From budget to blow-out, the best our reviewers have been served in 2013
Time Out staff
During the course of this year (like each and every year) Time Out has eaten out most nights of the week. We've made our way collectively through approximately 700 eateries, spanning the entire gamut from hot dogs to haute cuisine. Since 2013 is now slowly drawing to a close, we've looked back on those eating experiences this year, reflecting on thousands of plates worth of food and selected the most enjoyable, for creativity, authenticity, decadence or even simplicity. Whether that's multi- faceted desserts from a molecular master, perfectly prepared Arabian street food staples, or Filipino favourites that bring back thoughts of childhood with a Proustian whiff, here are our most pleasurable eating experiences of 2013. Happy eating.
Savoury Under Dhs49 1 Chicken tikka at Memsaab We’d love to know Memsaab’s secret, because this eatery manages to cook its chicken to perfection. The result is juicy, with deep flavours – the meat is crispy without being dry and refreshingly free of any charcoal-infused aftertaste. Dhs30 JLT, J2 Tower, Cluster J (04 442 9816).
2 Deep-fried sherri fish at Bu Qtair There’s a very good reason for the invariably lengthy queues outside this humble restaurant. The fish – particularly the smaller sherri – is fresh, expertly marinated in spices to give it heat and then fried to give it a beautifully crispy shell. Sat outside under the stars, you won't wipe the smiles off your face. Approximately Dhs35 per kg. Road 4d, Umm Suqeim (04 444 3444, 055 705 2130).
3 Feta feteer at Hadoota Masreya Egyptian feteer is hard to beat and Hadoota Masreya makes an excellent example of this classic. Try the feta feteer, a huge pie, that veers beautifully between flaky and buttery soft pastry within its many layers, with plenty of delicious molten feta inside. Dhs35. Matloob Building, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 380 9000).
4 Fishcakes at Thai Kitchen A Far Eastern classic, these home-made patties may not always be uniform in shape, but that only adds to the authenticity. Each deep-fried cake features a palate-awakening blend of coriander, ginger and chopped chillies, and a small sweet, spicy dipping sauce provides the perfect accompaniment. Dhs40. Park Hyatt, Deira (04 317 2222).
5 Garlic chicken manouche at Zaroob Try as it might Dubai has never really grasped the whole street food thing. So Zaroob’s mission to bring the best Levantine snacks to Sheikh Zayed Road must be applauded. The applause will turn to an ovation when you grab this garlicky wrap with soft white bread, sloppy sauce, fistfuls of cheese and juicy chunks of chicken. Dhs20. Sheikh Zayed Road (04 327 6060).
6 Ghee paper masala dosa at Aryaas The staff are proud of their unofficial signature course at Aryaas, and it's not hard to see why. The crispy crêpe-style dish arrives, in all its Burj-Khalifa cone-esque glory, stuffed with a spicy, creamy concoction of mash potato, sautéed onion and peas and the combination is as good as it looks. Just be prepared to draw attention when it arrives. Dhs16.50. Bank Street, Bur Dubai (04 357 7800).
7 Ha gao at China Sea Taking Friday dim sum at this authentically frantic Chinese is a must for any Dubai resident – expect to be overwhelmed by exotic smells and loud families wailing in Mandarin. Ordering at random from the beguiling menu is a joy – but stay safe and start off with this classic steamed shrimp dumpling which we come back to time and time again. Dhs25. Near Clock Tower, Al Maktoum Street, Al Rigga (04 295 9816).
8 Halloumi and couscous salad at The Lime Tree The average portion size of this fresh and tasty salad is quite deceiving. A few mouthfuls in of the grilled halloumi, turkey bacon and aubergine couscous and we wondered how we were ever going to finish it! Dhs26. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 325 6325).
9 Honky Tonk Woman at Smiling BKK Ordering anything in this quirky Dubai restaurant is a leap into the unknown. You can never be certain what you’re going to get and that is part of Smiling BKK’s charm. There is no clue in the dish name but this spicy stir fry combines an aromatic red curry paste with fish, prawn or lobster. From Dhs49. Al Wasl Road (04 349 6677).
10 Masala Dosa at Balance Café Balance Café is a gem. Healthy and imaginative food with a commitment to quality. Despite being only Dhs10, an enormous masala dosa is a melt-in-your-mouth, 18 inch-long pancake with a potato curry, a spicy broth and assorted other dips. One of the best value meals in the city. Dhs10. Oasis Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 384 7010).
11 Max's Tapa at Max’s Restaurant A popular breakfast order at this Filipino eatery, small chunks of tender beef are coated with a sweet, almost barbecue-flavoured marinade. Served with rice and eggs how you like them, the simple but incredibly moreish dish cast one Time Out staffer back to a youth spent exploring world cuisines by swapping lunchboxes with friends. Dhs26. Karama (04 325 7797).
