Dining out doesn't always have to be an expensive pastime
Dubai is a city known for some of the world’s best restaurants (bestaurants… ?), serving dishes of the absolute highest quality. And that quality often comes at a price. These very pages have reported burgers exceeding Dhs35,000, chocolates carrying that same price tag and the world’s most expensive coffee, which rings the tills at almost Dhs5,000 per kilo. But delicious Dubai cuisine can also be enjoyed on the tightest of budgets. Street foods, satisfying snacks and even huge plates can be snapped up for pocket change – if you know where to look.
Champions’ nachos at Champions Sports Bar We will neither confirm nor deny that we more-than-occasionally prepare as our evening meal a large bowl of cheese-soaked nachos and nothing more. Whether this dish can actually be counted as a main course is up for debate, though, if any variation can, surely it’s a portion bearing the title of “champion”. Here, the home-made crispy tortilla chips are topped with three types of the yellow stuff, as well as tomato, onions and jalapeños, and served with three different dips. That’s a balanced meal in our book. Dhs25. JW Marriott Hotel Dubai, Deira (04 607 7977/04 607 7588).
Chicken green masala at Ravi Restaurant There isn’t much on the menu at this world-famous Pakistani outlet in Satwa that costs more than a large Coke at most of the city’s hotels. One of the most famous places to get cheap eats in the city, we recommend the mouth-watering chicken green masala, which we rate as one of the city’s best South Asian dishes. Its price leaves room under this Dhs30 budget for bread or rice – or both. The incredible flavours are matched only by the remarkable value at what is reportedly Gordon Ramsay’s favourite eatery in the city. Dhs22. Satwa (04 331 5353).
Chicken tikka biryani at Green Chillies It’s only right that the beloved biryani holds a spot on any list of the city’s top budget eats. This particular edition, prepared with meat flavoured by a tikka marinade, is tasty, generous and fantastic value. For those who don’t live near Discovery Gardens, it’s worth the trip just to eat at Green Chillies. Dhs20. Discovery Gardens (04 445 6789).
Freekeh-quinoa salad at Fumo Lounge by Rosso It’s been a decade since low-carb dieters across Dubai began spending their lunchtimes munching on – and failing to correctly pronounce – quinoa as the superfood’s revolution saw it replace carb-heavy grains such as rice or couscous on many plates. Freekeh, the Middle Eastern green grain made from young durum wheat, has been catching up ever since. It’s low in carbohydrate and high in fibre and, like quinoa, can also fill in for more popular cereals. Here, the two are served together in a zesty dish alongside tomato, parsley, peppers and cumin. Dhs29. Amwaj Rotana – JBR, The Walk (04 428 2000).
Free-range eggs at Tom&Serg The humble egg is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat and, despite its low calorie count, is a rich source of protein. So why not cast aside the tradition of restricting consumption of the outstanding ovoid item to breakfast and add it to your lunch and dinner menus, too? This dish at popular café Tom&Serg consists of two free-range eggs, either poached, fried or scrambled, served on toasted sourdough. It’s available all day from 8am. Let’s get cracking. Dhs28. Al Quoz (056 474 6812).
KDR special mixed grill at Karachi Darbar This huge selection of the Pakistani restaurant’s best grilled meat dishes should really be shared alongside the restaurant’s curries and bread, though keen carnivores may prefer to tackle this barbecued banquet of the special mixed grill, which includes mutton and chicken kebab, chicken tikka and mutton pieces, on their own. The good news is that it’s a satisfying meal, and at just Dhs30. Dhs30. Karama (04 334 7272).
Manakish at Al Reef Lebanese Bakery If you’re living in the Middle East and are yet to try one of these traditional bready basics, may it be the first thing you do after reading this. Head to Al Reef for a cheap and cheerful version, covered with cheese, zaatar or spicy meats. This is one Dubai “institution” you shouldn’t miss. From Dhs5. Various locations including Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 3 (04 394 5200).
Meat Oh Meat or Tender Me sandwich at State 88 This delicious dilemma faces diners holding a State 88 menu beefed up with two meaty offerings. Both sandwiches are stuffed with pulled beef, the first coming smothered in black bean sauce, caramelised mushrooms and spring onion salsa, and the second with caramelised onions, romaine lettuce and pickled radish, with both served on a freshly baked potato bun. We’re spoiled for choice. Dhs26. City Walk, Al Safa Street (04 388 8444).
