Time Out Dubai guide to Sheikh Zayed Road restaurants; best places to eat on Sheikh Zayed Road by price/cuisine, with reviews, hours and deals.
Here futuristic skyscrapers line an eight-lane highway with a multitude of cafés popping into sight as you drive on Dubai’s most central road. The many hotels along this highway - which links Dubai to the UAE’s capital city Abu Dhabi - have all the facilities you’d expect, including some of the most vibrant restaurants in the city. It’s popular because it’s relatively easy to get a taxi, and you never have to travel far for eating cheap or five-star dining. Views of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, World Trade Centre and other architectural triumphs can be seen when feasting at some of the awesome restaurants SZR has to offer.
Set high on the 40th floor of The H Dubai is 40 Kong, Time Out Dubai’s current Outdoor Bar of the Year. With a classy vibe, pumping music, wide-ranging city views and an extensive drinks menu, it’s a top spot to head for a night out. But for dinner?
We’ve talked before about the bar’s cool new revamp, with its new foresty décor and slick design. And the second part of that makeover is that 40 Kong “is now embracing the dining concept” with a full restaurantstyle menu, which houses dishes that are far above the quality of your average bar snacks.
When we arrive we’re pleased with what we see. You can dine in the lounge area, on high bar tables or dining tables, the latter of which have the best views, as with the redesign also came a loss of some of the views for which the bar is known. We opt for the dining tables.
From the new menu we go for some tempura shrimp sushi, which is light, fresh and tasty, the wagyu burger (rich, meaty, truffly and with a side of piping hot sweet potato fries) and the salmon fillet, which is perfectly cooked and flakes beautifully. It’s all delicious.
It’s restaurant-quality food, in a bar. But although we’re delightfully surprised by the excellent standard, we’re just not sure it fits the environment, amid the dancing and pumping music. Is it a dining destination in its own right? Despite the top-notch food, we’re not sure.
The bottom line Above average bar food, but still a bar.
Hakkasan encapsulates all that is great about fine dining in Dubai, the two-time Best Chinese Time Out winner is still a benchmark against which most of its city counterparts can be judged. Unsurprisingly, this status comes at a price, one that’s likely to see you pay twice as much for à la carte dishes as you would at its nearest competitor, Royal China. Located at the base of Emirates Towers, the interiors and exteriors are unbeatable. Stylish Chinese lattice designs run throughout the mood-lit dining area and outdoor pavilion, giving this vast space a cosy and authentic feel. As expected, the service is on a par with everything else, forthcoming and professional. Order the ornately prepared Hakka dim sum platter – bursting full of moreish flavours and arguably the best in Dubai. The grilled Wagyu beef with mui choi is just as praiseworthy, a plate of thinly sliced marinated meat that you’ll only be sorry there isn’t more of. More conventional dishes like the Thai curry-style spicy prawn and roasted duck noodles are also outstanding.
If James Bond were to seek out a lunch in Dubai, chances are his secret-spy-brain would direct him somewhere in the way of Alfie’s. A proper-British den of fish and chips and all the trimmings, its art deco stylings, dedication to retro and separated-off cigar room, make this spot in Jumeirah Emirates Towers an ideal place for a business lunch, or anyone looking to find something approaching London’s iconic The Wolseley. The menu allows some influences from elsewhere – a little Mexican here, some Thai there – but prides itself on established British classics and lots of manly things cooked in a manly manner on the grill. The price point is good, too, with deals often allowing affordable ways to dart your way across an ever-changing menu. Just make sure you save room for pudding. The apple crumble is – just as it should be – a knockout.
Behind big white doors lies an extravagant, fun and decadent French restaurant. If you dine early and leave before it gets too late you’ll likely miss a riotous party, which only gets going after 10pm. You’ll have to book in advance, too, as it is pretty much busy all of the time with a particularly well-heeled crowd. We love the foie gras sliders, grilled lamb chops with carrot purée are phenomenal, fish dishes are extremely well done and desserts and pretty and delicious. It is one of the classiest places to eat and the experience is about mch more than just the food.