12 Pissaladiere at La Petite Maison At La Petite Maison, the concept is ostensibly Mediterranean French cooking, and that idea is perhaps at its purest in this classic Provençal dish. Crisp flatbread is topped with honey sweet caramelised onions and injected with a welcome balance of salty acidity from some anchovies. Dhs30. DIFC (04 439 0505).
13 Potato gratin at La Serre This particular side order is one of the best potato dishes we've tried this year. Layer upon layer of fine potato slices are built up, creating a soft texture, and all bound together with a decadently cheesy and creamy sauce. Dhs25. Vida Downtown Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 428 6969).
14 Rocca zaatar at Mezza House This tasty salad is served in a big, brass bucket and filled to the brim with fresh zaatar, rocca leaves and onion that is drenched in a tangy pomegranate and garlic dressing. It's simple and healthy, and goes perfectly with a bowl of hummus. Dhs25. Mezza House, Downtown Dubai (04 440 9300).
15 Seared tuna salad at The Farm There is something about the beautiful, custom-built Bali-esque terrace at this Al Barari café that makes everything taste good. The seared tuna, however, is worthy of special attention. Searing the quality fish keeps the juices intact and the flavours are locked in and the resulting taste is unique. Served with a light salad. Dhs46. Al Barari Estate (04 392 5660).
16 Souboureg at Mayrig This rustic Armenian classic is made with paper thin sheets of supremely fine and flaky pastry stuffed with oodles of melted cheese (and for an extra indulgent edge, Mayrig make it with a mixture of three varieties of cheese). Dhs40. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 453 9945).
17 Thali at Govinda’s At more than Dhs30, Govinda’s Thali is relevantly extravagant on the ‘Old Dubai’ Indian circuit – but you definitely get what you pay for with quality ingredients and a cosy dark dining space. A starter, roti, rice, four dishes and dahl are included in the price, with the mains changing daily, so there’s always a reason to come back for more. Keep an eye out for the paneer palak masala and vegetable jalfrezi. Served noon-3.30am daily; Dhs32 (Sun-Wed), Dhs35 (Thu-Sat). Behind the Regent Palace Hotel, Karama (04 396 0088).
18 Tom yum at Lemongrass A seriously tangy Thai soup, this appetiser packs a spicy punch. The brothy dish has strong flavours of lemongrass, galangal (similar to ginger) and kaffir lime leaves, and you can choose between adding seafood, prawn, chicken or vegetables to the mix. We recommend the prawns, which are plump and generous in their number. From Dhs30. Oud Metha (04 334 2325).
19 Truffle edamame at Watatsumi At Watatsumi you can choose to have your edamame dressed classically with salt, spicy, or with truffle oil at no extra cost. It is honestly a no brainer to choose the latter, which is an inspired touch of fusion, creating a wonderfully mouth-filling aroma that is surprisingly well-matched. Dhs30. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Dubai Marina (04 399 3373).
Dhs50-99 20 Vegetarian quesadillas at Maria Bonita This authentic Mexican joint serves two fluffy flour tortillas stuffed with onions, peppers, mushrooms and loads of melted cheese. Sides of freshly made guacamole, tangy pico de gallo and a big dollop of sour cream make this a hugely satisfying taste of Mexico. Dhs52. Maria Bonita, Umm Al Sheif Road, Jumeirah 3 (04 395 5576).
21 Crab cake mini burgers at Siddharta Lounge Served in a pair, these burgers may be small but they pack big flavour, with ever-so-slightly-sweet buns sandwiching delicious crab patties that boast crunch on the outside and meaty satisfaction on the inside. Dunk them in the accompanying guacamole and you’ve got yourself a winner. Dhs90. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 317 6000).
22 Fish and chips at 25/55 Café Bistro Crispy and with just the right amount of dough, the fish was particularly outstanding. Accompanied by home-made fries, a slice of fresh lemon, sea salt and tangy vinegar; fish and chip heaven. Dhs79. Dubai Marina Yacht Club (04 362 7955).
23 Gilled jumbo shrimp at Zahr El-Laymoun This quirky little spot does a delicious grilled jumbo shrimp, perfect for seafood-lovers craving a Lebanese speciality. The seafood is juicy and tender, grilled perfectly and served with a healthy side of vegetables and baked potato. Dhs74 . Souk Al Bahar (04 448 6060).
24 Home-made gnocchi at Baker & Spice A freshly made feast of hearty, filling pasta in a rich, sweet tomato sauce featuring a medley of spinach, feta cheese and pesto. The café and deli certainly isn't one of the city's cheapest, but to its credit the quality is always high. This dish is one of the daily specials, so may not always be available. Dhs65. Marina Promenade, Dubai Marina (04 362 4686).
