Where to dine with a friend and still get change from a Dhs100 note
Fed up with forking out hundreds upon hundreds of your hard-earned dirhams on meals out every month? It’s no secret that the cost of living in Dubai is on the rise – the 2014 Worldwide Cost of Living survey by forecasting and advisory firm Economist Intelligence Unit has placed Dubai at number 94 among 131 metropolitan cities surveyed – that’s up from two spots on last year. Elsewhere, the Dubai Statistics Centre reported that in October last year, inflation in the emirate rose to its highest level in the past four years. But even if you aren’t set for a pay rise any time soon, there are still plenty of places to enjoy a slice of the city’s favourite pastime (that’s eating, to the uninitiated) without dropping more than a single pink bank note. Check out our top spots to help you bag that meal for two at under Dhs100.
Healthy Salad combo at Sophie’s For just Dhs45 you can choose three salads at this popular Palm Jumeirah spot. There’s an enticing selection of flavoursome, healthy, hot and cold options, including rice with tofu, beetroot with feta or penne with mushroom, and the selection changes regularly. $$$ Total: Dhs90 RIVA Beach Club, Building 8, Shoreline Apartments, Palm Jumeirah (04451 5982).
Egg white omelette at Bert’s This simple, tasty dish features whipped egg whites, folded around sautéed mushrooms and fresh wilted spinach – and at Dhs28 a portion, it’s hard to go wrong. Though the service is almost always slow and dithering (be careful not to make your order too complicated), the setting is pleasantly bustling on weekends. $$$ Total: Dhs56 Greens Village, The Greens (04 361 9292).
Greek salad at Le Pain Quotidien Feast on a mountain of mixed leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and crumbly feta cheese at this beachside café chain’s JBR outlet. At Dhs46, it’s certainly not one of the city’s cheapest salads, but the free bread thrown in helps bulk it up. To feed two, we also recommend the farmhouse frittata with goat’s cheese and onion. $$$ Total: Dhs88 Various locations including The Walk, JBR (04 437 0141).
Super salad at Tom & Serg The atmosphere is as good as the food at this cafe in a warehouse. Order the heaped super salad, filled with greens, sprouts, big chunks of avocado and a citrusy dressing. It’s good value, too, so you can both order the optional grilled chicken – or one of the other mains, which hover around the Dhs50 mark. $$$ Total: Dhs92 (for two super salads with chicken) Al Joud Centre, Al Quoz, near Ace Hardware (04 338 8934).
Americas Bean burger and American classic burger at Gourmet Burger Kitchen For a filling pit stop while you’re at the mall without blowing your shopping budget, tuck into these hearty burgers. Vegetarians will love the tasty bean burger with a bit of a spicy kick while carnivores will be more than satisfied with the all-American classic meat patty. $$$ Total: Dhs62 Dubai Marina Mall (04 399 7705).
Veggie burrito and quesadillas at Maria Bonita’s For a delicious taste of Mexico, head to Jumeirah’s street-side Mexican café. Tuck into complimentary nachos and spicy salsa sauce before ordering the big veggie burrito stuffed with beans and grilled veggies. Grab the jumbo veggie quesadillas for a bit of variety, two giant flour tortillas overflowing with vegetables and melted cheese. $$$ Total: Dhs88 Umm Al Sheif Street, Jumeirah 3 (04 395 5576).
Shack burger at Shake Shack The juicy burgers at Shake Shack are some of Dubai’s finest, partly because it’s a class above other mall outlets and partly because of the prices. Two people can easily dine out for less than Dhs100 here, and the signature ShackBurger in particular is excellent. Veggies are well catered for here and the ‘Shroom Burger’s giant portobello mushroom is so good there’s a chance it’ll snare the odd meat eater as well. Top it off with some fries and the Black & White milkshake (made with vanilla frozen custard and Shack fudge sauce) and then kick back and embrace the food coma. $$$ Total: Dhs85 Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 347 5513).
Quesadillas at Chilli’s This big chain of Tex-Mex style fast food is ideal when hunger strikes. Its quesadillas are a filled tortilla with marinated meat or vegetables served with rice and black beans or French fries and the portion is big enough to easily share between two people. Or for your Dhs100, you can get one each. $$$ Total: Dhs94 Various locations, www.chillisuae.com.
