Time Out Dubai's dish of the week shines the light on the most interesting dishes from some of the new, relaunched and best restaurants in Dubai
In an industry as ferociously competitive as the restaurant one right here in Dubai, the stars of the culinary scene are constantly looking new and exciting ways to stand out from the crowd.
Whether they chose to do that through a couple of stand-out items on their menu, or perhaps even relaunching the whole thing, Time Out is always first to get the lowdown.
Every week, we'll bring you a recommended dish from around town, either from a recently-opened spot we really think you should be checking out, or even an old favourite that's making at eyes at us with something new and unique.
Oh, and if you just want some good old restaurant advice, you'll do well to check out the Dubai's 50 best restaurants, as revealed at our most recent Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards.
You know straight away when you’ve found a dish that you’ll always have space for in your stomach. And we’re happy to announce that Ruya’s two cheese pide is the latest addition to that list.
To put it in lazy terms, pide is Turkish pizza. But, of course, it’s so much more than that, and it’s possible that pizza was actually derived from pide. One theory is that when a Turkish sultan took control of Sicily in 1480, a local man watched on as his soldiers ate their pide and asked how it was made.
It is said that he went on to open the first pizza restaurant, in Florence.
The similarities are clear. Both are flat, crispy breads cooked directly on a hot surface. There is one difference between the boat-shaped bread and its Italian cousin that we love, though. Looking at the picture above you’ll be able to see the crust glistening. That’s because butter, rather than olive oil is used to finish the dish. The butter adds a richness and gives it its shine.
However, if there’s one dish that doesn’t need any added richness it’s this one. Topped with two types of Turkish cheese and a slow-cooked egg, it’s possibly the greatest comfort food known to man (not that we’re ones for hyperbole).
“I first saw this in Istanbul in a restaurant called Borsa,” says Ruya’s chef Colin Clague. “As soon as I tasted it, I new it was going to be on the menu at Ruya. I’ve tried to keep it as traditional as possible by using Turkish cheese. It’s like the best dippy egg and soldiers you’ve ever eaten.” Dhs65.
The trend for Peruvian in Dubai shows no signs of slowing down. As we’ve talked about previously on these pages, the type of food available in the Peruvian restaurants of Dubai is mostly Nikkei – a combination of Japanese and Peruvian flavours and techniques.
Now, a new Nikkei spot has opened on the Palm and first impressions are very good indeed.
Aji (pronounced “a-hee”) is one of seven outlets that form Club Vista Mare, a new strip of restaurants that sit in front of Tiara Residences and look out towards the Al Sufouh shoreline. The whole licensed complex is something new and exciting for Dubai, but Aji may just be the jewel in the crown. It comes from the people behind Pantry Café and Abu Dhabi’s Bu! and has the same eye for design detail and Latin flair as the latter.
The dish pictured here, the Ají Especial, comes from the selection of tiraditos available on the menu. It uses Hokkaido scallops, widely regarded as the best Japan has to offer. They’re thinly sliced and served raw, sitting in a spicy sauce flavoured with lemongrass and ají amarillo paste, a typically Peruvian accompaniment given an Asian twist. Topped with tobiko (flying fish roe) it’s one of the most successful fusions we’ve tried.
It’s just one of many menu highlights. The ceviches are also good and nigiris, with toppings including foie gras and truffle butter, also sit alongside such dishes with aplomb.
There is enough promise in Aji to sustain the Nikkei scene for a while yet. Dhs85.
It’s not often we celebrate ourselves here at Time Out Dubai but when we turned 15 in September this year, we thought it was worth kicking up a fuss. So, it’s only fair that we now shine the spotlight on a restaurant that has been going for a full eight years longer than us.
We get used to seeing good restaurants come and go in this city, so Italian eatery Casa Mia reaching its 23rd birthday is something to shout about. There are various food and grape pairing events taking place throughout the month, and on Friday November 18, the venue will hold a four-course gala dinner matching Italian dishes and grape choices. There will also be a jazz band and stories from the restaurant’s history during the course of the night.
