Time Out Dubai profiles the best restaurants in Dubai, including brunch, steakhouse, Thai, Indian, Italian, French, Japanese, Asian, Chinese and Cafe
After 12 months of eating our way around the city, Time Out Dubai held their 11th annual celebration of the very best restaurants in Dubai. The Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards took place in late March 2016, and you can relive them using the links below.
The team take the job very seriously, and scour the emirate – from Jebel Ali to Mirdif – looking for the finest food experiences on offer. For the 2015/16 awards, we were surprised by some old favourites, impressed by eateries in what should now be their "difficult second album" period and were blown away by the quantity and quality of new kids on the chopping block.
In a city that is ever-growing, the culinary scene flourishes in tandem and continues to attract star names. Their presence can only help the overall profile of Dubai, but that shouldn't overshadow the reliable stalwarts that serve excellent food year-in, year-out, and have done for many years.
So, after almost 500 restaurant reviews, carried out independently and anonymously, and more than Dhs200,000 spent to help us achieve it, here is the official, definitive list of Dubai's best restaurants in 2016.
A new champion for 2016, but a deserved one. Coya not only serves the best food in the city, but some of the best dishes we've eaten anywhere. Ever. It's popular and has been since it opened. Staff are very cool and very nice, helping you order and navigate the menu if you like. They do that in other places of course, but here it feels very natural. It can be argued that Coya also kicked off the current Peruvian food trend in the city. It did it first, and still does it better than anyone else. Also winner for Best Americas
A restaurant that opened with an air of exclusivity, this new "Mediterrasian" eatery takes the two cuisines and puts together dishes to stunning effect. From chef Reif Othman, who set PLAY up after moving from Zuma, expect amazing sashimi, creative sushi, and meals without a single flaw. An unbelievably good new restaurant has arrived.
The standard of new restaurants was so high this year that we split the newcomer category into two awards. All kinds of things were taken into account, including décor, price, and style of food, but what isn't in doubt is the quality of cooking in both shortlists. The winner in the casual category is a stylish, modern American "meatery". The quality of meat is exceptional, the passion of the chefs unquestionable, and the overall experience, excellent.
Yes, it has been around a while, and yes, it's popular with tourists. But it's also absolutely fantastic. From the moment you step on board the abra that will take you to the restaurant, every element of Pai Thai brings a sense of occasion. Of course, the food has to be good too, and it is. In fact, it's excellent. Only the cold-hearted wouldn't love an evening here.
This restaurant, which is part of the frankly brilliant complex at the Four Seasons in Jumeirah, is one cool customer. Serving Turkish classics and some of the best cuts of meats in town, Nusr-Et has done wonders since it opened, managing to combine fine dining with a no-nonsense approach. Go, take the suggestions from the brilliant staff on board and enjoy.
This makes it a hat-trick of trophies for Zuma this year, each one entirely deserved. There are others that come close to taking Zuma's crown, but each time we go back it seems to get better. With a team that really care about the restaurant and have a passion for improving it, the experience is always going to be hard to beat. The food is simply stunning, and with a newly revamped menu, things look like they're only going in one direction. Also winner for Best Brunch, Business lunch
A real individual on Dubai's Italian culinary scene. That could easily apply to the venue or Solo's chef, Corrado Pani. A (naturally) passionate cook, this restaurant is his vision, brought to life by an exceptional team. Solo's décor is like no other in this category and there's an ability to make hearty meat and pasta dishes into something you want to eat over and over again. Among the prettier starters and desserts, the kitchen's eye for artistry is also apparent. From best newcomer last year to best Italian this year, Solo continues to impress.
The curry is taken to new culinary heights. Atul Kochhar turns something we all know into a style all of his own. For all the stunning presentation, there are actually very few tricks on show in this restaurant's cooking. Flavours and ingredients that you recognise are all there, just looking a little different. More pretty. More refined. More like an award-winner.
DIFC's classy French restaurant is still the one to beat. Staff here are perhaps the greatest in the city. And the food they're serving is equally good. This is one of the very best places to eat in Dubai. Whatever you choose, you're guaranteed a flavour explosion. We defy any meat-eater not to gasp after the first taste of the lamb cutlets. Turn to page 45 to find out what happened the last time we ate there.
