Next time you’re trudging through one of Dubai’s malls, stop off at the food court
Pistadates sundae at Ice Cream Lab
A relatively new addition to The Dubai Mall’s upstairs food court, the Lab is doing funky things to your favourite frozen treat. Every ice-cream is made to order, after a fashion, with the wet mixture being churned up and frozen on the spot using liquid nitrogen. It’s a dramatic effect, with the cool, misty chemical flooding over the counter. Go local with the pistadate – pistachio ice-cream topped with pistachio crumbs, date syrup and a fat, plump date – complete with waffle cone (for an extra Dhs3) for a dessert so tooth-achingly sweet it could put even the syrupiest gulab jamun in the shade. Dhs25 (medium), plus Dhs3 for waffle biscuit. Ice Cream Lab, second floor, The Dubai Mall (056 344 5567).
Pumpkin motobites at BurgerFuel
A sort of Kiwi spin on the Middle East’s beloved falafel, this New Zealand chain’s alternative to a side of French fries or chips look like little orange croquettes. Featuring a combination of pumpkin, carrot, chickpeas and ginger, each portion features eight bigger-than-bite-sized pieces served with yoghurt relish or lemon aioli (go for the latter if you know what’s good for you). Before you balk at the price (more than a regular burger in some other chains), know that this is no ordinary side dish – you’ll be left bursting at the seams. Dhs25. Various locations including first floor, Mall of the Emirates, www.burgerfuel.com/uae (04 354 9691).
Grilled chicken salad at Mashakeek
It’s easy to elevate a chicken salad in a city where most casual dining chains serve up water-, salt- and preservative-saturated poultry (and it’s easy to spot which ones do, thanks to the spine-tinglingly jelly-like texture of the meat). For real chicken in a great marinade, grilled to order right before your eyes, this is one food court kiosk you simply must visit. Though you can opt for a sandwich, we prefer to load up on veggies and fresh herbs, which you can choose yourself from the salad bar, before throwing the chicken on and topping with Mashakeek’s yoghurt sauce. Healthy, tasty, affordable eating. Dhs29. First floor, Mall of the Emirates, www.mashakeek.com (04 341 1101).
Triple-decker pizza at Debonairs
Personal pizza not big enough for you? Take it to the next level, and then the level after that, with this South African pizza joint’s triple-decker pie. Choose your favourite toppings, which are scattered all over a regular base, which sits on top of another base smothered in creamy cheese. This two-storey beast is then topped with a final base – itself smothered in cheese – before being baked in the oven. Dauntingly heavy, predictably greasy and guiltily, deliciously tasty, you might not be able to look at yourself in the mirror afterwards, but at least it was worth it. From Dhs24 (personal size), plus Dhs10 for triple decker. Lower ground floor, The Dubai Mall (04 339 8452).
Paris Brest at Beard Papa's
If there’s one area Dubai isn’t quite saturated in yet (we give it 12 months), it’s cream puffs. The curiously named and mascotted Beard Papa’s is so far the only place we’ve found selling nothing but custard-stuffed choux and it’s well worth a look in. For those of the frozen persuasion, there’s an ice-cream-stuffed puff to try, otherwise go for the Paris Brest (shaped like a cruller doughnut) for something a little more textured. Just don’t fuss around with different flavoured creams – vanilla is your friend. Dhs11. Second floor, The Dubai Mall (04 430 3751).
Makanek at Mashawi Express
Mashawi has a reputation for being one of the best places for makanek – a hot mezze of miniature sausages – in Dubai. If you’re in the mall, head to this express version of the popular Lebanese chain, where though you’ll find a limited menu, this classic still features. Prepare to wait, because these tiny meaty mouthfuls are cooked fresh, but they’re packed full of flavour – think cumin, cloves and nutmeg – and served in an acidic sauce that’s just zingy enough to cut through the fat. Dhs21. Lower ground floor, The Dubai Mall (04 434 0530).
Masala dosa at Bombay Chowpatty
The Dhs12 masala dosa represents such good value versus flavour, we can’t recommend it enough. What you’ll get is an enormous fermented rice flour pancake, rolled into a cone. The outside is crisp, while the inside is sweet and soft like a crumpet, and stuffed with a dry curry of creamy potato, vibrantly flavoured with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Rip off a chunk and dunk it in the delicious sauces on the side, a simple vegetable gravy and a creamy and cooling coconut sambal, with the slightest chilli kick at the end. Dhs12. Deira City Centre (04 294 3133).