The main course of the evening will be this agnello in crosta, one of chef Maurizio Lazzarin’s signature dishes. Lamb loin is rolled in black truffles and porcini mushrooms before being sealed in pastry and roasted. It is served with semolina gnocchi, girolles mushrooms and lamb chops. It favours simple, quality ingredients over any flash, modern techniques. Much like the restaurant itself.
Lazzarin, who has been at the helm since it opened in 1993, says: “It’s a pleasure to pass on my food knowledge to our guests. I look forward to sharing the stories of treasured foods.” And we look forward to eating those treasured foods at Casa Mia for at least another 23 years. Dhs190. Birthday dinner Dhs499 per person, Dhs900 for two. Fri Nov 18, 7.30pm.
When a restaurant takes its name from the nickname of a famous singer, there are plenty of puns that spring to mind. But, while La Môme may have a whimsical name, the restaurant doesn’t mess about when it comes to its cuisine, so we’ll leave the plays on words at the door and get down to the serious business of telling you what it’s all about.
The name comes from legendary French chanteuse Édith Piaf, whose nickname was La Môme, which translates as The Little Sparrow. The décor of the restaurant harks back to the 1940s, the era that saw Piaf become a star. With a stylish dining room, which hints at life on the Rue de Belleville, it feels a world away from the towering skyscrapers and bustle of Dubai. It’s all there outside the windows, though, which look out to DIFC and Jumeirah from high up in Nassima Royal Hotel.
The menu stars plenty of French dishes, including escargots, cocquille Saint Jacques and beef bourguignon, and prices are reasonable, with starters averaging around Dhs75 and mains around Dhs178 (apart from the impressive côte de boeuf from the Josper (Dhs595).
The fish selection is good, too, with this filet de rouget barbet (red mullet) our pick of the bunch. The skin is crispy and the fish is flaky and full of flavour. It sits on a refreshing piémontaise Niçoise salad with sauce vierge.
This is one new restaurant and menu worth singing about. Dhs86.
We’re lucky in Dubai to have some fantastic Japanese restaurants. From those in five-star hotels, such as Tomo, Okku, Downtown Toko and the all-conquering Zuma, to excellent unlicensed venues including Atisuto, Bentoya and Yakitate, there is something for everyone.
There’s now a new addition to that last group, as Kyo Restaurant & Lounge, on Palm Jumeirah has shown great promise since opening in September. It has a sleek, stylish interior and serves food that wouldn’t look out of place coming from the veteran sushi chefs in the city.
All of the classics are on the menu, with sashimi, nigiri and uramaki sitting alongside edamame, miso soups and robata grills. There is also the chance to have meat cuts and seafood cooked on a hot stone at your table, and there’s an area for teppanyaki if you book in advance.
The venue is split into a café and lounge, and in the former, you can order an intriguing breakfast, bento box lunches and a whole host of desserts, including this incredibly pretty nachi pear. The dish marries the strudel (that old favourite of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and the Japanese pear. The fruit is poached and flavoured with seven spice and plated with pear strudel, low-sugar home-made ginger ice cream, chocolate ganache, sugar tuile and pear-flavoured cream.
It’s a combination that works perfectly and like a lot of the dishes served in Kyo, it almost looks too good to eat. Almost. Dhs45.
Time Out Dubai isn’t the only one celebrating a landmark birthday this month (we’re 15, thanks for asking). Across the Creek, JW’s Steakhouse is also marking a significant milestone, and to celebrate 21 years of top-class service, the restaurant is rolling back the prices.
Awarded Best Steakhouse at the Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2016, the JW Marriott Hotel Dubai eatery will be serving up a menu of original dishes from its opening year, at their original prices, available to all diners from Friday October 28 to Thursday November 17.
Chef de Cuisine Mohammad Iqbal has been with the restaurant since its inception, and has been part of its evolution over the years. “Our presentation has evolved from a classic, traditional style to more trendy and modern over the years, and we’ve also increased the number of appetiser options, as a result of guests requesting more healthy and organic options,” he explains, adding that the steakhouse has also introduced premium Japanese wagyu and Kobe cuts to its offering.
