graceful. The seafood platter is a bonanza of seabass, shrimps and hammour, served on a bed of beans and vegetables, a feast that even two of the hungriest seafood-fanatics will struggle to finish. Everything from the smallest things – like the herb butter and soft bread and the accompanying fluffy rice – to the formidably sized oysters with delicate dressing and the lobster salad underline the strength in depth of the menu. Pierchic is a seriously romantic venue where Romeos will line up to bring their Juliets, but it also serves quality food, making it more than just a pretty face.
Highly Commended Ossiano, Atlantis, The Palm:Enter through Ossiano’s grand portal and it's immediately obvious you're stepping into dangerously luxury territory. It's a captivating, somewhat overwhelming space – one that'll doubtless win many guests over before they’re even seated. The Ultimate Menu, an epic array of 17 bite-size dishes, is worth trying. Featuring sublime dishes such as red tuna carpaccio and tiger prawn gratin rouse, it’s the gazpacho lobster that is the star of the show: rich, complex and of perfect consistency. Ossiano is a gentle, serene, almost surreal affair; nothing is rushed and the dishes seduce. It’s not cheap, but this isn’t a criticism – the surrounding beauty and the supreme food that’s served makes it worth every dirham.
Highly Commended Peppercrab, Grand Hyatt Dubai:This Singaporean seafood favourite received a light makeover in September 2011, though happily it has since retained the same culinary qualities that have made it a Dubai institution. An array of live sea creatures await their fate in the display counters, while an army of chefs busy themselves in the open kitchen preparing a range of Asian seafood specialities, from fish head curry to curry laksa. Of course it’d be a crime to visit without ordering the dish from which the restaurant takes its name and though it’s costly, it’s worth every last dirham – the peppercrab proves a medley of texture and flavour. Aside from the quality (if not slightly expensive) food, Peppercrab is a great place for large groups and families, which are catered to marvellously by efficient and friendly staff.
Al Mahara, Burj Al Arab:For better or worse Al Mahara’s location at the Burj Al Arab precedes anything noted about its food. Although there's no denying it makes big statements with its giant fish tank, and while most people will be won over just by the sight of the beautifully-lit caved entrance, the food, too, sparkles – given the chance. Each dish is pushed hard in terms of finesse and it's nice to see food served with an equal sense of adventure and craft (especially considering the price). The monkfish, in particular, is tender and cooked to perfection, and comes with an imaginative ‘mini-piano’ made from vegetable strips as keys. Plush and dangerously pricey, the Burj's flagship seafood restaurant is by no means an everyday venture; its splendour leans heavily on overkill, but if a big deal is to be done or a life-changing question to be popped, this is the perfect stage.
Amwaj, Shangri-La Hotel Dubai: While its serene atmosphere can be encroached upon by the noise emanating from Dunes downstairs, Amwaj is a serene and calm setting. The menu, meanwhile, is small but boasts boasts all the fishy favourites and there's a decent list of sides and sauces to perk up your order. For starters, it's hard not to overlook the seared scallops, which arrive on foam-cushioned shredded leaks. Mains can be unmemorable - the red snapper, paltry and overly delicate, disappoints, but the standout dish by far is the rocksalt seabass, which is carefully deboned before your eyes.
Aquara, Dubai Marina Yacht Club:Aquara manages to feel like a restaurant in its own right despite the floorspace being shared with the somewhat boisterous Cafe Bistro. The menu, tidy and adept is a predominantly European one, though illuminated by some welcome Asian touches. The hot and sour soup is a fierce and fervid affair, the tidy spicy kingfish a slightly gentler proposition where the craft and delicacy of the fillet really impress, and for the even more conservative, the surf and turf with juicy prawns and parmesan is also worth a venture. There's artistry to each dish and the chef's playful touch is evident. It's hard not to be impressed with Aquara, the food, the cosmopolitan feel, the silvery service, the reasonable prices… one way or the other, you'll be won over.
Aquarium, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club:A circular aquarium is the centerpiece, though it’s the quality of the food that lingers. Serving a wide selection of seafood including sashimi, Singaporean barramundi laksa offers perfectly flaky fillets with just-cooked-enough julienne vegetables and a hearty broth. The classic lobster thermidor is delicious, and the meat cooked perfectly – it seems that every dish has merit at Aquarium, thanks in large to strong broths and delicate flavours.
Bu Qtair, Jumeirah:Hoards of families, fishermen, locals, expats – you name it – all gather at this one-time hidden gem. But the secret, it would appear, has slipped through the fishing nets. To look at, Bu Qtair is not much: it’s a shack with some plastic chairs and little else; the cutlery (if you’re lucky to find any) is mix and match; and it can be a competitive, wearying struggle to land your order. But when the fish does come, it's delectable. The local catch is divided into shrimp, sherry and hammour, and it’s clear that everything is fresh and salubrious. It's the unique spicy curries that also keep the faithful returning. If you are happy to part with the best part of Dhs100, willing to get your hands seriously mucky and don't mind sharing your plastic table with strangers, then Bu Qtair, for all its stress, is worth it. The queues and anxious faces may tell you one thing, but it's the licked plates and full bellies afterwards that underline the restaurant’s quality.
Fish Basket, Oud Metha: This restaurant won’t win any awards for style – the decor is kooky in a dated kind of way, and the atmosphere is, at times, left wanting, but Fish Basket is all about the food. While the staff are a little too keen to lead you over to the impressive seafood display and encourage you to order as much as humanly possible, be wary of over ordering (it's easily here). Instead, tell them your budget, your fish of choice, and how you’d like it cooked and leave the rest to them. From luscious prawns to scrumptious scallops, everything at Fish Basket is top notch. Some of the dishes can be over salted, and some of the trickier fish need a thorough deboning, but all in all, this is smashing stuff.
Salmontini, Mall of the Emirates:Despite a somewhat curious name and the mall location, Salmontini has a distinct European feel to it. With wooden finishing, compelling art and towering windows overlooking the Ski Dubai, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were dining in Vienna or Nantes rather than Barsha. The restaurant prides itself, needless to say, on its seafood and, true to its word, it delivers. While the salmon is delightfully fresh (being smoked in-house), it’s the spicy tuna salad which really excites: finely diced cubes of tuna coated with tempura crumbs, laced together with hints of chilli and served on a crisp bed of lettuce. Sign off the evening with a textbook apple tart, chuck in some sharp, typically high-end European-style service and, all in all, you have a reasonably affordable, quality meal.