Dubai is blessed with a staggering range of incredible Indian eateries
Time Out Dubai staff
Winner – Best Indian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Armani/Amal You can perhaps expect nothing less than a stylish experience from an Armani-backed restaurant, but the aesthetics and total attention to detail at Armani/Amal make it one of very few truly 'fine' Indian dining experiences in Dubai. Located inside the Burj Khalifa, the dinning space mirrors the tower's curves, with a large open kitchen space to one side of the room, and a terrace with atmospheric views on the other. Enter an ante-room designed like the rusty-coloured courtyard of a Rajasthani palace, and at the entrance to the restaurant, staff welcome you with a mocktail concoction of the day. From here, a tone of excellent, attentive and friendly service is set. Exploring the menu, you'll find a selection of creative modern Indian dishes, all elegantly presented, and beautifully prepared. To really to get to grips with the selection available, try one of the several tasting menus listed. Finally, as the meal ends, female guests may well find themselves in for a few surprises with complimentary gifts the final touch to a great experience. Open daily 7pm-11pm. Armani Hotel Dubai, Burj Khalifa (04 888 3444).
Highly Commended – Best Indian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Indego by Vineet Consultant chef Vineet Bhatia has dreamt up an intriguing menu at this eatery, which promises much. Bhatia is the first Indian chef to gain a Michelin star; ponder this point and we challenge you not to have high expectations. The menu is a smattering of traditional classics, mixed up with more inventive and sometimes bizarre-sounding, dishes. For a starter, try the seafood platter, which boasts many standout ingredients. The highlight is the salmon, which is beautifully cooked and comes with a horseradish puree – a winning addition. Notable among the mains is the lamb shank dopiaza; the slow-cooking effect pays off diligently here, leaving the meat perfectly tender in rich gravy. Chocolate samosas may sound like a strange combination, but these crunchy treats are incredibly moreish. On top of all this, you’ll find attentive service that isn’t overbearing in a convivial setting that doesn’t fall into the trap of being too stiff and formal. Open daily noon.3.30pm; 7pm-midnight. Grosvenor House hotel, Al Sufouh Road (04 399 8888).
Highly Commended – Best Indian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar Rang Mahal, Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar’s Indian eatery, promises ‘authentic yet excitingly modern’ fare and a vow to use ethically sourced, local ingredients. So expectations were high upon entering this darkly lit, fine-dining space, adorned with giant murals and huge carved pillars. It felt more like a nightclub when we visited, but this was probably mostly down to the overly up-tempo house music dominating the ear drums. But no matter, the food is rather exceptional. A hearty starter is the hand-shredded lamb masala Hyderabadi gosht, which consists of three patty-type cakes of dense meat infused in a yoghurt mixture, producing a delicious, creative texture. Elsewhere, the Goan shrimp curry is wonderful, with expertly sourced crustaceans that come in a light yet luxurious, citrus-hued sauce. It is sometimes hard to feel impressed by Indian cooking at this end of the price spectrum when you know you can have a decent curry for a fraction of the price just down the road in Deira, but we have to admit that Kochhar pulls it off here in style. Open Mon-Sat, 6pm-1pm. JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 414 3000)
Asha’s Serving fine north-west Indian cuisine in warm, modern surroundings, this Wafi old-timer (it’s been around for over ten years) is named after and belongs to famous Hindi singer Asha Bhosle. The ample menu is littered with quotes and short anecdotes about her and her family, offering a welcome background that adds interest to the dining experience. The restaurant’s interior is an atmospheric affair, with dimmed lighting, abundant reds and oranges, and freshly cut flowers. The raised central area lends itself well if you’re dining in a group, while tables around the edges offer couples enhanced privacy and intimacy. The altogether more contemporary dishes may not always satisfy strict traditionalists, but we applaud the exquisite flavours, the attention to detail and the beautiful presentation. It’s clear that Asha’s isn’t just another Indian, but a high-end, classy affair, well suited to a special occasion. Expect tasty food, slick staff, an inviting atmosphere and prices to match. Open daily 12.30pm-3.30pm; 7pm-midnight. Wafi, Oud Metha, www.ashasrestaurants.com/dubai (04 324 4100).
Aryaas This eatery has quickly become a stalwart among Bur Dubai’s Indian offerings. The fact that this restaurant was packed full of Indian families when we visited on a Saturday should testify to its relatively rapid surge in popularity. The surroundings feel wholly appropriate for a south Indian feast on-the-go, offering a contemporary, canteen-style dining concept downstairs and rather more convivial and relaxed dining upstairs. Among the highlights on the menu is Aryaas’ version of the south Indian staple vazhapoo vada; this tightly packed lentil cake made with banana flowers is thoroughly authentic. The show-stopping dish must undoubtedly be the ghee paper masala dosa. Aryaas is certainly proud of this unofficial signature dish. Expect the crispy crêpe-style dish to be a huge, Burj Khalifa-esque cone stuffed with a spicy, creamy concoction of mashed potato, sautéed onion and peas. Just be prepared to draw attention to yourself when it arrives. Open daily 7.30am-11.30pm. Bur Dubai, Bank Street (04 357 7800). Other location: Al Nakeel Building, Karama (04 335 5776).