It’s not just the cooking that has kept the punters pouring in over the years, as regulars receive particularly special treatment. Guests who visit the steakhouse more than 24 times land a plaque bearing their name on their favourite table. To date, 758 names have been inscribed – including that of one gentleman who, upon learning of the tradition, dined at the steakhouse 24 days in a row to secure his plaque. Another lucky frequent diner even has a mixed drink named after him on the menu.
Throughout JW’s anniversary offer, some of its most popular dishes will be available at great prices, including the rib-eye on the bone, pictured above. Normally Dhs215, for 21 days it’s yours for Dhs165. You can also kick things off with starters such as lump crab cake for Dhs82, creamed mushroom and snail ragout for Dhs37 (normally Dhs105). Now those are prices seriously worth celebrating.
Presentation, presentation, presentation. The three golden rules when it comes to buying a house. Sorry, we’re getting mixed up.
That’s something else entirely. But while we’re on the subject, just take a look at this dish, the Don’t Be Shellfish from Carnival by Tresind. Now that is how to present a crab’s leg.
It reflects what the restaurant does perfectly. The Indian venue, little sister to Tresind at Nassima Royal Hotel, is playful, intriguing and exciting. It picks up the molecular gastronomy baton that Tresind is known for and runs with it. You’re greeted at your table by a stream of bubbles, a man with a tool kit and overalls prepares your dessert and you get white chocolate in your amuse-bouche. Carnival, as the name suggests, is brilliantly bizarre.
What we have here is a steamed spider crab’s leg, coated in a roasted masala and served with lotus chips. Offered up by a smoking wooden crab. Obviously.
Like many dishes at the restaurant, it takes familiar Indian flavours and ingredients and uses them to make something unusual. The twists and turns that crop up throughout the menu mean no trip to the restaurant will be dull.
Of course, being witty and cheeky with your dishes and presentation doesn’t mean anything if the flavours and cooking aren’t up to scratch. But here, it all works together perfectly. We can heartily recommend a visit to Carnival and we think you’ll enjoy it.
In fact, we’d go as far as saying we’d put our houses on it. Dhs75.
Not so long ago, we were writing on these pages about the amount of Peruvian places in Dubai. Well, for now at least, Lima has left the building and Turkey has taken up residence. The latest chef to take over the Palazzo Versace’s Enigma is Yunus Emre Aydin who is showcasing flavours from his homeland, British chef Colin Clague has just opened Rüya in Grosvenor House Dubai and Fish, which we waffled on about last week, has a Turkish chef and serves dishes inspired by the Aegean Sea and surrounding countries.
Then there is Besh Turkish Kitchen in Sheraton Mall of the Emirates, which we’re focusing on here. The restaurant, a welcoming mix of turquoises, greens and greys, signed up Vedat Basaran from Istanbul to consult on the menu. Basaran is known for re-introducing thousands of recipes from the Ottoman Empire into Turkish cuisine.
The menu at Besh is surprisingly short, considering the number of dishes he could have added. But it’s all the better for it. There are around 15 hot and cold mezzes, a handful of soups and salads and a dozen or so grills and main courses. Then there is the pide, which we can’t get enough of. The kusbasi pide is sensational – the thin, crispy dough is cooked perfectly in the wood-fired oven, the lamb mince is tender and the peppers give a wonderful sweetness. The parsley and tomatoes add freshness and a yoghurt dip is the ideal side.
Move over Peruvian, there’s a new cuisine in town… Dhs40.
With such a rich coastal heritage it’s a little surprising there aren’t more beachside seafood restaurants in Dubai. Thankfully, the new Westin Dubai venue Fish Beach Taverna has opened at just the right time.
With the summer heat finally retreating, it’s just about safe to answer “yes” when the waiter asks if you’d like to sit on the terrace.
And what a terrace this place has. The whitewashed walls and blue touches around the beautiful outdoor area remind us of summer holidays in the Greek islands and the menu is a pleasing mixture of Greek and Turkish seafood dishes. From karides videc, a Turkish shrimp stew, to this ahtapot, we’re impressed by its simple flavours, fresh ingredients and traditional recipes.