New York-style Smoked Salmon Bagel at Bagels and More The bagel’s ring-shaped dough is first boiled and then baked, making for chewy, satisfying sarnies. New Yorkers love a smoked salmon version, and we’d have to agree. This one comes smothered in cream cheese with the addition of capers and tomatoes. Dhs28. Various locations including Arabian Ranches, www.bagelsandmore.com.
Panzanella salad at Barrels Sports Bar You might not associate this type of dish with a sports pub, but this light and tasty salad is an excellent alternative when you can’t face chicken wings, short ribs or other classic meat-heavy pub fare. This dish is filled with Mediterranean flavours including Italian tomato, capers, anchovies and basil, and is tossed with focaccia croutons and a red grape vinegar dressing. Dhs30. Majestic Hotel Tower, Bur Dubai (04 501 2533).
strong>Penne pasta with pesto and cherry tomato at Riva Lite Pasta-lovers know that the best time to eat the traditional Italian cuisine is after a good workout, when the muscles are hungry for the simple carbohydrate it provides, and when insulin levels will not spike as hard as at other times. As well as swimming pool and gym facilities, RIVA Beach Club features a light-bite café serving dozens of dishes, from healthy mains and fresh salads to home-baked cakes and pastries, rotating on a carousel. Grab a club day pass, work those muscles in the gym or pool and then tuck into pasta coated in delicious fresh pesto and sweet cherry tomatoes. Dhs27. Shoreline Apartments Building 8, Palm Jumeirah (04 430 9466).
Power on toast at the Millennium Plaza Hotel Dubai Boasting both beetroot hummus and avocado, this colourful dish packs a powerful combination of nutrient-rich produce on a slice of toasted bread. Enjoy while looking out over the lounge’s striking panoramic views of the city. Is there any other way? Dhs30. Infinity Pool Lounge, Millennium Plaza Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 387 7777).
Prawn moilee at Calicut Paragon Fish is the order of the day at this budget South Asian eatery in Karama, which counts the simple yet scrumptious prawn moilee, a curry-like dish made with thick coconut milk, among its ingredients. If you want to break the budget, we recommend the delicious crab thusar, a striking dish featuring a full crab broken up in a thick, spicy sauce, which will set you back Dhs40. Dhs30. Karama (04 335 8700).
Rocket Balboa at Freedom Pizza Is this the best-named meal in the city? Both the sandwich and the classic boxing drama from which it takes its name feature a hunk of meat born in America but possessing an Italian name (Rocky star Sylvester Stallone and the meal’s main ingredient, pepperoni, respectively). It also contains feta cheese, artichoke, fennel, spring onion, rocket (obviously), lettuce and a Genovese pesto sauce, and is great value at barely over Dhs25. Just try to avoid yelling “Adrian!” across the dining room when it’s placed in front of you. Dhs25.20. Various locations including Dubai Marina (04 453 4313).
Sausage and egg bap at Fibber Magee’s When you go to a place that has cottage pie, chips and baked beans on the menu, you know you’re getting hearty fare. And where better to start than brekkie? A regular weekend pit-stop of team Time Out Dubai, sometimes you just need a good old sausage, bacon and egg bap to get you through the morning. It’s a mix-and-match sarnie, so you could have one, two or all three of those items, and the max it’s going to set you back is Dhs33. As good value as it is tasty, then. Dhs23 (one item), Dhs28 (two items). Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 2400).
Scallop tempura at Nobu While we would not recommend booking a table at this world-renowned restaurant to order only this moderately priced meal, it is refreshing to see such an economic item on its menu, even if the dish on its own may not be enough on its own to fill you up. The flavours are flawless, as you might expect from a dish created by the mononymed Japanese chef after whom the restaurant is named. Dhs30. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Shakshuka at Flow This baked dish is hugely popular across the Middle East and North Africa, especially at, but not limited to, breakfast time. A flavourful medley of soft poached eggs in spicy tomato sauce, with kalamata olives and spinach, it’s a Dubai favourite among many a visitor and resident. It’s given a twist at healthy Sheikh Zayed Road eatery Flow, with high-protein cottage cheese and low-fat harissa yoghurt added, and toasted multigrain flatbread served on the side. Satisfying and guilt-free. Dhs30. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 319 8767).