Tikka curry bowl at Kauai A recent arrival to Dubai Marina, this Hawaiian-inspired concept started out in South Africa in 1996 as a juice bar. There are now 54 outlets in South Africa alone. Just like the rest, the one in Dubai serves food with a focus on being healthy and the tikka curry is particularly good and comes with a decent helping of brown rice. The kahuna steak roll with honey and mustard is also a must-try, as are the milkshakes. Go for the stodgy yet addictive peanut butter bomb, which comes with Muscle Works whey protein. The medium is big enough to share between two. $$$ Total: Dhs97 Marine Promenade, Dubai Marina (800 52824).
Chicken fajita at Taqado Mexican Kitchen Jam-packed full of rice, freshly cooked chicken, salsa, salad, beans and either sour cream or cheese (a blob of guacamole is, inexplicably, charged extra), this food court favourite serves up a wrap that you can make as healthy or stodgy as your heart desires. Go all-out and choose the large size – it’s only a couple of dirhams more at Dhs32. $$$ Total: Dhs64 Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 385 1171).
Fish tacos at Cactus Cantina Two will be more than satisfied with the generous portions at this upbeat Mexican restaurant in Wafi. The fish tacos come as a pair and are filled with chunky strips of battered fish and lettuce, and accompanied with rice. Top up your bellies with the potato skins starter, the crispy strips of starchy goodness are filled with your choice of beef, chicken or veg and topped with sour cream, jalapenos and cheddar cheese $$$ Total: Dhs94 Wafi Pyramids, Oud Metha (04 357 4441).
Barbecue chicken pizza at California Pizza Kitchen Head to one of the mall branches of this casual dining spot for its classic American pie, liberally smothered in barbecue sauce, smoked gouda, mozzarella, chicken, red onions and cilantro for Dhs49. Even if you can manage a whole pizza each, it’ll still come in at under Dhs100. $$$ Total: Dhs98 The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 339 9099).
European Pasta and pizza at Vapiano Craving a taste of Italian on a budget? Get yourself down to Vapiano to feast on your choice of fresh pasta served with a rich, spicy arrabbiati sauce and delicious pizza, piled high with tasty ruccola leaves and hunks of parmesan cheese. $$$ Total: Dhs80 The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai (04 434 0454).
Mushrooms on toast at McGettigan’s You can trust the Irish to put together simple, hearty grub. This plate (Dhs45) featuring garlic mushrooms, toast (obviously), pea shoots, parmesan and truffle oil makes a filling lunch, while your dining companion will have no complaints with the equally generous toasted cheese sandwich (Dhs50). $$$ Total: Dhs95 Bonnington Hotel, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 356 0560).
Dhs50 set menu at Lila’s Café Next door to the Dubai Moving Image Museum in TECOM, two people can enjoy a set menu for Dhs50 each at this bistro style café. The set lunch includes a soup of the day, salad and a main of pasta, grilled meats or burgers, and the offer is available all day. You can smoke shisha outside on the cute terrace, too. $$$ Total: Dhs 100 MCN Building, TECOM (04 454 3064).
Quiche Lorraine at Pascale Tepper French Bakery For a tasty breakfast or lunch, this French bakery has stylish yet rustic décor and a lively atmosphere. Most mains come in under Dhs50 but their quiches are particularly good and come served with a freshly tossed side salad. $$$ Total: Dhs78 Dubai Media City (04 440 9300).
Indian and Pakistani Thali at Govinda’s In Old Dubai we’re not short of bargain options for an Indian thali – a selection of dishes presented in small bowls – but Govinda’s is among our favourite. For Dhs32 on weekdays and Dhs35 at weekends (Thu-Sat) feast on a starter, roti, rice, four curries and dahl. The mains change daily, so there’s always a reason to come back for more. $$$ Total: Dhs64 Served noon-3.30pm daily. Behind the Regent Palace Hotel, Karama (04 396 0088).