We’re particularly enamoured with the grilled octopus tentacle, which is rich, meaty and wonderfully charred. It’s served in a casserole with roasted vegetables, including shallots, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes. The dish is completed with a liberal sprinkling of herbs and spices to add some interesting flavour to each bite.
With a few successful Greek places in town (we’re looking at you Mythos, Labbys and Elia) and two new Turkish spots (hello, Besh and Rüya) maybe the Aegean dining scene is about to blow up. With this new addition, it’s heading in the right direction. Dhs75.
One thing we love about having top quality restaurants and chefs in Dubai is that things don’t stay still for long. Kitchens are constantly innovating, experimenting and creating with new ingredients, flavour combinations and techniques. It means menus are always moving, and improving, season to season.
One restaurant that embodies this approach is Marina Social, overseen by the Michelin-starred Jason Atherton and run by chef patron Tristin Farmer. The progressive British restaurant celebrates its first birthday this week, and in the run-up to the occasion, Farmer has tweaked the menu and added a handful of new dishes.
They include a roasted mushrooms and taleggio pizza, banoffee pie soufflé, lamb loin with aubergine parmigiana and aubergine purée, and a barbecue veal short rib with Yorkshire pudding and charred sweetcorn. It also includes the beautiful salad, pictured above.
Ripe yellow peaches are grilled, enhancing their sweetness, as well as warming them. They’re plated up with goose ham, the thin layer of fat giving a richness to the dish. Leaves of frisée add some bitterness and candied walnuts bring some crunch. It’s all brought together with an Arabic touch; laban sits in the centre of the plate and brings some sourness to the perfectly balanced salad.
With dishes like this, Marina Social has become a foodie staple in the year it’s been open. Here’s to many more birthdays and exquisite plates of food. Dhs70.
New restaurants open all the time in Dubai and we’re lucky enough to be able to check them all out. Every now and then, something comes along that really gets us excited and The Atlantic, due to open in Souk Al Bahar in November, has done just that.
The seafood restaurant promises to bring its dishes “from ocean to plate”, meaning the ingredients will be super-fresh and presented in ways that bring their quality to the fore. The venue is coming to the city from Melbourne, Australia, where it’s headed up by Donovan Cooke, who has worked with Marco Pierre White and appeared on MasterChef Australia.
Cooke has adapted the original menu to suit the Dubai palate. It will include live Scottish scallops baked in their shells with cinnamon and lemon, black bream with fennel and celeriac, and leek and truffle en papillote. However, the signature dish in the industrial-feel restaurant will be this olive oil confit salmon, which is served with heirloom vegetables and herb jus. “It’s a dish that I’ve been perfecting for 30 years, Cooke says. It’s tried and tested and hands-down the most popular dish on the menu at The Atlantic Melbourne.”
Cooke prepared the dishes especially for Time Out in his Australian kitchen. In Dubai, the restaurant will be managed by Jonathan Scanlon, previously of the Rivington Grill, with Australian Zeke Quinn as head chef.
This is one restaurant opening that has warmed the cockles of our hearts. Prices to be confirmed.
Not many people will head to Toro Toro filled with excitement at the prospect of hoovering up a salad. Instead, it’s the succulent meats, top-quality cuts and bountiful churrasco that draws in the crowds.
That, however, does not tell the whole story of the Latin American restaurant. Overseen by Richard Sandoval, the man in the kitchen is head chef Alfredo Lazo. He has introduced a new menu with dishes such as sea bass ceviche, scallops tiradito, and, yes, some meat in the form of slow-cooked beef cheeks. What we have pictured above, though, is a pretty plate of vegetables and grains, in the form of the quinoa salterito.
Lazo says it’s a special dish for him because “the ingredients are unique to Latin America and the flavours showcase the authenticity and vibrancy of the region”.
As well as the quinoa (which is flavoured with garlic), he bakes asparagus, aubergine, baby corn, red onion and peppers with thyme, olive oil and garlic, then plates it up with a blend of beans, aji amarillo (spicy chilli paste) and tahini. The dish is then dressed with feta cheese and a balsamic reduction.
