Time Out Dubai is the definitive voice on Dubai's best restaurants, including South East Asian restaurants. Here's a guide to where to get the best of the region.
Pad Thai, spicy green curry plus mango and sticky rice for dessert are staples on any Thai restaurant’s menu. But perhaps you’re looking for influences of Vietnamese or Malaysian? Time Out has visited each and every South East Asian restaurant listed to put them through their paces, assessing factors including quality of food, ambience and service. Popular or relatively unknown, we’ve gone undercover to discover a wealth of colours and flavours across the region so you can find out what you’re getting for your money at each venue.
Pristinely decorated, it feels like you're in a Ritz-worthy venue the minute you arrive at Blue Jade. The decor is a careful combination of modern chic and Oriental elements, richly dark wood contrasting with glittery glass. The service meanwhile is just right '“ infinitely attentive without crossing into intrusive. Now, in Dubai we're used to beautiful venues that trip up at the final hurdle, namely the kitchen. Not so here, with a menu that skirts through Thai, Japanese, Chinese and more. There's a great versatility on display, culinary concoctions paying adequate homage to the past, yet not afraid of a fusion. The black pepper beef '“ the twist here a Singaporean rather than Guangdong-inspired sauce '“ is especially tender and tasty, while the Szechuan-style hot pot bursts with flavours without overpowering the palate. This a classy contender well suited to a blow-out special occasion.
This budget Indonesian eatery feels like it was born for that otherwise hackneyed cliché, the ‘hidden gem'. Based on a sleepy Karama back street, populated otherwise with a string of similarly overlooked eating out jewels from across the globe, Betawi Café is that unique, authentic, ethnic, characterful-but-safe walk on the culinary wild wide you've been dying to find. Serving affordable, wholesome and delicious food that bursts with flavours and spices, a few bites of classics like gado gado, nasi padang or ketoprak and you'll feel transported from said Karama sidestreet to a rainforest bamboo hut, accessed only by a dirt track. Actually you'll be eating in a quaint and intimate room '“ just nine tables. This relaxed restaurant is bright and clean and truly is a hidden gem.
On paper, it would be easy to write Karma Kafé off as a case of style over substance. Situated in Souk Al Bahar, with a terrace overlooking the Dubai Fountain, and a glam lounge club setting inside, you'd expect to be a tourist's dream serving up Asian bites to party people. But once the fountains cease and the phones are put aside, you can expect to sit down to some of the best Asian food in town. Every dish you're served is a work of art on a plate, meticulously presented and prepared. But these are modern fusions that taste as colourful as they look on the plate. Sushi is a particular highlight, paying lip-service to the past while offering daring new ingredients, and prices are very competitive for the location. And while Karma Kafé pitches nightlife chic over candlelight and white tablecloths, it's also a surprisingly romantic venue for a date.