A relative new kid on the block compared to some of the more established names in this category. Nevertheless, Boca has become one of our favourite venues in the time it has been open. It has tough company in DIFC, but does something different, and therefore manages to stand out. This isn't stuffy fine-dining, but the kitchen is clearly spending time and effort getting these sharing dishes just right. A great place to pop in for a few bites and drinks, and an equally good place to gorge yourself on the Spanish-influenced menu.
A name that guarantees quality, Hakkasan is always going to be there or thereabouts when it comes to the Chinese category. This year the kitchen stepped its game up a little, throwing down some truly stunning reimaginings of Chinese classics. The venue is very cool, too, with a slick dining room, terrific terrace and some of the best staff in the city.
Being part of the Asian hotel chain Anantara should boost your credentials when it comes to the cuisine. Thankfully, Mekong delivers. On all levels. The restaurant itself is a well thought-out and exquisitely designed venue, and that attention to detail continues through to the food. Dishes zing with vibrant flavours and staff can make some truly wonderful, experience-enhancing suggestions.
A hugely evocative restaurant, JW's is everything you expect and want a steakhouse to be. It's dimly lit, the huge leather chairs make you feel like someone important and the excellent cuts of meat are high quality, cooked perfectly and full of flavour. The sides are great, too, and staff are happy to let you enjoy the occasion. And how could you fail to enjoy any meal served on a wooden platter with golden bulls' heads at either end?
Stepping into Ossiano from the corridors of Atlantis The Palm is like setting foot in another world. Gone are the crowds of families and bustle of the popular hotel and instead you get quiet, cool, class. That is the calm before the storm, and by storm we mean the best seafood in the city. Starters, mains and desserts are all presented beautifully and packed with flavour. The produce is superb, and treated with respect by a kitchen that lets the ingredients do most of the work.
Unless your wife/husband/best friend suffers from vertigo or has a fear of elevators, they will be blown away by a visit to At.mosphere. It's as classy as they come, with an unbelievably high level of culinary expertise on show. And then there's the fact that it's on the 122nd floor of the tallest building in the world. Who wouldn't be impressed with that? While the air on the outside is probably a little thin, the atmosphere inside is as wonderful as the cooking. Also Winner Best Afternoon Tea
Pubgoers from the West won't be disappointed. Imagine if every time you went to a pub with a cracking garden you could actually sit in it? Well, here you can. And while you're there you can feast on some hearty, tasty grub. From pies to burgers to steaks, Reform has them all down pat. And when the barbecue is on, it's a beautiful thing. This makes it two in a row for Reform, making it the undisputed champion of the category, and the standard for all others in it to aim for.
Keeping its crown from last year, this café is credited with starting the still-growing artisan coffee trend in Dubai. The team here still take their beans seriously, and the quality of the food on offer, too. We love how the menu changes constantly, keeping a select few favourites, but trying new dishes as well. It continues to be busy, which is really something given the amount of competition now. Tom&Serg have branched out, with The Sum of Us and Common Grounds, and more recently their first licensed venue, Brunswick Sports Pub, but their success is founded on this exceptional café in Al Quoz.
We know, we know… We're not breaking any new ground here. But in a city that can often seem obsessed with the latest thing, it's important to remember the bits that made it great in the first place. This year, Bu Qtair went all fancy and moved into a slightly bigger space not far from the original. The queues are still there though, as are those spicy prawns and marinated fish. Simple, affordable perfection.
It has competition, not least from the places on the same stretch of Al Manara. However, Bystro won our first-ever Best Breakfast award because it's a fabulous all-rounder. Great for families, with a dedicated children's area (and pretty good for those without kids as a result), great for coffee and both healthy and indulgent dishes (we recommend the huevos rancheros). The cabinet of sweet treats that runs along the centre of the room is also awesome. Try the chocolate honeycomb slab. Also Highly commended Café
We love the venue. Yes, it kind of bludgeons you over the head with the New York loft theme, but it works. The décor and layout is cool, and the fact that it serves mostly organic produce is a real winner in our eyes. Whether burger or salad, we've loved all we've tried.