Best newcomers to Dubai dining scene in the past 12 months
Winner – Best Newcomer Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2012
Toro Toro: This chic, ever so classy venue offers food, which, in the spirit of Sandoval, takes a distinct Latin American twist. The menu is divided into three – ‘From the Sea’, ‘From the Land’ and ‘From the Garden’ – and offers dishes served tapas-style. Dishes such as ceviche de mariscos, crispy calamari and the picadillo empanda prove to be excellent starters, while palopmilla steak, accompanied by poblano chilli and bell peppers, is velvet-soft, and the potato tostones are hearty and luxurious thanks to the use of rich truffle, chimichurri and parmesan marinade. Toro Toro has impressed from the outset and has established itself as the new go-to Dubai destination. Click here for location and opening times for Toro Toro.
Highly Recommended – Best Newcomer Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2012 Gaucho: Gaucho is not a steakhouse, according to the restaurant’s international operations director Ryan Hattingh – it’s an Argentinean restaurant that ‘specialises in steaks’. It is also an Argentinean restaurant that looks great – moody and beautifully sleek. Service is as slick as the decor and guests are talked through options with the aid of a cutting board exhibiting each different cut of steak, which are explained in detail, with recommendations of how each should be cooked. It’s all good (go for the churrasco chorizo, a cut of sirloin that had been marinated in garlic, parsley and olive oil), though can be let down by lacklustre sides. Ultimately, however, Gaucho offers good food but an exquisite restaurant experience by way of the decor, the service and the convivial atmosphere. Click here for location and opening times for Gaucho.
Highly Recommended – Best Newcomer Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2012 Table 9: Table 9, as the name suggests, is the brainchild of Scott Price and Nick Alvis, the nice men who headed Gordon Ramsay’s Verre (it occupies the same venue). Its philosophy is simple: fine, flavourful dishes that let the ingredients do the talking. Though Nick and Scott have made their mark on the venue, some aspects of Verre’s less tasteful decor still linger (the chrome columns and carpet), the voyeuristic, installation art-style projection screen, permanently focused on the plating area of the kitchen reminds visitors that they’re here for the food. On taking their seats, guests are presented with a recycled brown paper menu by an enthusiastic waiter, who explains that there are three price points – Dhs70 for all starters, Dhs100 for all mains and Dhs55 for desserts.
There are also two tasting menus – a veg option with courses simply called ‘egg’, ‘goats cheese’, ‘chicory’ and so on, and a carnivorous offering. First though, there’s a serving of quirky amuse bouche, a ‘potted plant with edible soil’, with a crunchy dukkah-like top and a feather-light cauliflower mousse centre. There follow dishes suchas ‘lobster, vanilla, crackling, mango’ (perfectly cooked pieces of shellfish with slivers of mango, the vanilla just an echo at the end) and ‘hen’s egg, cepes, vinegar caramel’ ( oozing, deep-fried hen’s egg surrounded by vinegar and mushroom). The originality of dishes continue into the mains – expect offerings such as ‘sea bass, winkle and oregano butter, pickled salsify’ and ‘pork belly, sage dumpling, sprouts, pancetta’. Service is swift and enthusiastic and it’s the tiny touches that make Table 9 special. Click here for location and opening times for Table9.
1762: You’ll find 1762 rammed at lunchtimes, but efficient staff help expedite the queue meaning you have more time to enjoy some truly delicious food during your lunch hour. The wealth of choice is remarkable: Asian noodles; Indonesian-style gadu-gadu salad; club-like breakfast burritos; brie, onion and jam in dainty bread rolls; roast veg, mozzarella and tomato encased in slabs of focaccia; and broccoli and cheddar quiche (the Yorkshire pudding wrap is one of the best dishes Time Out tried in 2012), all of which are filling and fantastic. We hear a second outlet of 1762 is opening in Jebel Ali soon. It can only be hoped that many more will follow. Click here for location and opening times for 1762.
