Time Out selects 10 of the best Independent restaurants in Dubai
Time Out Dubai Staff
Gazebo: Though not a romantic dining spot, Gazebo still manages to fuel passions. Fans of the intimate, independently owned eatery hail it as the city’s best Indian restaurant. Whether it truly reigns supreme is debatable, but one thing is for certain: Gazebo dishes up some brilliant curries. As the food focuses on dishes from Lucknow and Hyderabad, you’d be better off skipping the well-worn sag paneers and opting instead for the achari gosht, made up of buttery chunks of lamb in a tamarind, fennel and sun-dried tomato sauce.
Call 04 359 8555 for more information about the Bur Dubai restaurant.
Lan Kwai Fong: Another to put in the ‘now I’m too bloated to move’ category, Lan Kwai Fong’s setting, not far from the Mövenpick Hotel, is a far cry from its namesake, the busy area of Hong Kong famous for its bars and rowdy spirit. From the outside it doesn’t look like much – appearing like a dark canteen, or old-fashioned hall – but inside, it appears authentic and a largely Chinese clientele suggests this doesn’t end with the decor. The appetiser platter gives a taste of what’s to come: good food and plentiful portions, though like so many of Dubai’s Chinese restaurants, waiters will pile up dishes until you have no room to move.
Call 04 335 3680 for more information.
Calicut Paragon: It may be tricky to find this place in the maze of Karama’s streets, but it is worth seeking out. Go along at lunch time and you can gobble down the delicious curries and be thrilled that the waiter will pour you more from a huge, seemingly endless, vat. Keep it simple, and opt for the fish curry and chicken biryani, both of which are spectacular. The fish curry may comprise only a small serving (one piece to be precise) of generic white flesh, but it comes with enough accompaniments to feed a small, hungry army, and, there are always the refills. The biryani houses delicately spiced raisins and vegetables and slow-cooked fall-off-the-bone meat. Finish off your tasty feast with fresh juices – try watermelon and mint or the mint/pineapple/yoghurt combo – and a rice pudding. It, like everything else, hits the spot perfectly.
Call 04 335 8700 for more information.
China Sea: Chinese expats rave about China Sea, and so when you enter the fantastically large café you will expect the moon on a chopstick. You won’t be disappointed. To the right of the entrance, a gastronomic conjurer whips up noodles from scratch, while a team of cheerful sirens – decked out in matching red silk dresses – will lead you to your table. Near the noodle man is a handful of stations, each boasting racks of shrink-wrapped raw ingredients. The descriptions next to each dish are vague, so you’re better off pointing randomly to various plates and see what the cooks come up with. The results are mesmerising. Unfamiliar dishes mix with traditional classics, and all are divine. One word of warning: the portions at China Sea are big, and meant to share, so you’re best coming with a large group.
Call 04 295 9816 for more information.
Istanbul Flowers: Istanbul Flowers is a standard, canteen-style eatery, with food that takes your breath away. While the menu lists all the pan-Arabic mezze faves, there were a few items that are specific to Turkey, in particular, the Ïskender kebab. Few words give justice to this lush dish. Let’s just say, it’s the star of the show, the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas… but more on that later. So, to start at the beginning, the waiter brings out a basket filled with thick, pillowy, quilted bread and a tray bearing baba ganouj, made sweet with chunks of roasted red peppers, fresh houmous and creamy moutabal.
Call 04 343 4585 for more information.
Manvaar: Manvaar isn’t good… it’s amazing. The restaurant is a dark, intimate room, plastered in intricately embroidered linens. It speacialises in Rajasthani food – a region of Indian cuisine that is underrepresented, even in Karama, which boasts a curry shop on every block. Poppadums are the only starter available, but you won’t mind, as the crispy flatbreads and a plate of lightly dressed bean sprouts are more than enough. The menu challenges you to take risks, and you should, as each new flavour proves a revelation. Even the thandai, a peppery yoghurt drink that managed to cool the palate while firing it up, betrays a higher level of sophistication in the kitchen. You will become culinary philanderers as so many unique and beautiful curries are set before you.
Call 04 336 8332 for more information.
Special Ostadi: It would be difficult to hold on to a bad mood at Special Ostadi. Even a chronic grump can’t help but smile at the manager’s efforts to track down your homeland’s currency from the bills from almost every nationality pasted on the tabletops and walls. This Iranian dig has been run by the same family since 1978, and they take great, heartwarming pride in that fact. Carnivores are in luck, as it offers meat, meat and more meat, and the grill options are inevitably juicy nuggets, often infused with saffron, or marinated in yoghurt. Barbecued mutton comes out tender, oozing juice, while the shish kebab marinated in thyme and garlic is transcendent.
Call 04 397 1933 for more information.
Pars Iranian Kitchen: Though there are branches of Pars throughout the city (including a new fast food variant at the Dubai Mall), the original Satwa outpost is particularly magnetic. The all-outdoors venue may be a bit challenging during the summer months, but for the other eight months of the year, the semi-private carpeted platforms give the place a certain romance and mystique. Once you’ve settled into your elevated cubby-hole, it’s time to dine on some of the best kebabs in town. The meat at Pars is consistently juicy. The seafood platter, which comes with fat prawns and moist chunks of hammour, is a zesty alternative to the mixed grill (which is also excellent, and comes with a rich assortment of smouldering meat).
Call 04 398 4000 for more information.