Handi Handi is best described as a pleasant surprise. A stalwart of old Dubai based in one of Deira’s few five star hotels, the Taj Palace, there’s not much to look at, the restaurant based in a small, plainly decorated and utterly forgettable space. There is plenty to hear however, with a fantastic duo providing some brilliant Indian classical music. It might seem a little loud in the main room, but it’s worth sticking it out for the tabla player’s virtuoso displays. The music will keep you entertained as you wait, because the kitchen takes its time to get things right – time well spent as the food is utterly fantastic. The tandori grills are some of the juiciest you’ll taste anywhere, while curries that sound bland on the menu burst with flavour on the plate. Prices might seem a little steep, but this is truly a case of getting what you pay for. Open daily noon-3.30pm; 7pm-11.30pm. Taj Palace Hotel, Deira (04 211 3020).
Mahec If you like your Indian food beautifully presented and executed with precision timing and served in salubrious surroundings, then hotfoot it to Mahec forthwith. Le Méridien Dubai’s Indian eatery has managed to pull off a neat trick of offering a wholly fine-dining experience without the gargantuan price tag. Some of the dishes may look overly neat on first glance, but they more than make up for their sparseness in the flavour stakes. Among the starters, the crab and calamari served with spicy tomato jelly is meaty and fresh and the batter expertly crafted and wonderfully crunchy. Elsewhere, the smoked lamb and peas with onion and tomato gravy, coriander and lemon juice has that fall-off-the-bone effect. One of the main draws here though are the desserts. The chocolate surprise initially looks like a dark chocolate pudding. But when the waiter pours the hot orange sauce over it, an inner layer of white chocolate is revealed. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Le Méridien Dubai Garhoud www.lemeridien-dubai.com (04 702 2615).
Manvaar Manvaar just might be the best-kept secret in Dubai’s Indian dining scene. Specialising in dishes from the ‘Land of Kings’, Indian’s largest region Rajasthan, the menu is likely to offer numerous pleasant surprises to even the most hardened connoisseurs of Indian cuisine. There’s a staggering range, with the kair saangri, paalak khumbh, egg curry and stuffed tomato all deserving of a paragraph of praise apiece, while the tandoori grills demand to be tasted – especially at these prices. Meanwhile, the bright orange walls, quirky nick-knacks and costumed staff give this restaurant a fun and independent vibe, and position it squarely between better known budget options and more expensive hotel offerings. It’s only the licence and live music found at some of those hotel-based competitors that some diners might miss, but otherwise this place is a bona fide gem. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-midnight. Near the Fish Market, behind Al Adil Supermarket, Karama (04 336 8332).
Nina Nina oozes class from the off. As you descend the winding staircase with candles and elegant wall fixtures, there’s no denying the sense that you’ve arrived at a restaurant that’s serious about taking its guests on a journey. Staff are efficient, attentive and knowledgeable, even with the pressure of a full restaurant. The menu is compact, but there’s enough variety to choose from and waiters will expertly advise diners on what to order. Note that Nina offers guests the choice of large or small portions – a ‘large’ main at a little over Dhs90 being good enough to share, which really isn’t bad for a high-quality meal in one of the most romantic settings in town. Not just that, but the food is excellent, being what many would call a ‘posh curry’. Nina may not be the highest profile Indian in town, but it nonetheless deserves to be mentioned alongside the best curry houses. Open daily 7pm -11.30pm. One&Only Royal Mirage, Umm Suqeim (04 399 9999).
Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor Promising to be ‘built around the soul’ of Indian cooking, Kapoor’s eatery certainly provides an evening to savour. The slightly sparse dining room screams sophistication, and a small, rather narrow space means you’ll be in for a more intimate experience. The menu is something to behold, and you could be in for a tricky time trying to make a decision as a slew of utterly alluring descriptions of Kapoor’s creations will have you chomping at the bit. An intriguing starter is the kasundi tawa mahi – marinated dory fish in a beautifully delicate and creamy sauce served on a toasted brioche. Elsewhere, the chicken bhathra is also highly proficient, with the minced chicken adding individuality to the dish. Although the staff can sometimes be a bit pushy, the food is inventive and the space convivial if you’ve the dirhams to spare for a highly decent dining experience. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11pm. Melia Dubai. Kuwait Street, Bur Dubai. (04 386 8111).