Snapper tacos at Muchachas Bright, colourful and fun, we love this Mexican eatery from the folks behind Tom&Serg. These fish tacos come with habanero coleslaw and garlic aoli. Snap them up… Dhs16. Holiday Inn Express, Al Safa (04 327 5878).
Som Tum Thai at Café Isan As Time Out Dubai’s Best Budget Restaurant, 2017, you can’t go far wrong when it comes to getting a top-class, wallet-friendly meal at Café Isan. The Thai eatery in JLT specialises in a vast range of dishes, loads of which fall under Dhs30. From a tasty gang jurd chicken soup (Dhs29) to fresh and healthy stir-fried veg (Dhs29) and, everyone’s favourite, crispy spring rolls (Dhs28). However, our pick is this light and tasty som tom Thai. Made up of sliced papaya, carrot and tomato salad sprinkled with peanuts, the crunchy veggies are tossed with a tangy, slightly sweet dressing. Simply delish. Dhs29. Cluster M, JLT (04 513 5289).
Som tum Thai at The Backyard Another version of the Thai classic, this green papaya salad, made with dry shrimp, long beans and peanuts, is one of Thailand’s most commonly eaten dishes –and one of its most popular exports. It’s a sweet and sour dish constructed of ingredients designed to complement each other wonderfully, with fiery chilli and cooling fruit, crunchy vegetables and soft beans, plus zesty citrus and subtle garlic. Dhs25. Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay (04 369 0000).
Spicy mixed veggie stir fry at Miss WÁng Ah the vegetable stir fry, the staple dish for any time you get home late but can’t bring yourself to hit that fast food delivery app again. Miss Wáng’s version, made with a delicious combination of crushed chilli, ginger and lime, is likely better than your thrown-together attempt. Perfect for those in the Bur Dubai-Karama area who can’t be bothered to dust off the wok. Find time for a spot of karaoke while you’re there and make an evening out of it. Dhs30. Majestic Hotel Tower, Bur Dubai (04 501 2567).
Tandoori chicken or masala lamb wraps at Biryani Pot We struggle to choose between these two versions of the folded spicy snack, both made with tender meat covered in tasty Indian flavourings. One is filled with spicy tandoori chicken, fresh greens and a coriander and mayonnaise dressing, while the other contains spiced lamb seekh kebab with hummus, parsley, tomato and fresh greens. We’ll have to flip a coin (though, at this price, we may just go for one of each…). Dhs30. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 338 2277).
Thali at Rangoli If you’re after vegetarian Indian food served with no fuss, head to Rangoli. It’s not fancy, with large tables and bright lighting upstairs, and you’ll be expected to eat with your hands in a traditional style (although cutlery is on offer). Opt for the thali and you won’t be disappointed. Everything is fresh and tasty (and on the spicy side) and you’ll get three veggie curries, one dhal, chapathis, rice, pickles and curd for a bargainous Dhs22. Did we mention it was unlimited, too? Winner. Dhs22. Bur Dubai (04 351 5873).
Tom yum soup at Smiling BKK The eccentrically themed Thai restaurant must be seen to be believed, with black walls adorned by bright artworks, touristy T-shirts, colourful lamps and depictions of the Mona Lisa. Try this sour and tangy dish, made with vegetables and flavoured with lemongrass, lime leaves and chilli, which is among the eatery’s best-value plates. Dhs27. Al Wasl Road (055 959 5142).
Yumarteli Ekmek at KaFtan Restaurant You don’t have to be familiar with Turkish cuisine to recognise the delicious flavours that burst forth from a mouthful of this dish, which is similar to French toast and what Brits describe as eggy bread. The recipe served at this popular Jumeirah Beach Road haunt consists of three slices of pan-fried home-made bread dipped in eggy batter. Yet another breakfast dish that’s perfect any time. Dhs25. Jumeirah Beach Road (04 275 3062).