The Grosvenor House eatery has long been a Time Out favourite, and currently holds the Highly Commended award for Best Brunch in the city. With the latest fish and veggie additions to the menu, even the most ardent meat-lovers will be tempted away from their usual carnivorous choices.
We read a lot about people craving food these days. A cursory glance at social media will reveal that the city’s Instafoodies, Snapchatters and Twitterati are never just “a bit hungry”. Instead, they simply must have whatever the latest food trend is, at the latest trendy restaurant (we’re sure its nothing to do with being invited down to eat for free).
That said, it has been scientifically proven that you can indeed crave the beautiful brown stuff that is chocolate. Eating sweet, high-fat foods releases serotonin levels in your brain, which makes you feel happier. It is one of the reasons people reach for chocolate when they’re feeling a bit down in the dumps and need a pick-me-up.
If that sounds like you, then Cocoa Kitchen could be your new favourite place. Head chef James McDonald has developed a menu choc(k)-full of sweet and savoury dishes using cocoa. Breakfasts have cocoa butter on their breads, salads are dressed with a white chocolate vinaigrette and this smoked burrata has cacao nib salt sprinkled around its usual additions of pesto, basil and tomato.
As an example of the inventiveness in McDonald’s kitchen, it works perfectly. The usual flavours you’d expect are there, but the cacao adds an unexpected, but very welcome twist. It’s no gimmick either – the chocolate element of every dish has been worked out very carefully.
After a visit, we’re confident you’ll come over all food blogger – and be craving more. Dhs65.
When it comes to healthy eating, there is no shortage of websites, books and experts telling us what we should eat, things we should avoid and how our lives can be better with a few tweaks to our diet.
With so much to take on board it can be difficult to know where to start and what to believe. Thankfully, we have the answer. And when we say “we”, we really mean Vivaldi by Alfredo Russo. The Italian restaurant, at Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, has launched a new menu dedicated to “superfoods”, available until Saturday September 10.
The term “superfood” relates to ingredients that are rich in vitamins, minerals or probiotic bacteria that are considered to have health benefits. And while there are ongoing discussions about the actual benefits that these ingredients bring, what is not in doubt is the quality of the dishes on offer at Vivaldi.
The menu features traditional Italian ingredients, including vegetables, grains and fish, each selected for its nutritional value and meals include the Insalata ABCDE (packed with spinach, orange and almonds and providing all vitamins from A to E), a 200-calorie, vegan main course of celeriac “steak” with a green with tomato sauce and this gluten-free chocolate fondant, which is served with an unusual parsnip ice-cream, filled with high levels of potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron, as well as vitamins B, C and E
Now that is super. Dhs45. Until September 10. Vivaldi by Alfredo Russo, Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers, Deira (04 207 1717).
We all love that taste of charring you get from barbecued food. It’s one of life’s most simple but brilliant pleasures. The same goes for the slightly overdone corners of lasagne. But we’re pretty sure very few people the chemical flavour of burned toast, and no matter how much you scrape it, that taste just doesn’t go away.
This week, we feature a slab of meat that at first glance looks like it has been through the incinerator, but don’t judge this particular book by its blackened cover.
Play Restaurant & Lounge’s veal Milanese is part of its new menu. Ringing in at Dhs315, it’s not the cheapest main course you’ll come across, but it is big enough for two. And as well as the huge piece of meat, there is also a spicy spaghetti arrabiata to go with it.
The dish is one of the most well loved in Italian cooking and is similar to the Viennese wiener schnitzel. In fact it’s pretty much identical, and there has long been a discussion over who introduced it to the other.
That discussion is as good as irrelevant in the face of Play chef Reif Othman’s new creation. The colour is created by replacing the traditional breadcrumb with black garlic mustard and charcoal panko crumbs. Inside is the pounded-out, tender veal. Finish it with a squeeze of lemon and you’re there.
It’s a delicious twist on the classic veal Milanese. Dhs315.
Canadian cuisine is having something of a moment. Weslodge Saloon swung open its yellow doors in March, poutine is making its way on to more and more menus and, now, we have Ten Street.