Chicken mughlai at Ravi’s A trip to Satwa is not complete without a meal at this popular Pakistani venue, where tables on the street are harder to come by during the pleasant months. The food still comes across just as tasty indoors, though. Order the creamy chicken mughlai – it’s a buttery white-sauce curry, topped with shaved egg and best mopped up with fried paratha. The mutton chops are super spicy and the dahl and butter chicken are also worth raving about. $$$ Total: Dhs65 Satwa Road, Satwa (04 331 5353).
Thali at Kamat Pass by the Makhool branch of Kamat of a weekend and you can expect to see hordes of families queuing out into the street. Why? The Dhs20 thali offering at this all-Vegetarian joint is stunning value. The dishes included change daily, so call ahead for the day’s offering – and to reserve a table. $$$ Total: Dhs40 Kuwait Street, Bur Dubai (04 359 8444).
Spicy fish and crunchy prawns at Bu Qtair The queue outside this backstreet portacabin is worth it. Choose a marinated fish, a pot of fresh prawns and then pull up a plastic stool outside. You pay according to weight, but Dhs100 will get you a feast that’s more than enough for two, plus it’s finger-licking good. $$$ Total: varies, but definitely under Dhs100 for two people. 4d Street, off Jumeirah Beach Road, near Burj Al Arab, Umm Suqeim (055 705 2130).
The Spice Kraft Thali at Spice Kraft There are many places serving thalis in Dubai, but few have such chirpy staff. The presentation is pretty nifty and the food at this veggie eatery in JLT is also up to scratch. Your all-in-one dinner comes with a paneer curry, a potato curry, veg, dahl, rice, two breads, salad and a dessert for a bargain Dhs22. When dining for two, the spicy stir-fried chilli paneer from the Chinese section of the menu is also excellent, as is the savoury snack bhelpuri with puffed rice and tamarind sauce. Wash it down with a thick, sweet and moreish mango lassi. $$$ Total: Dhs60 Platinum Tower, Cluster I, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 440 9300 ext 463).
Masala dosa at Sukh Sagar Another great find for lovers of Indian cuisine, Sukh Sagar does great grub at bargain-basement prices. The masala dosa is a highlight and the pancake comes with a hearty portion of potato-based masala curry along with a dahl and luscious coconut sauce. Pour all the ingredients into the chunky, yet somehow delicate pancake for an excellent meal for one. Get your fellow diner to try the succulent paneer tikka wrap and the panipuri (small, hollow fried breads, which you fill yourself with flavoured water, tamarind chutney, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion and chickpeas. $$$ Total: Dhs65 Almas Tower, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 440 9300 ext 127).
Ghee paper masala dosa at Aryaas Arguably the show-stopping dish on offer at Aryaas, the restaurant does dosas like no one else. Expect the crispy crepe-style dish to be huge, Burj-Khalifa, cone-esque and stuffed with a spicy, creamy concoction of mashed potato, sautéed onion and peas. Just be ready to draw attention to yourself when it arrives. $$$ Total: Dhs35 Bank Street, Bur Dubai (04 357 7800).
Goan chicken at Brick Lane This restaurant’s general ethos of ‘authentic Indian food straight from the UK’, may cause scepticism, but you must not let this sway you; this place does decent curries, one of which is this particular Goan poultry dish. A smattering of chili here, hints of lemon and cardamom there. It might not be as creamy as you’d expect, but it more than makes up for things in sheer freshness. $$$ Total: Dhs38 Al Barsha (04 399 6788).
Vegetable samosas at Memsaab Expect the samosas to be among one of the highlights at this JLT eatery. They’ll arrive looking exactly as they should be – and the taste delivers in bucket loads. The texture is pitch-perfect – crunchy while still being light and fresh and the filling is all juicy peas and moreish pleasure. $$$ Total: Dhs18 JLT (04 442 9816).
Grilled paneer at Calicut Paragon There is much to delight the vegetarian palate at this Karama stalwart, but you ought to make your first stop this particular dish. Expect a peppery kick, large, juicy junks of paneer and a general freshness overload. The flavours are simple and fragrant. $$$ Total: Dhs16 Karama (04 335 8700).