Getting a new French chef in late 2016 has given La Cantine’s Parisian flair a new lease of life. Now there are dishes with more of a trans-European influence and some Asian ingredients and techniques. Signature dishes include honey-glazed wagyu short ribs, grilled octopus with ratte potatoes and yuzu dressing, yellowfin tuna tartare with prawn crackers and a beef tartare with an Asian twist. There is still the same class and elegance to the venue, which gets livelier as the nights go on but with an expanded palette of flavours on the menu.
Just last year, Junoon launched its own stylish bar area, which injected a bit of atmosphere into the more moody, traditional dining room. Now, there are plenty more reasons to go, including happy hours and other ongoing promotions, besides the excellent food and superior service. The original Junoon (which means “passion” in Hindi) is a Michelin-starred, contemporary Indian restaurant that hails from New York, and these high standards are evident throughout your dining experience at the Dubai branch, too. It’s all in the flavours and creative cooking techniques. A dish as simple as the yellow tadka dhal is so well-balanced and beautifully cooked it’s impressive enough, but then there are the more complex dishes, like the creamy yet sharp shrimp malai curry, which will have you planning your next visit to this restaurant after one bite. For a final flourish of showmanship, order the kulfi. A chef will wheel out a trolley and whip up a variety using liquid nitrogen (and no milk), right before your eyes. It’s hard not to be impressed by Junoon.
Tresind at the Radisson Royal Hotel promises not just modern, but ‘modernist’ Indian cooking. It occupies a restaurant space that has already seen at least two other concepts launch within the past few years. This newest one still has the same clean white interiors as the last Arabic venture that sat here. However, the look still feels fresh and new, with hardly any extra detailing disturbing its minimalist look. It’s pretty tough to fault the service here, with the staff relaxed and engaging, while very good at explaining the menu. The food at Tresind is ambitious and intriguing, without being pretentious, and for the most part exceptionally elegant in both appearance and taste. Bearing that in mind, the menu here is not unduly expensive for such a pleasurable dining experience. If only there was a little more buzz and excitement to the restaurant itself, we could see this being a successful new opening.
We recommend booking a table at Cavalli for opening, at 9.30pm, and staying until midnight at the very least, by which time the venue will have completed its transformation into a flashy club. As you dine on appetisers like burrata with honeyed aubergine and squid ink ravioli stuffed with potato and mussels, the music gradually gets louder and livelier, until 11.30pm when the lights go down. Either you’ll love the animal-printed, chandeliered setting, or you’ll find it tacky and ostentatious, but there’s definitely something odd about eating a refined meal at a candle-lit table to thumping club music while a steady stream of partiers fill up the lounge tables. This said, you can’t help feeling in the mood for a night out by the time you get round to paying the bill (be warned that the cheapest bottle of grape here costs in excess of Dhs1,000). Pasta dishes are particularly good, as are the desserts, while the meat and fish dishes could be better in terms of freshness and tenderness. There’s also a selection of pricey but impressive “tableside signatures” for two such as salt-crusted sea bass and wagyu beef. What will keep you coming back, though, is the overall experience rather than the food.
Following BiCE in JBR and Roberto’s in DIFC, TRE is the third Italian restaurant opened in Dubai by notable local restaurateur Roberto Rella. Fitting then that ‘tre’ in Italian means three, and more so since this new concept at the Radisson Royal Hotel Dubai stretches over three floors.
On the 49th floor is the dining room, with two small bars – one for drinks and a second for raw dishes. An elegant and modern room, predominantly decorated in sophisticated white with fun flashes of orange, and with a huge central banqueting table that was being used in communal style when we last visited. Hanging over the windows are Murano glass chandeliers, and from those windows, from at least three out of four sides of the room, are fantastic views over the city. Upstairs is a lounge bar, a sultrily lit room with bright teal furnishings and a DJ. On the 51st and final floor is a smaller and cosier sound-proofed lounge bar, with the leather-sofa-and-cigar vibe of a gentlemen’s club, with a lively jazz band playing.