The JBR bar, which occupies the space where Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Lounge once stood, is a fun addition to the nightlife scene in Dubai, with, sports, games, karaoke and drinks deals on the go all day (and night) long. It has also put a lot of effort into the food, with a menu of dishes inspired by Canadian comfort foods – many of which sound off-the-wall (the Eggers Can’t Be Cheesers burger should tell you all you need to know) and look a little bonkers, too. But don’t let the wilfully wacky names put you off – the food coming out of the kitchen is seriously good.
Take the I’m A Belieber (pictured), for example. It’s the kitchen’s take on the North American breakfast favourite of chicken and waffles. But served as a burger. Here, two waffles take the place of the bun. Sandwiched between them are cheese, a deep-fried chicken breast, smoked veal bacon, rocket leaves and sriracha mustard.
It won’t win any health food awards, but it is mighty tasty. The waffles work perfectly, keeping the whole thing together, the chicken is juicy and the bacon adds a depth of flavour.
That Monkees-aping name? Inspired by Justin Bieber being a bit of a chicken, apparently. Glad we cleared that up. Dhs55.
Since opening, JLT’s Cocktail Kitchen has been a popular haunt for New Dubai’s scenesters. The venue, which, as the name suggests, puts as much emphasis on drinks as it does food, is abuzz with life every weekend and does a good trade midweek, too.
It has been something of a word-of-mouth success story, with people returning time and again for the very reasonably priced food and impressive happy hour deals.
Now, after batting itself in to the city’s dining scene, Cocktail Kitchen has refreshed its menu. What we love about it is the chef’s inventiveness, attention to detail and way with presentation.
Pictured is the new menu’s naked prawns, a starter. It has three main ingredients that balance the appearance, textures and flavours. The protein is provided by prawns (you probably could have guessed that). From Patagonia, they’re meaty and are ‘naked’ because they’re not seasoned, spiced or cooked in a way that will affect their flavour. The only cooking they get is a quick blanch in boiling water. A cucumber salsa is added for some freshness.
It’s infused with cucumber water and wholegrain mustard. Also on the plate is butternut squash purée, which is used to add another texture and adds a richness to the overall flavour.
With such pretty dishes at very reasonable prices, it’s no wonder Cocktail Kitchen is continuing to prove popular. We hope the chef continues to push boundaries with his food, too. Dhs60.
We love it when great new restaurants open in Dubai. With each one comes a new twist on a trusted cuisine, or something completely different to what we have already. Either way, the culinary scene improves with each quality new opening.
What we also love, however, is the comfort of a tried and trusted favourite that continues to keep its standards high.
One restaurant that falls into that category is Spanish joint El Sur, which always delivers on the quality of food and on value for money, with some cracking deals throughout the week. It has a new menu of innovative dishes including fried crab tempura with squid ink aioli, sea bass ceviche and rice with foie gras and truffle. It also includes this meaty marvel, the prime beef rib-eye with potato terrine, piquillo peppers and pickled shiitake mushrooms. And it’s brilliant.
The meat is grilled before being slow-cooked. It will then be finished to your liking. The potatoes are thinly sliced then layered back up and salted. Once baked for 50 minutes they’re cut into chunks and fried, before being plated up and topped with caramelised onion, the peppers and pickled mushrooms.
As far as Spanish food goes, it’s a pretty experimental dish, especially with the addition of the shiitake. But it’s the pushing of those boundaries that keeps El Sur interesting and relevant in the face of the city’s newcomers. And we’re delighted that it is. Dhs195.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they look at a menu and think to the themselves: “What was the chef thinking there?” Seeing a mixture of Japanese and French cuisine might sound like one of those moments, but trust us, it’s inspired.
Japanese restaurant Ramusake hits all right spots with its menu, taking in robata grills, black cod and sashimi, but it also throws in a few curve balls, such as a tuna sashimi pizza, wagyu chilli hot dog and the foie gras and barbecue eel maki.
Chef Michael Muir says: “We wanted to create a Japanese union by combining the indulgent French foie gras with the rich flavour of the unagi Japanese eel. We blowtorch the roll to warm it and release the flavours. It took us a few tries before we finally settled on the current version. Adding crispy cucumber helped balance the flavours of the two ingredients.”