Far Eastern Dim sum at China Sea This bustling Deira intuition remains among the most authentic tastes of the Far East in Dubai – and among the best ways to enjoy its charms is to stop by to enjoy the Friday lunchtime pastime – eating dim sum. Individual items are as cheap as Dhs2 apiece, and with a basket of six beef buns for just Dhs10, it’s safe to say you can gorge yourself silly and very cheaply indeed. $$$ Total: under Dhs60 for a feast Near Clocktower Roundabout, Deira (04 295 9816).
Pad Thai at Lemongrass This Thai eatery in Oud Metha is a favourite among those who live or work in the Old Dubai end of town. Tuck into a mountain of steaming rice noodles, tossed with tofu, bean sprouts, chive and wrapped in egg, plus a sprinkling of prawns (Dhs40), chicken (Dhs38) or just plain veg (Dhs30). $$$ Total: Dhs60-80 Behind Sultan Business Centre, Oud Metha (04 334 2325).
Hot pot at Xiao Wei Yang This unique Deira spot specialises in the art of hot pot – from around Dhs40 a head you can expect a huge vat of broth, left to simmer on a hot plate in the centre of your table and accompanied by a range of raw meat, seafood and veg to be hand-cooked at your leisure. A must-do experience – and a very cheap one at that. $$$ Total: Dhs92 (for meat and seafood hot pot package with soft drinks). Baniyas Road, Deira (04 221 5111). Other location: opposite Le Royal Méridien, Dubai Marina (04 421 4350).
Miso ramen at Bento-ya Bento-ya’s steaming bowls of noodles hit the spot if you’re craving simple, authentic Japanese fare. The miso ramen weighs in at Dhs43, but the other hot noodle soup options, including udon, are just as affordable. $$$ Total: Dhs86 (for two miso ramen) Al Kawakeb Building, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 0222). Other location: Garhoud (04 236 9666).
Tom Yum Goong at Ban Khun Mae This little-known Thai foodie stop in Mall of the Emirates is affordable and the service is swift, meaning you won’t have to wait long to chow down. Order the prawn tom yum goong, the Thai green curry with chicken or beef and an appetiser of deep fried fish cakes and spring rolls, and you’ll be laughing full-bellied all the way home. $$$ Total: Dhs100 Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 340 0565).
Pad Med Mamuang with chicken at Little Bangkok This chain of Thai restaurants, which has branches in Dubai Media City and Jumeirah Lakes Towers, serves some great dishes for those of you wanting to try something different to the usual, standard curries. The Pad Med Mamuang (make sure you order it with the chicken) is a more dry offering, with chilli paste and cashews giving the meat a delightful crunchy texture. It comes packed full of stir fried veg as well. If you do want a more traditional taste of Thailand, take a mate and order the thick, hot and creamy vegetable Thai green curry as well. $$$ Total: Dhs81 Business Central Towers, Dubai Media City (04 440 9300 ext 964).
Japchae at Hyu Korean Drop by this humble eatery and help yourself to this delicious, filling Korean classic comprising stir-fried glass noodles and veggies. Unless you’re starving, there’s no need to order anything else, as traditional ‘banchan’ side dishes, such as kimchi and other pickles, are complimentary. $$$ Total: Dhs50 (for one japchae) Oud Metha Road, behind Aroma Gardens, Oud Metha (04 334 4294/8).
TNT rolls at Sushi Art Head to the new JBR branch of this Japanese eatery, where the menu will leave you spoilt for choice (there are even foie gras rolls). We highly recommend a portion of six TNT rolls (Dhs28), which feature tuna, masago, cucumber and spicy sauce encased in rice. Get them to take away and enjoy your lunch on the beach. $$$ Total: Dhs56 The Beach, JBR (800 220).
Simmered tofu at Hanoi Check out this Vietnamese canteen’s tofu simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and served with a hearty pile of steamed rice for just Dhs38. The huge chunks of tofu really absorb the hot and tangy flavours of the dish, and when accompanied by a Dhs29 chicken pho (a classic Vietnamese noodle soup), you can expect to have leftovers. $$$ Total: Dhs67 Lake level, Cluster C, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 431 3099).
Nasi uduk at Betawi Cafe A meal for two at this teeny Indonesian family-run restaurant in Karama should cost you no more than Dhs80 if you’re crafty. Order the nasi uduk of steamed rice in coconut milk, ginger and lemongrass with fried chicken, the gado gado satay salad and the mouth-wateringly good pecel ayam bakar or rustic, grilled marinated chicken. $$$ Total: Dhs60 4b Street, near Ministry of Health, Al Karama (056 759 8118).