25 Irish lamb stew at McGettigan’s Proudly devoid of Cordon Bleu delicacy, this dish is simply hunger quenching, warm and filling. Irish pub McGettigan’s succulent lamb stew is essentially an authentic and unfussy interpretation of a classic. With potatoes and veggies arriving in the pot, this homely creation is a perfect antithesis to some of the city’s more pretentious offerings and for these reasons, perfectly fulfils its job. Dhs64. McGettingan’s JLT, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (800 6247). Other location Dubai World Trade Centre (800 6247).
26 Japchae at Sonamu Having sampled this classic Korean dish in venues across Dubai, it’s Sonamu’s take that keeps us coming back for more. The translucent noodles (made from potato starch) have just the right amount of bite and the veggies a delicious nutty taste courtesy of a combination of sesame oil, salty soy sauce and a dash of sweetness. Dhs65. Asiana Hotel, Salahuddin Road, Deira (04 238 7777).
27 Konya bread at Turkish Village The Turkish deserve a reputation as masters of the flatbread, and this particularly good eatery on Jumeirah Beach Road proves why. The jaw-droppingly long and freshly baked flatbread is crisp and dressed with a simple but lively mix of juicy meat, parsley and fresh cherry tomatoes. Dhs55. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 9955).
28 Organic burger at MAKE Business Hub A huge, meaty concoction delicately flavoured and served with fresh salad, home-made dressing and truffle fries. Seriously tasty, not an ounce of grease and it ought to leave you full for the rest of the day. Dhs50. Al Fattan Tower, Dubai Marina (04 392 9216).
29 Quatrro formaggio pizza at Après With its open kitchen, complete with an authentic wood fired oven, this unassuming ski-themed bar serves a mean pizza. The correct thickness, with decent quality ingredients, the substantial four cheese option arrives with gorgonzola, Swiss gruyère, mozzarella and goat cheese atop a crispy, thin base, served on a wooden board. Dhs65. Après, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 2575).
30 Spanish cheese platter at Al Hambra The French rightly have a great reputation in cheese mastery, but don’t write off the Spanish. This platter includes manchego, idiazabal, tetilla, cabrales and more flavours less commonly found in the city. Shared with a good drink and friends’ company, not to mention a fruity quince jam and walnut bread, it is somewhat of a social triumph. Dhs95. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).
31 Temptation salad at Saladicious As colourful as it is tasty, the temptation salad is a mouthwatering fusion of lightly grilled brie, walnuts, juicy strawberries, mandarin slices and rocket leaves tossed in balsamic vinegar. Very filling, it will consume any food-related thoughts for days afterwards. Dhs57. The Walk, JBR (04 423 0855).
32 Wagyu beef bourguignon at Fraiche Cafe and Bistro A dish of wagyu for under Dhs70 is not a bad bet for starters, and yet this is still a particularly divine stew. A simple mix of a soft-sweet baby vegetables, tear away tender chunks of beef and a mountain of creamy mash potato on the side make this a knockout. Dhs68. Swiss Tower, Cluster Y, JLT (04 369 7821).
33 Wagyu beef burger at Urban Bistro A feast of a burger, this was served to our liking (well done) and with a choice of toppings and sides – we opted for the caramelised onions and cheddar cheese which complemented the juicy burger perfectly. Dhs60. CNN Building, Dubai Media City (04 362 4330).
Dhs100-199 34 Beef Wellington at Aspen at Kempinski Tender, juicy and beautifully presented, the beef Wellington at Aspen is both delicious and a lesson in how to balance the pastry to meat ratio. The accompanying crunchy vegetables are an added bonus. Dhs155. The Kempinski, Mall of the Emirates (04 409 5999).
35 Belgian mussels marinière at Belgian Beer Café Famed for its mussels across town, this is arguably the popular pub chain’s most notable dish. And it doesn’t disappoint, arriving in a light white sauce and a side of quality chips. The mussels are large, fresh, and well-cooked, arriving in generous numbers. Dhs180. Belgian Beer Café, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 447 0227). Other locations Grand Millennium, TECOM.
36 Crabapolooza platter at CLAW At this Southern-inspired crabshack, getting messy while hacking away at crustaceans is the name of the game. We rate the quality of the crab here highly, and the crabapolooza sharing platter (which contains a mix of blue, snow and king crab) tastes deliciously full of the fresh and salty flavours of the sea. Dhs185. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 432 2300).
