A wealth of colourful flavours from across the thriving region
Winner – Best Best South East Asian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Wox Small in size it may be, but this Asian eatery doesn’t skimp on character. A small collection of tables and chairs are positioned around a noisy central cooking station, where skilled chefs prepare delicious meals with mesmerising speed. You stand a better chance of securing a table if you visit at lunchtime, as evenings see Wox deservedly busy, though the staff – who are second to none – will do everything they can to accommodate you. While the menu is short, everything on it exceeds expectation, from salt and pepper squid to wok-fried morning glory, and though portions are a little on the small side, the whole experience of dining here is so enjoyable it’s hard to feel short-changed. Dubai could do with more restaurants like this. Open Sat-Wed noon-11.30pm, Thu-Fri noon-midnight. Grand Hyatt, Oud Metha (04 317 2221).
Highly Commended – Best Best South East Asian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
White Orchid It may be a little further afield than its competitors, but a lesser-known treat lies just a short drive beyond Dubai Marina. Inside JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort’s beautifully renovated Palm Tree Court, White Orchid offers a comfortable but chic lounge feel. With a repertoire that criss-crosses Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine, there should be a dish on the menu to suit everyone. Vegetarian dishes are few and far between, but don’t let this put you off, as requests are creatively accommodated and the staff work excellently together to make sure everyone at the table is served something impressive. In cooler months, head outdoors onto the delightful terrace overlooking the sea, a perfect spot for upping the romance stakes. Tuck into perfectly balanced stir-fries and fragrant, tangy Thai curries – and despite a slightly heavier emphasis on Thai cuisine, the soft, fresh Japanese maki are truly impressive. You’ll be hard pushed to find anything here that isn’t worth the trip. Open daily 6.30pm-11pm. Palm Tree Court, JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort, Jebel Ali (04 814 5555).
Highly Commended – Best Best South East Asian Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Voi Vôi is perhaps the most special-occasion-worthy of the restaurants in the city that serves Vietnamese-inspired cuisine. The short menu combines classic French cooking with ingredients from the Far East nation, and on any given day there is typically also a special set menu created by the chef. Open daily 7pm-midnight. Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah (04 453 0444).
Beachcombers Parked on the shore of Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Beachcombers is a pan-Asian buffet restaurant geared mainly towards families and holidaymakers in Dubai. With an emphasis on their name and location, the decor is rustic with lots of dark wood panelling, a faux straw roof and elbow-height windows to give the impression of being in a beach shack. There are indoor and outdoor seating options, the latter facing the beach and the impressive Burj Al Arab. The buffet is comprehensive, offering a variety of dishes to keep everyone happy. You’ll find a live satay station, fresh noodles, battered vegetables, countless curries and desserts, to name but a few. Our top tip is the Asian chicken, which is particularly moreish and worthy of a few trips to the buffet. Service is efficient and friendly, with the chefs at the various stands offering to tailor dishes to your liking. Open daily 7.30am-11.30pm. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Umm Suqeim (04 406 8999).
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).
Hoi An An intimate French-Vietnamese restaurant stowed away inside Dubai’s Shangri-La hotel, Hoi An offers high-end fusion cuisine. It’s the small touches that help justify the rather high prices on the menu – an amuse bouche siew mai here, a sharp raspberry sorbet palate cleanser there – in a restaurant that otherwise lacks pizzazz. Classic dishes such as a trio of Vietnamese summer rolls are disappointingly absent of flavour, and diners would be wise to skip the chicken and shrimp fried rice, no matter how ‘world famous’ the staff insist it is. Of course, there are a few glimmers of hope – the whole fried sea bass, topped with crunchy Vietnamese salad, is a hearty, satisfying option, and the lamb chops are good and lean. In all, Hoi An is not helped by its windowless location, and with so many more Asian eateries in town, it will need to up the ante to stay in the game. Open daily 7pm-midnight. Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 405 2703).
Karma Kafe To its credit, the Karma Kafe dining experience has undergone some dramatic improvements in the past year. Whereas in the past staff have had a reputation for appearing harassed and at times outright discourteous, today it’s hard to feel more welcome. Sit indoors and soak up the funky lounge atmosphere and music from the live DJ, or head out onto the cosily-decorated terrace to catch the impressive Dubai Fountain; either way, it’s an ideal spot for wowing guests. Naturally, such surroundings come with a price tag – although with little disparity between the sizes of the appetisers and main courses, particularly the moreish beef and truffle gyoza, it’s possible to be spend-savvy about your meal. There’s a focus on Japanese cuisine, but you can dine all over Asia in one sitting, and we particularly recommend the Chinese-style duck rolls, Thai calamari and deliciously tender seared wagyu beef. Open daily noon-2am. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.karma-kafe.com (04 423 0909).
Junsui A pan-Asian buffet restaurant inside the Burj Al Arab, Junsui’s offering spans Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Thai cuisine. As you might expect, it doesn’t come cheap – roughly the price of one of the city’s more expensive Friday brunches, but without the inclusion of any house drinks. Smartly decorated in chic cream and chocolate hues, Junsui is best visited during the day, when you’re truly able to make the most of the view across the sea. The buffet itself features small portions that are quickly eaten and quickly replaced. Head to the live cooking stations to try fresh Japanese teppanyaki, Chinese noodle soups and Japanese sashimi, where the restaurant’s chefs show off their technique, or if you can’t see what you fancy, ask and they’ll usually make it for you. As you might anticipate for such a venue, most of the dishes are faultless. What you might also expect from the Burj Al Arab, however, is for its restaurants to go the extra mile and add some truly five-star pizzazz – yet Junsui doesn’t quite do so. Open daily 7am-10.30am, 12.30pm-3.30pm, 6pm-11.30pm. Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (04 301 7600).
The Noodle House Whichever branch of this smart-casual pan-Asian chain you visit, whether for lunch or dinner, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be busy – and rightly so. Serving up a reasonably short, but consistent menu of Far Eastern favourites, such as pad Thai, laksa and dumplings, to name but a few, The Noodle House has established itself as a reliable midrange restaurant for those who want good quality produce with an authentic level of spice (when they put two chillies next to a menu item, they mean it). Order almost anything from the restaurant’s menu, which requires diners to tick the boxes next to the dishes they’d like to order, and you’re unlikely to be disappointed – we particularly recommend the Thai beef salad if you fancy something a bit lighter, and the Thai-style chilli prawns, in a rich, spicy sauce if you appreciate your lunch with a fragrant kick. A good spot for casual, if not budget, Far Eastern fare. Open daily 11am-midnight. Gloria Hotel, Dubai Media City www.thenoodlehouse.com (04 381 8065). Other locations: BurJuman, The Dubai Mall, DIFC, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah Emirates Towers.
Toshi If you normally roll up to TECOM’s Grand Millennium hotel for dinner and drinks at Belgian Beer Café, a detour up to the 18th floor is highly recommended. With great views of the surrounding area, South East Asian eatery Toshi is every bit as lively as its European stable mate – particularly on weekends, when the crowds descend to make the most of the all-you-can-drink element of the restaurant’s nightly themed all-you-can-eat buffets. Japanese, Thai and pan-Asian offerings are all on the agenda, and each is done reasonably well – even the staunchest champion of authenticity will struggle not to enjoy themselves, and on Thai Nights, the live stir-fry station is highly recommended, as are the fish cakes served on bamboo sticks and light yet spicy tom yam soup. Outside the city’s Friday brunch offerings, Toshi has one of the best Asian buffets in town, and a buzzing atmosphere to boot. Open daily 7pm-11pm. Grand Millennium Hotel, TECOM (04 429 9999).