Hakkasan: In many respects, Hakkasan Dubai looks nearly identical to Hakkasan Abu Dhabi, which can be said of the menu. This is not necessarily a bad thing – the dim sum platter, featuring six pretty parcels of plump scallop shumai, prawn with chives, and black pepper duck, is divine. Likewise, the squat baby bok choi with a light showering of oyster sauce (too many Chinese restaurants feel the need to drown dishes with the stuff) and gently braised tofu, aubergine and slender shiitake mushrooms are all fantastic. Hakkasan ticks all the right boxes and anyone who visits will leave feeling sated and satisfied. Those who are lucky enough to dine on the outdoor terrace will likely come away thinking they’ve had their beat Dubai dining experience to date. Click here for location and opening times for Hakkasan.
Jones the Grocer:The à la carte menu is by no means vast, although this is a place of quality rather than quantity. There are some great drinks (try the aroha elderflower and an iced-green tea) and hearty, fresh and delicious dishes such as puff pastry-crusted perigord truffle soup, caprese insalata, grilled salmon salad, and chargrilled chicken, served on a bed of North African couscous with harissa and sinfully good chocolate brownie served with a scoop of vanilla and saffron ice cream. However, Jones is a weekend breakfast destination, so head over early (the earlier the better – the place is rammed on the weekend) for fresh and finely made breakfast dishes and great coffee. And since is Jones is a grocer, you can stock up on gourmet imported products while you’re there.
Royal China: Decked out in regal Chinese reds, this London-based Chinese restaurant looks fit for an emperor, though in reality it serves hearty, enjoyable fare better suited to the proletariat. The menu boasts pricy seafood options and abalone, as well as more straightforward ‘foreigner favourites’, including sweet and sour chicken, roast duck and kung pao chicken. Dodge the pricier variations of duck and instead order the quarter of aromatic duck, which is prepared with aplomb at your table, resulting in no-fuss, tasty pancakes.
The Ivy: Aesthetically speaking, The Ivy Dubai is identical to the original in London – there’s wall-to-wall wood panelling, distinctive green leather chairs, and stained-glass lattice windows. If it weren’t for the work of prominent regional artists adorning the walls, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d woken up in the West End. But if you’re willing to embrace this illusion, you’re likely to have a very enjoyable experience. Traditional British staples are The Ivy’s trademark, and to expect anything more is unrealistic. Dishes such as kedgeree and shellfish cocktail (yes, that’s right – another way of saying ‘prawn and cocktail’) are prepared with competent aplomb, though don’t expect anything overly exciting. The same can be said of dishes such as the ‘legendary’ shepherd’s pie, salmon fishcakes and the rosy-pink lamb chops – if anything, they have the quality of a good home-cooked meal, rather than being the products of a culinary creative genius. However, the atmosphere of the restaurant complements the food served, resulting in a satisfying restaurant experience (made all the better if you have a drink at the bar afterwards).
The Pavilion Café: If The Pavilion Downtown Dubai Café is the future of Dubai dining, then the future is bright. The unique, airy interior, with its polished concrete flooring and light wooden tables, is just a place for fashionable people to spend time with their Apple laptops. Happily, the hipster vibe is supplemented by a great menu. Breakfast options include everything from foul medames to eggs Benedict, while lunch offers gems such as spicy grilled chicken wrap and a striploin steak. Equally, desserts such as the intricately wrought apple pie with saffron-infused ice cream are testament to Pavilion’s overall quality – one of the most refreshing and interesting venues around town.
Vôi: Vôi is splendid – all shimmering silvers and brilliant whites, with a feature wall providing a splash of textured black and the high-ceilings capturing the essence of yin and yang. The waitresses are as sleek as their surroundings and all the more charming for their polite nervousness. The menu is full of unpronounceable Vietnamese dishes. Try the pot eu feu, a quintessential French stew, which has been given a suitably Southeast Asian twist with rice noodles, a sprinkling of chillies and a dash of lemon; the colourful snowcrab featuring crispy crab and soft, succulent cuts of fresh avocado and juicy mango make for a medley of taste and texture; or the crispy pacific cod. Tasty food in a magnificent setting. Click here for location and opening times for Vôi.