37 Grilled salmon with couscous at Salmontini Salmontini's grilled salmon is a plump and tender fillet, which is beautifully presented with a bed of couscous and a tangy and spicy harissa sauce. But what really separates it from the pack is the cone shaped, dosa-style crispy pancake that is served with it. An unexpected triumph. Dhs125. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 0222).
38 Oxtail ravioli at Alta Badia In this re-launched restaurant space, Alta Badia takes a humble Italian classic and gives it equally re-launched vigour. Beautifully thin yet toothsome pasta shells somehow hold in a generous stuffing of tender shreds of oxtail, finished off with plenty of parmesan and black truffle. Dhs105. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8771).
39 Miso black cod at Zuma The king of all Dubai incarnations of this well-loved dish. The miso sauce achieves the delicate balance between sweet and salty, perfectly complementing the succulent, buttery cod fish in a way that will leave you irresistibly tempted to order a second portion. Dhs175. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 425 5660).
40 Rib-eye steak fajitas at Maya Modern Mexican Kitchen Arguably one of the standout dishes at Maya are the steak fajitas, and they arrive to your table in all their proud, sizzling and steamy glory. You’ll have a lot of fun dunking the meat in the accompanying three dips and wrapping it round the tortillas – and let’s not forget those too; they’re wonderfully thick and fresh. Dhs180. Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa, Dubai Marina (04 316 5550).
41 Sea bass at Okku This perfectly prepared fish dish gives the more famous miso black cod a run for its money. Super-succulent, delicate yet meaty at the same time and with a gorgeously thick, zesty sauce, we fell in love at the first bite. Dhs183. The H Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 501 8777).
42 Seared Chilean sea bass at Caramel Restaurant and Lounge This light dish of pan fried seabass arrives perched atop a tasty rock shrimp risotto, with a fresh tomato tapenade acting as an additional condiment to the dish. Well-balanced, the presentation makes the dish immediately appealing and there’s a freshness that makes the plate substantial, without being too heavy. Dhs150. DIFC (04 425 6677).
Dhs200+ 43 Lamb shank rogan josh at Indego by Vineet The slow-cooking effect pays off diligently with Vineet’s version of this Indian staple. Expect the meat to be tenderised to perfection, the gravy suitably rich, and the result is a dish that is utterly luxurious. Dhs210, Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
44 Lobster hobayaki at Nobu Balanced on a grill above hot charcoals, this indulgent lobster dish already has wow-factor, but what makes it more special is the magnolia leaf, whose earthy scent complements the meat beautifully. Guaranteed to make diners jealous. Dhs280. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
45 Seared hand dived sea scallops at Al Mahara Granted, at this price, you’d be disappointed if the scallops weren’t a bit special, but these molluscs literally melt in the mouth, thanks to a magnificent combination of black truffle, forest mushroom and parmigiano tuile. They are perhaps the finest scallops we’ve ever tried in Dubai. Dhs350, Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (04 301 7600.
Sweet Under Dhs19 46 Devil’s Food Cupcake at Magnolia Bakery A little slice of heaven, this devilishly delicious cupcake is a definite must try. The chocolate buttercream icing is smooth and perfectly sweetened and the cake is soft, fluffy and unforgettable. Dhs15. Bloomingdale's, The Dubai Mall (04 350 5440).
Dhs20-49 47 Khameer at Mama Tani Fancy an updated take on a traditional Emirati favourite? Mama Tani serves classic khameer breads, freshly baked in store, but what we find really special is the way they are all stuffed. Sample perfect combinations that include avocado cream, olive paste and nuts, or rose cream, pistachio and figs. Dhs24. Town Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 385 4437).
48 Milas kunafa at Milas At this newcomer to the Emirati dining scene, this classic Arabian dessert is given a fun twist with a rich rose red colour. The dish itself is darn tasty, with crumbling, buttery, biscuity pastry and a fresh cream filing. Dhs27. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 388 2313).
Dhs50-99 49 Sticky toffee pudding at The Ivy London favourite The Ivy gives this classic 'nursery-tea' English dessert an unexpected twist with the inclusion of banana in the recipe, making it yet more moltenly gooey and rich than the original. Dhs55. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8767).
Dhs100+ 50 Les grandes desserts at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire While award-winning Reflets' menu changes every season, one constant concept is the 'grandes desserts' and it is always our favourite way to end the meal. These typically consist of a showcase of the season’s fruits, plus recipes focussed on chocolate and caramel. Dhs105. InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1127).
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gyan bahadur tamang Dec 28, 2013 11:21 pm
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Mari Dec 27, 2013 02:31 pm
Thanks for always publishing interesting information. However, is there a way those recommendations could be shown on a different format? I will not click 50 times to see all the suggestions. This section is great but format quite frustrating.
Thanks for considering my opinion