Baked falafel at Just Falafel
Okay, granted, these are not quite as delicious as eating a box of original falafel. However, since these little balls are baked instead of fried, you may feel it’s worth it for the calorie saving alone (especially after buying that brand-new pair of super-skinny jeans). What you’ll get is a box of six fat little falafel balls (teamed with a choice of dip). They’ve got all the fluffy, nutty texture of the original, but, without that crucial outer coating of crispiness. Dhs9 (for six). Deira City Centre (04 294 1190). Other location: Mall of the Emirates (050 786 9784).
Chicken katsudon at Umami
At this Japanese fast food stand, you can pick your dish with the aid of life-sized plastic models of each plate displayed at the counter (just like being in Japan). One dish on the menu that is a fast food favourite in the Asian nation is the katsudon (made here with chicken). It is a rice bowl meal, topped with a large chicken cutlet, coated in crispy panko crumbs and teamed with portions of cooked, shredded white and red cabbage for a little ‘healthiness’ on the side. Dhs23. Al Ghurair Centre, Deira (04 295 5903). Other locations: Ibn Battuta Mall (04 435 7588); Mall of the Emirates (04 354 9186).
Chicken fajita at Taqado
Fussy eaters, rejoice! One of the best things about Taqado Mexican Kitchen (besides the super-fresh ingredients) is that whatever you opt for – be it salad, burritos or quesadillas – you get to choose exactly what goes in it. While the texture of the chicken isn’t what it was when this MoE favourite first opened, and a meagre scoop of guac will set you back a whole five dizzers, that’s quickly forgotten when you’ve got a tortilla stuffed with grilled peppers and onions, sour cream, spicy tomato salsa and oozing meat juices all over your hands. Dhs32 (plus Dhs5 for guacamole). Ground floor, Mall of the Emirates (04 385 1171). Other locations: DIFC (04 351 5210); Bay Avenue (04 554 6971); Sheikh Zayed Road (04 325 9660); Emaar Square (04 388 3468).
Tuna baked potato at Potato Hut
When selecting the tuna filling (which comes with black olives, tomatoes and sweetcorn) staff recommend that you add some extra moisture with sour cream and cheese instead of the regular mayo combination. It’s a good thing, too, otherwise the dish risks being too dry. The potato itself is everything you look for in a carb-filled comfort food. It’s light and fluffy on the inside, and a crispy skin provides an edible jacket to hold it all together. This one’s a great option for those looking to fill up on something a little less deep-fried than the usual food court options. Dhs25 (Dhs5 extra for sour cream). Mercato Mall (04 344 4161).
Tuna tartare at Sushi Counter
As food court choices go, Sushi Counter may be one of the classiest you’ll find. Dishes on the Japanese-inspired menu here feature ingredients such as caviar (albeit avrugas), and the presentation is fine dining pretty (and also fine dining small). Fish lovers should try the tuna tartare; a small bowl of creamy raw tuna chunks, with an overwhelming aroma and taste of sesame, and plenty of minutely diced cucumber and super-tart green apple adding textural crunch and fragrant freshness. The final touch is a little sour cream and fish roe on top. Dhs42. Mercato Mall (04 348 0088). Other locations: Ibn Battuta Mall (04 431 3227); lower ground floor, The Dubai Mall (04 388 2245).
Ginger zinger juice at Zest
At this juice bar in Ibn Battuta Mall’s food court, you can order any number of juice or smoothie combinations, and even create your own. For a healthy kick, opt for the ginger zinger juice, which is a blend of ginger, apple and carrot. The freshly made drink has a thick frothy consistency, with plenty of pulpy goodness from the carrot. It also combines a lovely balance of natural sweetness from the carrot and apple, but with a sharp, zingy boost from super-nutritious ginger that will wake up your taste buds. A great anti-nausea aid, the ginger should help stop your stomach churning in anticipation of your credit card bill. From Dhs18 (small). Ibn Battuta Mall (800 9378).
Chicken tenders at Chicken Now
Boasting that these are the world’s best chicken tenders, Chicken Now may talk big, but its product is in fact top notch for a food court feast. No sickly, thin strips here – the tenders are buxom, juicy chunks of boneless breast coated in a crumbly, crisp batter. What you’ll also get in this meal is a portion of fairly passable chips, a tiny pot of coleslaw and an odd but actually very satisfying accompaniment of a thick, fluffy slab of buttery toast (which, bizarrely, smells a lot like Mahiki). Dhs38 (chicken tenders meal). Dubai Marina Mall (800 244 2536).