Munch on exotic offerings from the great blue seas
Time Out Dubai staff
Winner – Best Seafood Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Ossiano Winner of the Best Seafood category at the 2013 Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards, Ossiano continues to impress year after year, thanks to spectacular dishes, top-drawer service and one of the most unique locations in the city. The focal point is, of course, the giant aquarium, but the whole restaurant is a sight for sore eyes, with its stunning silver, gold and pearl decor. Presentation of the dishes is second to none and the fish is beautifully cooked. In fact, the only dishes that may leave you slightly underwhelmed are the desserts (although the chocolate tart is still one of the best in Dubai). If we’re being really picky, the only real gripe we have is with the service. Staff, as you’d expect from a venue with such an expensive menu, are attentive, charming, warm and thorough. Yet they can be too attentive at times. Still, this is undoubtedly one of the best seafood restaurants in Dubai. Open daily 7pm-11.30pm. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Highly Commended – Best Seafood Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Bu Qtair Bu Qtair is the small Portacabin with the big reputation. This Dubai institution serves simple seafood dishes that have attracted interest not only from Dubai residents and visiting tourists, but celebrity chefs as well. You’ll find it a stone’s throw from the beach overlooking the Burj Al Arab. There are no airs and graces here. You order your fish at the counter from what’s available on the day, pointing to whatever size of catch you desire, with prawns available, too, and everything in a spicy, curried marinade. You then dine sitting at one of the several battered old plastic tables outside. So what makes it special? It’s extremely wallet friendly, the fish is beautifully cooked and the service is quirky and friendly. Bu Qtair should be on everyone’s Dubai bucket list and still serves some of the best fish in the emirate. Note that there are no fixed prices, you pay by the weight and we can’t say whether the rate is the same for every customer. Cash only. Open daily 10.30am-3pm, 6.30pm-midnight. Road 4d, Umm Suqeim (055 705 2130).
Highly Commended – Best Seafood Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
M’s Seafood Bistro The food at M’s is rather good, the European-style shellfish and fish impressing both through taste and quality as well as presentation. Starters are designed to be enjoyed as tapas, with diners sharing surprisingly large portions of sea bass carpaccio, tuna tartar, warm lobster salad, oysters and clams. Mains come in the form of grilled, pan-fried and oven-roasted fish, along with lobster thermidor, a seafood platter and a few pasta dishes. Note that it’s an exclusively seafood-orientated menu, absent of any token meat or poultry dishes, and the only vegetarian options being sides such as ratatouille, mushroom risotto and the quite delicious ‘Boulangères’ potatoes. There’s an air of fine dining at M’s, with its classy nautical-themed interior. Shame, then, that the slightly unrefined service doesn’t quite match – unless, that is, you’re served by the manager himself, who does his utmost to engage and assist. Still, we quite like this bistro. Open Sat-Thu 12.30pm-11pm, Fri 7.30pm-11pm. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud, www.msseafoodbistro-dubai.com (04 702 2455).
Al Mahara The Al Mahara experience starts with a journey in a circular lift (not dissimilar to the one in Dumbledore’s office in the Harry Potter movies), followed by a walk through a golden archway into a scene straight out of The Little Mermaid. Lunch and dinner are served in the presence of a gigantic fish tank, which really is a sight to behold. Gold and aquamarine dominate the decor, and tables surround the tank – dining here is an event as much as it is a meal, and we recommend you visit with plenty of spare time. While the service is impeccable, knowledgeable and polite, it’s also very, very slow (it can take up to 50 minutes for starters to arrive). The food, meanwhile, is decent without being exceptional, although the sea scallops starter with black truffle potato, forest mushrooms and parmigiano tuile may well be the best scallop dish we’ve ever tried. As expected, a meal here is very expensive, but Al Mahara is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Open daily 12.30pm-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (04 301 7600).
Aprons & Hammers If you like your seafood – particularly crustaceans – and if you like it served in miniature buckets, you’ve come to the right place. Taking up both decks of a wooden dhow moored in the Mina Seyahi marina overlooking Barasti, Aprons & Hammers offers a more unusual experience – and an altogether positive one. In cooler months, it’s a joy to sit on the open-air upper deck, tucking into fresh crab, lobster, jumbo shrimp, mussels, clams and more. In summer, though, you’ll have to content yourself with the slightly inferior lower deck, but it’s still a comfortable space. Food-wise, you’re faced with a choice of messy or not messy, and we highly recommend the former, employing all manner of shell-cracking tools to extract the delicious meat of a crab or whatever you’ve ordered. And, yes, aprons are indeed handed out (no hammers though). A meal here isn’t cheap and service could be better, but it’s an altogether pleasant spot to spend an evening with friends. Open Sat-Wed 7pm-11.30pm, Thu-Fri 7pm-midnight. Dubai International Marine Club, Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, www.apronsandhammers.com (04 454 7097). Other location: Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai (04 363 6552).