He is correct, of course. The rich, soft foie gras needs the crunch of the cucumber to go with it, or the texture would be one-note throughout the roll. The eel is also a rich, fatty meat, so finishing with a blowtorch crisps up the outside. Topping with sesame seeds adds extra texture, too.
The result is an extremely tasty, decadent maki roll that also benefits from a slice of pickled ginger at the same time.
Peruvian food, as we’ve said before on these pages, is everywhere now.
As with the other Peruvian restaurants in the city, there are dishes on the Totora Cebicheria Peruana menu that you’d commonly associate with Japanese food – maki rolls, raw fish and wok-fried main courses are all present and correct, and it’s not by chance.
Japanese people began emigrating to Peru in the late 19th century to look for work and by the end of the Second World War, there were more than 25,000 Japanese-Peruvians. The history is a complicated one, but it means the influence of the Far East is visible in Peru’s food.
Totora’s menu is more simple than some of the other Peruvian restaurants in the city, which the team behind it say is an attempt to keep things traditional. As well as ceviches (citrus-cured cubes of raw fish) and tiraditos (thinly sliced raw fish, more like sashimi) and causas (cold mashed potato with toppings), you’ll find this lomo saltado.
It’s a stir-fried dish consisting of beautifully tender and tasty tenderloin, fluffy baby potatoes, sweet cherry tomatoes and crunchy onions and peppers in a sweet-salty soy sauce. It’s a triumph of textures and flavours and is perfect to share, along with some of the other smaller dishes.
Taking its cues from its name, Bazxar is a quirkily decorated restaurant is based on a food market and has some of the most reasonable prices in DIFC. And since dishes are portioned street food-style, you can easily (and absolutely should) try a few during a visit.
The Chinese crispy bao steamed buns (pictured) are a perfect vehicle for almost any filling, be it meat, veg or something sweet. The fluffy, soft, sweet dough works brilliantly against other textures and soaks up sauces and dressings superbly. Bazxar’s version is stuffed with crispy chicken, glazed with chilli and garlic and dressed with sweet soy sauce. Add some crunchy cabbage and coriander, and it’s done. Simple and tasty.
Chef Gavin Baker says: “Bazxar draws influence from a rich tapestry of cultures that reach across the orient as far as Vietnam to America and through the coastlines of the Mediterranean. The crispy bao is one of our signature dishes and a must-try – a fluffy bun stuffed with sweet, delicious, crispy chicken.”
There has been something of a trend in the city’s Indian restaurants for food with a side order of theatre. We’ve seen Tresind’s tasting menus and table-side demonstrations, Farzi Café’s deconstruction of the classics and quirky presentation and now we have Spice & Ice.
Most of the dishes on the menu will be recognisable to people with even a passing interest in Indian cuisine: butter chicken, dahl makhani and seekh kebabs are all present and correct, but so are a few more surprising things – such as this murgh ke parchey.
The chicken is marinated in yoghurt and garlic, which keeps the meat tender and juicy (as well as giving it a little garlic-flavour, of course), but there’s also some honey in the marinade, adding a sweetness that you don’t so often find in Indian cooking. And as you can see, this isn’t served with a lime pickle and raita but instead with melted ice-cream and a cone.
As with most things the restaurant’s head chef Jagdeep Negi does, it’s not quite as it seems. The “ice-cream” is actually cheese fondue, influenced by Negi’s time working in Switzerland, and the cone is spiced with chilli, adding heat as well as a different texture to the dish.
It’s just one of the creative dishes on the menu, which Negi says is inspired by the legendary Ferran Adrià’s elBulli restaurant in Barcelona. Others include truffle salmon with textures of cucumber and an inventive take on the traditional mango shrikhand.
Ting Irie is a fun, vibrant spot in Souk Al Manzil and attempts have clearly been made to inject a bit of Caribbean flair into the space. Gig posters for ska legends Toots and the Maytals and The Skatalites are on the wall, the vibe is relaxed and staff seem to know the dishes on the menu like they grew up eating them. And with a clutch of staff from the island itself, many of them did.
