Winner – Best Budget Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Zaroob A funky eatery that’s always busy with a diverse clientele, Zaroob is a great place to swing by for a lunchtime bite or a casual dinner, just don’t expect particularly good service. The food however is a different story, with deliciously fresh zaatar, tasty French fries and perfectly grilled chicken on offer. Try the koshari (fondly known as the poor man’s Egyptian dinner) for a total carb fest and be sure to order one of the fresh juices, served in funky glass jars. The decor is trendy, with graffiti-style artwork, bright colours and wooden panels, while the prices are more than reasonable. It’s also open 24 hours a day so is a great late night snacking spot. If you’re looking for budget food that’s decidedly tasty, and can get past the shoddy service, then Zaroob is a great little spot to have on your radar. Open 24 hours. Sheikh Zayed Road, www.zaroob.com (04 327 6060).
Highly Commended – Best Budget 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 Budget Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Calicut Paragon The fabled ‘curry corridor’ running through Satwa, Karama and Bur Dubai remains the best place to pick up excellent budget food in the city. Although authenticity is prevalent among the myriad of Indian restaurants, consistency is not a universal attribute, which is why Keralan stalwart Calicut Paragon stands out. There is much for a vegetarian to appreciate on the menu with grilled paneer offering a peppery kick and cheese stuffed mushrooms suggesting there is ingenuity in the chef’s repertoire. However it is the seafood that really stands out. Try an entire pomfret (often caught that day) smothered in a spicy rub as an excellent introduction to Keralan food. Perhaps more accessible, however, is the fruity mango curry. Mop it up with a buttery naan and still have change from Dhs25. The decor is simple but clean and the service friendly. So if you want to try a broader range of traditional Indian flavours than is usually offered up in Dubai, go to the Calicut. Open daily 7am-1.30am. Opposite Lulu Center, Karama. (04 335 8700). Other branch: Near NMC Hospital (04 298 8858).
Betawi Café Something of a hidden gem, Betawi Café has carved out a reputation for top-notch Indonesian food at impressively low prices. While the surroundings aren’t much to look at, the Karama restaurant is clean and comfortable, and the food as good as any you’ll find at more glamorous pan-Asian eateries around town. The nasi goreng (a classic fried rice dish with chicken and veg) comes topped with a perfectly fried egg, while the lighter yet no less delicious pecel ayam bakar is a perfect harmony of spiced grilled chicken and simple, perfectly steamed rice. More adventurous palates should be tempted with the bubur ayam, a rice porridge dish with sliced chicken, topped with crackers. For those more in the mood to nibble than scoff, try a very reasonably-priced snack portion of fried tofu. While the menu is by no means lengthy, you can rest assured that everything on it is as authentic as it gets. Open Sat-Wed noon-10pm, Fri 2pm-10pm. 4B Street, Mabrooka 1 building, behind Park Regis Hotel, Karama (056 759 8118).
Hanoi Expect cafeteria-style dining at this JLT spot, which boasts perhaps the closest to a true Vietnamese culinary experience in the city. While the city’s Vietnamese-French fusion may rule when it comes to fine dining, it’s this tiny eatery that reigns in the arena of authenticity. Tuck into a huge steaming bowl of chicken pho to be transported east, and crunch salty, meaty spring rolls to rouse the palate – but watch out, they’re hot. Try a tongue-cooling Vietnamese salad, with liberal scatterings of fresh mint and a sweet, spicy dressing, and wash the whole thing down with a classic Vietnamese filter coffee. Staff have a tendency to think their memories are superior to the classic paper and pen approach to taking down an order, and this inevitably means some requests get lost along the way. But while the front of house approach may be lackadaisical, judging by the explosively tasty fare that does eventually turn up, the kitchen is certainly not guilty of the same trespasses. Open daily 11am-11pm. Gold Crest Executive Building, Cluster C, JLT (04 431 3099).
Klayya Bakery and Sweets This light, airy and bright but tastefully decorated cafe focuses entirely on breakfast items and serves these all day long. The menu is fairly concise but features a variety of popular dishes, mainly centred around eggs and a wide range of homemade Arabic breads of every different type that you can imagine. The service is friendly and attentive and the staff are happy to provide recommendations as well as offering to tailor dishes to your liking. Overall, the food is fresh, fast and certainly budget friendly with the most expensive item on the menu costing a mere Dhs37. A good option for a quick snack or light bite while visiting the mall. Open daily 8.30am-10pm. Al Barsha Mall, Al Barsha ((04 325 5335).
Ravi Restaurant We can’t help but feel a surge of affection every time we visit this Satwa eatery peddling the very best in basic Pakistani fare – and visits aplenty there have been. Some years back, you’d have no problem getting a table. Today, the place is consistently packed. While the prices have gone up (albeit slightly), the plastic tablecloths and nonplussed staff are still in situ – and we really wouldn’t have it any other way. As for the food, it is still as good as it always was. Among the standouts here, the chicken kadai is exceptional and actually rather unique: beautifully cooked meat encased in a variety of spices still simultaneously wows and amazes the taste buds. The dal fry in all its thick, yellow sauce is gently spiced yet luxurious with wonderfully thick lentils. There’s just something extra special about Ravi that makes you want to travel from wherever you are in Dubai to sample cooking as good as this – and we’re not talking about the plastic chairs. Open daily 5am-3am, Satwa (04 331 5353)
Sim Sim If you’re looking for Levantine food in a flash then you should get yourself over to Sim Sim. The restaurant is a mix of traditional Arabic recipes fused with contemporary decor and a touch of Palestinian folklore. Waiters are friendly and super-efficient; you can expect your order to start arriving at your table approximately five minutes after you place it. With dishes from Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and a special focus on Palestine, there’s a better mix than the usual Levantine staples as well as a few less common additions, such as the Jordanian Galayet Bandora - a tomato based stew traditionally eaten early in the day but just as delicious at dinner time. If you’re not feeling adventurous go for the shwarmas: simple, tasty and not dripping in grease, which is a nice change to some of the other joints out there. For authentic Palestinian fare, you won’t go wrong with an order of the Musakhan Dajaj, served with perfectly tender chicken. Open daily 8.30am-12.30am. The Walk, JBR (04 454 2319).