Chilli fish stew at Nihal Tang Palace This place is well off the beaten track, and the clientele are mainly Chinese expats and tour groups, but if you want genuinely authentic Chinese food, and you don’t care too much about décor, this is the place for you. The fish stew is divine, with plenty of hot dried chilli, cracked black pepper and white fish, the pot is large enough to easily share between two. $$$ Total: Dhs58 Al Hudaiba Building, Jumeirah (04 326 6888).
Noodle soup at Noodle House This restaurant has a big menu but for a cheap and satisfying quick eat, look at the soups section. The roast duck wonton soup is filling, and comes with a generous amount of filled dumplings and noodles. Soups starts at Dhs35. $$$ Total: Dhs70 Various locations including Gloria Hotel, Dubai Media City (80 066 6353).
Middle Eastern Mezze and manakish at Cedar Tree There’s nothing quite like Lebanese food for a spot of sharing. Cedar Tree’s pavement patio is a great place for people watching with friends while tucking into tasty, wallet-friendly food. Order the tangy fattoush, the creamy hummus and spicy potatoes with a serving of tabbouleh and some zaatar manaoushe for a feast that can easily feed two hungry people. $$$ Total: Dhs77 Motor City (04 447 5889).
Grilled cuttlefish at Barracuda For fresh-off-the-boat seafood, head to this Egyptian spot. Two people will be more than satisfied with an order of this tasty fish dish along with marinated tomato salad, hummus and potato cubes, plus the bread basket, which is thrown in for free. $$$ Total: Dhs91 Jumeirah Beach Road (04 394 0408).
Shawarmas at Eat & Drink You’ll need to hold off until after 6pm to gobble up shawarmas at this much-loved Al Wasl Road joint, but it’s well worth the wait. They’re small, so order at least two each to fill up, or simply order a mixed grill kebab to share, which comes with hummus and Lebanese bread. Order a decent-sized plate of lemony taboulleh and get in your greens. $$$ Total: Dhs72 Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 2 (04 394 3878).
Ali’s soup at More Café Few things at this popular chain come in small portions, but the soups take the proverbial cake. One pan, with a thick slice of rye bread for each diner, is absolutely plenty to fill two hungry bellies. Ali’s soup – a delicious mix of lentils, lamb and barley – is by far our favourite, especially with a generous squeeze of lemon. $$$ Total: Dhs39 Various locations including Gold & Diamond Park, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 323 4350).
Date omelette at Klayya Bakery and Sweet This colourful and quirky Emirati café will win you over with a selection of egg-based breakfast dishes inspired by the region’s traditional recipes. The date omelette, described as ‘ryoog yerena’ in Arabic on the menu also comes with a complimentary basket full of freshly baked Emirati-style breads as well as a cup of karak chai. Two people, can easily eat a full breakfast (at any time of day) here and still have enough change left over from Dhs100 to try a few of the interesting hot drinks on offer. $$$ Total: Dhs37 Al Barsha Mall, Al Barsha (04 325 5335).
Fattet batinjan at Sim Sim This Levantine eatery on a bustling Dubai promenade offers a classic menu from across the region, with many Palestinian-style highlights. The fattet batinjan, a classic Levant casserole of aubergine in yoghurt is one of the best recipes for this dish we have sampled in Dubai, with generous chunks of creamy aubergine, plenty of meat, onions and fried bread that is still beautifully crisp, for a perfect touch of texture. $$$ Total: Dhs32 The Walk, JBR (04 454 2319).
Cheese fateer at Zaroob The winner of Time Out Dubai’s best budget restaurant 2014, Zaroob, has been feeding the hungry masses with Levantine snacks (right up until the very early hours of the morning) for a few years now. Among the consistently good flatbread and pastry specials to sample on the menu, you can also delight in feasting on the Egyptian street food classic, feteer – a flat pie with layered pastry. Expect it to arrive oozing with plenty of melted cheese. $$$ Total: Dhs24 Sheikh Zayed Road (04 327 6060).