Flooka Flooka is certainly a fun place to visit. The experience starts with a climb up a steep staircase into an entrance that’s home to a massive counter displaying fish on ice, from which diners take their pick. The welcome is exceptional as well, with staff friendly and relaxed enough to stop and have a natter for a few seconds without coming across as intrusive. Flooka has a lovely al fresco seating area and even the wooden beach hut-inspired indoor space is fun. So it’s a shame that the food is a bit of a mixed bag. The sautéed squid in ink, for instance, is disappointingly bland, yet the kingfisher fillet with steamed vegetables is beautifully cooked, so they do get it right with the dishes that really matter. Most dishes are served in mezze portions, with presentation often sorely lacking. The good news, though, concerns the prices, with lots of the mezze plates around the Dhs40 mark and portions huge. Open Sun-Thu noon-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm; Fri-Sat noon-11.45pm. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah (04 346 1111).
Peppercrab Named after Singapore’s famous black pepper crab, this elegant, easygoing restaurant in the Grand Hyatt specialises in Asian-style seafood. People invariably come for the crustaceans, which can be seen swimming about in the tanks around the open kitchen. Crab, lobster and prawns are ordered by weight and then cooked in a variety of ways, but you shouldn’t leave without trying the black pepper or chilli crab. You’ll be given the option of having the shell removed, but that would take away all the fun of trying to extract the delicious meat. It’s a messy, haphazard business, though, requiring an apron, finger bowls, multiple napkins and lots of patience. There are plenty of other options, however, including sustainably caught fish, poultry dishes, soups and other Singaporean favourites like roast duck and oxtail. Sadly, nothing quite matches the crab, which is undoubtedly the main event, but it’s expensive. Still, for a unique, must-try dining experience, it’s worth it. Open Sat-Wed 7pm-11.30pm, Thu-Fri 7pm-midnight. Grand Hyatt Dubai, Oud Metha (04 317 2221).
Pierchic This undeniably romantic venue, perched at the end of a wooden pier that juts out into the sea, benefits from a glittering view of the Dubai shoreline at night and an air of exclusivity. In the cooler months, dining on the outdoor terrace should be your only choice, as the panoramic views make less of an impression when seated indoors. Nonetheless, it’s a chic interior with lots of wood, oyster-like light fittings and a bar area, but with limited space between tables don’t expect too much privacy. The small menu is almost exclusively made up of seafood choices, featuring well-executed gourmet dishes such as tuna tartar, seared scallops, grilled or pan-fried fish and lobster, along with one or two meat, poultry and vegetarian options. Does the food match the view and slick service, and does it justify the high prices? Well, perhaps – yet Pierchic should still impress and serve as the perfect backdrop for any romantic or special occasion. Open daily 1pm-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).
Salmontini As views go, you won’t find many better in Dubai. Granted, spectacular settings are ten a penny in the city, but we’re not talking about sunsets on beaches or the Burj Khalifa here: Salmontini’s view is of a ski slope. The restaurant is situated within Mall of The Emirates, next to Ski Dubai, meaning you can watch skiers and snowboarders whizz by as kids hurtle down slopes in Zorbs. Salmontini’s rustic wooden decor fits the surroundings nicely. The clue’s in the name here: expect plenty of seafood dishes with salmon a speciality (the grilled salmon with cous cous, served in a cone-shaped dosa, is a must-try), all served by friendly, courteous staff. It might be in a mall, but this is an excellent place to take friends or clients. Open daily noon-11.30pm. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 0222).
Seafood Market With one of the most fun atmospheres we’ve encountered at a restaurant in Dubai, it’s definitely worth making the trip to experience Seafood Market. You’ll find several restaurants in the city that follow the same market format, in which diners proceed to a counter and choose the fish they want from a huge selection before it’s handed over to a chef to be cooked. You’ll be greeted by a fountain of a big fish spitting water, plus a glass floor in reception with a fish tank below, while the light blue furnishings and big windows make it an airy space. There are a lot of staff at Seafood Market, and while they are very forceful when it comes to the eatery’s no-shorts policy, they’re warm, friendly and helpful. They’re also brilliant with kids. To top it all off, the food is good – we recommend the sea bass, steamed. Open daily 12.30pm-5pm, 7.30pm-11.30pm. Le Méridien Dubai, Garhoud (04 217 0000).