Trader Vic’s

Fun Polynesian-themed restaurant at the InterContinental Festival City Reviews

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Trader Vic’s has been serving its signature concoction of mixed drinks and Polynesian-themed revelry worldwide since the 1930s, and already has two branches in our city, at the Madinat and the Crowne Plaza Dubai. So when the long-awaited Festival City branch opened, I decided to head down to see what the fuss was about.

After being greeted at the venue’s nondescript entrance (a glass-clad hallway dividing Trader Vic’s punters from mall-goers), my friend and I were guided into the elevator and up one floor to the restaurant proper. We strolled past the reservation desk and the wood- and rattan-toned bar area into the long, narrow dining space, located between the sushi counter and the outdoor terrace.

Oddly proportioned as it is, it’s an attractive space, coloured in tones of green and brown evocative of exotic nature, with high-backed wicker chairs and vintage prints, including maps of Hawaii and a depiction of the death of Captain Cook.

We settled down at a table near the sushi counter, where we could see the chefs at work. We’d heard the sushi counter was the key new addition to set this branch apart from other Trader Vic’s in Dubai, so we decided to start with something from the sushi menu: the extreme California maki was a recommended signature from the list. There was nothing amiss with the flavours and the generous portion of eight rolls was unusually and attractively presented, with a mayonnaise-moistened dollop of matchstick-thin shards of crab placed on top of each roll.

We also sampled a few sharing starters: the beef cho cho, the Hawaiian ahi poke and the vegetable Vietnamese spring rolls. The rice-paper skin of the latter was thin, translucent and nicely soft, while the vegetables inside were fresh and crunchy. The ahi poke, a ceviche-like salad of raw tuna, featured sweet and nutty soy and sesame tones, with juicy ruby-red cubes of tuna.

The beef cho cho was presented as skewers, allowing guests to ‘cook their own’ on a hibachi grill. It seemed strange that the cooking device (essentially an open flame from a flammable gel in a pot), which could have created a sense of drama, arrived at the table with little to no explanation. The result was a process of trial and error: my friend inevitably (and understandably) was put off this dish entirely when the first few attempts came off the flame looking a little raw.

For main courses we tried the barbecue vegetables and tofu, and the seared tuna steak. The former was a decent Chinese style creation in a thick, slightly spicy soy-based sauce. The tuna was accompanied by a delicious coconut rice concoction that was so sweet, smooth and spongy, it was almost like eating a dessert. Yet the tuna itself was a little watery, and the pink peppercorn and sesame coating was rather gritty in texture.

The service, although friendly and attentive, was a little intrusive and lacked any intuition. The waiters asked if they could take away (and refill) glasses that were barely half full, repeatedly and to the point of despair. Yet perhaps the greatest disturbance of the evening was the live music, which boomed out so loudly from the bar that we ordered our desserts from the terrace in an effort to escape. Still, the guests in the bar certainly seemed to be having fun.

The bill (for two)
1x extreme California maki Dhs60
1x cho cho beef Dhs48
1x vegetable spring rolls Dhs47
1x Hawaiian ahi poke Dhs63
1x seared tuna Dhs104
1x barbecue veg and tofu Dhs59
1x crème brûlée trio Dhs32
1x chocolate spring rolls Dhs32
2x mocktail Dhs72
1x large water Dhs20
2x coffee Dhs36
Total (including service) Dhs573

By Penelope Walsh
Time Out Dubai,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.


  • Location: Dubai Festival City Mall, Festival City, Dubai
  • Tel: 04 255 9000
  • Travel: Al Rebaat Street

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Trader Vic’s On The Map

User reviews

  • Users voted this restaurant most suitable for: Romantic

User reviews:

Posted by: Angry customer on 25 May ' 13 at 22:00
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Edited by

HORRIBLE!!!!! Food is insanely bad. Drinks are not what you expect . Staff are not friendly. Manager is Extremely Rude. Extreme RIP OFF!!! I just had dinner there and i never wrote a review before but i am so annoyed and angry that i had to leave this review. This place doesn't deserve your hard earned money. The manager has a very bad altitude that is very very annoying. Its one thing getting bad food and drinks and its another thing to have to speak with a manager whose so disrespectful that i cant even describe it with word within censorship !!!

