Whether squid ink or activated charcoal-infused, Dubai’s dining scene has taken a dark turn of late. We round up 14 of the city’s most intriguing edibles
Black food. It’s a trend that’s been around for years – really coming to the fore in the past couple – and it seems there’s no sign of it slowing down here in Dubai. In New York, however, where the fashion for adding activated charcoal to food and drinks has become utterly ubiquitous, the trend looks soon to disappear – thanks to a ruling by the US Food and Drug Administration declaring the supplement is no longer permitted in cuisine. Fortunately for fans here, the trend is stronger than ever in Dubai. Here’s our pick of the bunch, from lobster rolls to French fries.
Arroz negro at BOCA There aren’t many uses of squid ink as classy as this one from Mediterranean eatery BOCA. This fancy arroz negro is made with squid ink and it’s packed full of veg – locally sourced from The Waterfront Market in Dubai – for a pop of colour. There’s also a host of seafood including squid, langoustine, mussels and clams crammed in there. With a hint of chilli and a squeeze of lemon, it’s the perfect sharing dish for summer days. Dhs280. Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 323 1833).
Arroz negro con sepia y gambas at Casa de Tapas This lively Spanish restaurant has a wide variety of authentic tapas and mixed drinks. And what’s more traditional than paella? This one is a little different from the massive steaming pans of tomatoey rice you’ll see bubbling along the beachsides of Spain, however, it’s just as tasty. A version made with squid ink, cuttlefish, prawns and veg, this is served up with Spanish flair. Dhs100. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 416 1800).
Black fries at SALT Just one black dish on a menu? SALT sniffs at that. Here, you can get four different options all in the darkest of hues. And the charcoal bun isn’t reserved for the beef burgers, either. SALT’s crispy chicken fillet version also comes in a black bun (Dhs32), while even the popular beachside burger chain’s thick-cut fries are topped with a dramatic black salt and vinegar sauce (Dhs27). If you can handle the tar-like appearance, that is. Sweet tooth? Why not round it off with a Black Softie? The signature vanilla softie swirl ice cream mix is combined with black Oreos and topped with even more mini Oreos for Dhs29. From Dhs27. Kite Beach and La Mer, Jumeirah 1, www.find-salt.com.
Barbecue pulled brisket burger at Seafire Think Seafire, think steak – it’s one of our Highly Commended steakhouses for a reason. However, that’s not all that’s special about this swanky dining experience at Atlantis The Palm. This 48-hour cooked pulled beef brisket is slathered with homemade smoked barbecue sauce, crispy onion rings, and coleslaw and all stuffed inside a charcoal bun. Dhs115. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Black Magic smoothie at Tom & Serg If you’re after a boost, then head to this trendy café from Tom & Serg. Popular for breakfast, this chilled-out spot serves up a range of smoothies, and ideal for this list is this charcoal-based. It’s made with charcoal ice cream, banana, blueberries and almond milk. That makes us feel healthier just reading it. Dhs37. Al Quoz (056 474 6812).
Black spaghetti at 24 Karat The clue’s in the name with this one – 24 Karat focuses on all things golden. “Gold is our quality” it proclaims. And happily, there’s also a dish that fits this list, too. Squid ink pasta is cooked with clams, baby calamari and grated red mullet bottarga. There’s also a liberal douse of chilli and garlic for a tasty, carby treat. Want to make the dish more regal? Opt for a sprinkling of edible gold, of course. Dhs123, Dhs168 (with gold). Marriott Al Jaddaf, Oud Metha (04 357 7733).
Charcoal croissant at Society Cafe & Lounge This trendy new café in Jumeirah serves up a range of tasty, pretty dishes, as well as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The cafe also has its own bakery and makes fresh croissants daily – including a charcoal version. Interesting. Prices vary. Jumeirah 1 (04 222 2811).
Charcoal ice cream at Scoopi When Time Out Dubai went to this ice cream parlour on Jumeirah Beach Road, we didn’t know quite what to expect from the signature charcoal ice cream. We certainly didn’t anticipate the fresh, zingy ice cream to taste remarkably like lemon cheesecake. But it did. You can even get it in a homemade edible charcoal waffle cone. Feeling flush? You can get it topped with gold leaf. That’s the poshest way we’ve ever heard of cooling down. Dhs99. Jumeirah Beach Road, www.scoopicafe.com.
Legine Katsuobushi at Ossiano This dish is part of the experience menu at Ossiano, so at Dhs940 for seven courses, it’s on the pricey side. However, being our current Best Seafood Restaurant we think it’s worth splashing out on. Plus, you won’t get many more wow-worthy dinner spots than within an aquarium. Legine fish is coated with powdered nori and topped with dry katsuobushi (dried smoked bonito, which is a type of tuna) as well as flakes of sunchoke and fried garlic. Dhs940. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Maine Lobster roll at Bleu Blanc We love a lobster roll here at Time Out Dubai, but this is a twist on a classic. Juicy chunks of the crustacean are nestled into charcoal bread, and garnished with saffron aioli. We’d expect nothing less from the innovative US Michelin-starred chef David Myers. Dhs88. Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Marasi Drive, Business Bay (04 512 5533).
Salmon tortelleti Ditching its sporty theme, the popular mall pit stop has become Brunswick. Eatery | Bar | Terrace, boasting a fresh new menu, as well as some classy new interiors and plenty of greenery. We’re intrigued by the salmon tortelleti with tomato brodo and squid ink emulsion. There’s also charred octopus served with charcoal mayo, too. Dhs60. Sheraton Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (056 404 0685).
Signature burger at Stars 'N' Bars Warning: this is massive, and large appetites only may apply. It’s also served on a charcoal bun and with a meat patty, shredded lettuce, onions, sriracha honey-glazed bacon, jalapeños, pepper jack cheese and red chilli mayo this is a feast in its own right. Can’t face the inevitable meat sweats this one will cause? There’s the Black Castle burger, which is still served in a charcoal bun, but is a far less intimidating size. Dhs85 (Signature). Dhs70 (Black Castle). La Mer, Jumeirah 1, www.starsnbars.ae.
Short rib doughnuts at Seafire A second entry from this Palm steakhouse and one of the most creative dishes on the menu is these short rib doughnuts. Tricking your senses, the usually sweet snack is given a meaty twist, as the savoury dough is stuffed with slow-cooked braised short rib in a punchy sauce. The cooked doughnuts are then topped with a Parmesan “charcoal” dust served alongside sweet, sour, sticky barbecue sauce. Dhs85. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2626).
Charcoal latte at Kad Che This quirky new café in Business Bay has monochrome interiors and an interesting menu – including this charcoal latte. Shun that regular cup of joe and choose this on-trend version for your morning hot drink fix. Dhs28. Building 7, Bay Square, Business Bay, Dubai (04 338 8243).