The chef behind the grill is Craig Wong, who is of Jamaican-Chinese heritage and worked in Canada before moving to these shores. He has promised the bold flavours and the traditional Jamaican dishes he serves will form the backbone of the restaurant’s menu, with some twists thrown in for good measure (take the Chips Oman burger, for example).
So here we’re focusing on perhaps the most famous of all Caribbean dishes, here called Spit Fiyah Jerk Chicken. It can be ordered in a quarter, half or whole bird portion and comes with mango and Scotch bonnet salsa, and Jamaican coleslaw. The chicken itself is marinated in a spice mix including (among other things) the ubiquitous Jamaican seasoning allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, chilli and sugar. It’s then cooked on a rotisserie rather than on a grill or barbecue.
Boosting the native food scene is Aseelah at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek. For the hotel’s director of kitchens, Uwe Micheel, it’s the result of years of work and time spent visiting Emirati families to learn about dishes that have been passed down through generations.
The result is a cool, modern, licensed restaurant with a terrace and separate lounge. The concise menu includes traditional dishes alongside more contemporary ones, which are made with traditional Emirati ingredients. They’re all also made with local and sustainable produce where possible.
The Arabian lobster, is accompanied by fresh and puréed peas, spiced coconut sauce, fennel and orange salad and a herby pilaf. While there are a lot of flavours going on, they don’t fight against each other and the delicate crustacean taste stands up to the more punchy ingredients. It’s an example of the deep understanding Micheel has for Dubai and its food, and one of many stand-out dishes on the restaurant’s menu.
Jodhpur in Al Murooj Rotana is happy to put its own twist on things, old favourites are still very much on the menu.
Take the vegetarian malai kofta, for example. The kofta itself is made with cottage cheese, apricots, almonds and clotted cream – nothing too out of the ordinary there. However, where traditionally the kofta would be simmered in a spiced sauce, here the meat is shaped and then fried in panko breadcrumbs, coating the smooth filling in a crunchy exterior and lending new texture to the dish.
The kofta is then placed atop a tomato and fenugreek sauce, which is given a touch of sweetness using jaggery (unrefined sugar cane juice), and garnished with cumin-spiced asparagus and spinach. Thanks to some smart, simple plating, vibrant sauce is sharply contrasted with the vivid greens and slick black crockery.
At the foot of the Four Seasons DIFC is Laluz, which is helmed by Catalan chef Alain Devahive. The smart dining room is ideal for the well-heeled crowd of the Financial Centre. It offers innovative takes on Spanish classics and Devahive’s own creations, influenced by his decade working at the famed elBulli.
Here, we’re focusing on one of the restaurant’s lighter dishes, the king oyster mushroom spaghetti with grilled scallops. Aside from the perfectly coloured, delicious scallops, this bowl of wonder is filled with earthy umami notes. Weaved into the spaghetti are thinly sliced king oyster mushrooms, offering a contrasting texture and taste. They sit in a mushroom broth and are topped with fish roe, which adds some colour as well as a burst of fishy flavour. In short, it’s a perfectly balanced bowl of food.
Devahive is pleased to be adding some Spanish flair to DIFC’s dining options. “There are a lot of Japanese and Peruvian restaurants, or a mixture of the two, but Spanish is the food for me,” he says. “Go anywhere now and you get a ‘sharing concept’. But where does that come from? Spanish tapas.”
Firebird Diner in the Four Seasons DIFC, looks like a set from Happy Days and serves burgers and desserts, but it’s no fast food joint. Everything is made with prime ingredients and there’s lots of flair and skill involved.
For those in the area over lunchtime, the diner’s business lunch offers something a little different to most set menus. Instead, seven small bites are served at once, with something for everyone included on the plate.
There’s a rich tomato soup, an extremely tasty grilled cheese sandwich, a juicy grilled tiger prawn, tuna tartare with Asian pear, which gives the fish a burst of crunch and freshness, a mini version of the restaurant’s standout burger, fries and jalapeño creamed corn.
It might seem like a culinary trip around the world, but at Firebird Diner, it only takes very business-friendly 60 minutes to complete the journey.