Posted by: BRI on 25 May ' 13 at 21:36
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Edited by

So, the first experience in the restaurant was...HORRIBLE. As we got to the restaurant, the atmosphere seemed really nice. Decoration, music, and light at the bar/restaurant attract your attention from the very first step you make to the place (AND it was not just random dinner, it was a date dinner, which i would never suggest anyone to have at the Trader Vic’s!). As we sat down, the waiter was quick and welcoming; he gave us their variety of the was nice until the food came... We ordered some lamb rack, and we made sure with the waiter that the meat wont come sweet, instead of their mango sauce asked for pepper-corn one. Meet came VERY sweet. Tasted like candy corn, which was unacceptable...where is the taste of the meet that i ordered not to be sweet? Waiter apologized and offered to change our order. So, the first dish came out NOT as I ordered it; moreover, the meet i ordered was suppose to be medium-well done, and it had blood in it... Nevertheless, we got our second plate, which was less expensive and not any better done. The duck breast, as the manager said, CANNOT be well-done, or medium-well, it has to be bloody red (?!) neglecting the fact that we asked the waiter for medium-well and we don't want it to be with blood !!!! Ducks we got were dripping blood all over the plate when we got to half of it. The manager said that its our mistake and we shouldn't have eaten the meal. He was getting really annoyed and impatient as we were trying to explain our issue with the food. What kind of manager is that? Even the KFC manager would offer to change the meal if its not done properly! Very RUDE manager that will add up to your frustration !!!!! When we got up to leave, the bill came out with all the dishes we returned, even though we haven't eating most of it, and the manager kept arguing that it was our mistake that the food was bad (explain how please). He made us pay the entire bill... Bad experience, wouldn't suggest anyone to try it out. If you don't want to ruin your evening , waste your money and get a manager that will upset you further more STAY AWAY!

Posted by: lisanne zabka on 20 Feb ' 13 at 21:40
  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

I love this new Trader Vic's Restaurant. My friend and I went twice for Happy Hour, enjoying the delicious Calamari, crab rangoons and other half price appetizers. The mango Mai Taiswere delicious, and there were many other Polynesian cocktails available.We have enjoyed the Happy Hour offerings (between 6-8 pm), but not had the chance to enjoy the music or dinner menu. I think this is a welcome addition to the restaurants at Festival City Mall.

Posted by: Cat Armstrong on 21 Jan ' 13 at 16:42

This was my second visit there and I was very disappointed indeed. The place was empty (5.30pm) and the service was very slow. We ordered nibbles and one of the dips claiming to be 'Chinese Mustard' nearly made my colleague throw up in her napkin, she had to run to the toilet. We all had a little taste and I understand why she reacted that way. It was disgusting and totally inedible. Even the waitress agreed as she tasted it too. Unfortunately there was no apology whatsoever and certainly no empathy at all. Literally this food was gross and wouldn't even remotely pass the description as 'food'. Anyway, we were offered an alternative dip which was OK. I left earlier than my colleagues and handed to them my money for my drink. However on leaving a waitress just addressed me on the way out saying 'Your bill??' in a very accusing manner, I was quite stunned. I just had to leave without actually saying anything at all. Really terrible experience, which is a shame. I'll be going back to the Belgian Beer Cafe in future.

Posted by: Laila on 30 Dec ' 12 at 05:49

I think this is by far the best trader vics in the world! I have visited many and the layout, the food and the service are the best! The tidbits are cooked just right and the addition of the sushi menu is a great idea. I celebrated my 2nd anniversay there with my friends and family, the staff were so attentive and prepared a special desert just for the occasion! The sushi, tidbits and main courses we ordered were fantastic and of course the music in the background was great. The outdoor seating is perfect for winter weather and it's not as crowded as the other Traders in Dubai. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I hope they maintain the great quality and service

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