There were three aspects of service that hit us at TRE. One, Roberto himself is in residence, walking the floor, chatting all night to tables of guests. This feels like old school Italian hospitality. Two, in quite bizarre but earnest honesty, we need to confess that we were completely unaware that one of our guests was dressed inappropriately in shorts when we arrived at the restaurant. Until the maitre d’ pointed it out at the door. But, and perhaps noting the disappointment on our faces, he hesitated, and said, ‘But you are here now, so we’ll show you to a table’. And not, we couldn’t help but notice, in the darkest or furthest corner of the restaurant. The instinct and spirit behind this is one of the best examples of service. Finally, there was the woman at the lifts, who patiently walked us through the other two floors after our meal when we asked to look around.
It is a shame then, following these other examples, that the service at the table is just ‘good’. Not in any sense bad, but lacking the same feeling and flair for what a guest wants. A little more fluency and enthusiasm for the menu would boost this impression.
That menu is all Italian, but with a lot of originality and modernity. You’ll find all the traditional Italian notes (including pizza), but with fine dining descriptions and presentation. There is also a list of crudos and carpaccios from the raw bar, and an entire page of charcuterie tucked away at the back of the menu. While prices are not necessarily cheap, with plenty of sought-after ingredients such as black truffle and bottarga used, there is a feeling that you are getting something special for your money. Especially since the quality of cooking is of a high standard too.
Highlights include the aromatic explosion of the 62-degree egg, a yolk so soft it oozes out on first touch with a fork, into a fresh and grassy green puree of asparagus and black truffle slices. The smoked eggplant is a neat little toast-like soldier of soft, smoky, sweet eggplant, sitting next to a rich, tangy, molten disk of baked cheese. The obsiblu prawn carpaccio is a winner of delicate taste, matched with a quenelle of bright, citrus granita. Unfortunately, the flesh is cut so finely that it retains no texture and disintegrates like a thin sheet of jelly.
Main courses are just as strong. The squid ink risotto with cuttlefish is uniquely presented with strips of silver leaf on the top. The rice is plump and perfect, generously interspersed with chunks of cuttlefish, and rich with flavour from the intense combination of squid ink and a creamy mantecato of cheese. The sea bass, looking pretty as a wildflower meadow with flashes of green and violet petals, was also a great dish, with liberal amounts of lovely wild mushrooms. The thin shards of bottarga scattered around this plate are, however, a very salty and acquired taste.
With the opening of TRE, there’s no doubt Roberto Rella is back with aplomb. Third time really is a charm.
The bill (for two) 1x uovo 62 Dhs90 1x tomino fume Dhs80 1x obsiblu ceviche Dhs100 1x squid ink risotto Dhs135 1x sea bass Dhs200 1x large water Dhs30 Total (including service) Dhs635
Long one of Dubai’s coolest nocturnal haunts, Okku is a swish, stylish nightspot knocking out excellent food. While the crowds may pour in on Thursday and Friday nights for fancy drinks and moody surroundings, there’s no need to reserve your sampling of this fusion fare only for the weekends. Throughout the week, the restaurant-lounge is open for lunch as well as dinner, with an excellent-value tezukuri lunch, with varying numbers of courses. Try the ebi gyoza to start, and stick with the seafood theme for mains – the black cod donburi is delicate yet filling, not to mention fantastically tasty. If you’re just around for nibbles, order the organic salmon carpaccio, with tender slivers of the Scottish fish layered with daikon cress, cherry tomatoes and an intriguing shiso-yuzu pesto. Brilliant service is the icing on the cake – everything’s brought to the table with haste, a beaming smile and even a bit of banter if you let them know you’re in the mood. Okku may be stylish, but it’s not too cool to show you a good time.
Al Nafoorah has long been a byword for luxurious Lebanese dining in Dubai. This culinary gem shining bright in the heart of Jumeirah Emirates Towers serves up an upscale feel that leaves its regional contemporaries in the shade. The regal décor – complete with chandeliers hanging proudly from the ceilings and eye-catching pictures adorning the walls–makes for a fantastic first impression. The warm and friendly service further enriches the experience and leaves us eager to explore a menu full of authentic dishes. The beautifully creamy hummus is perfectly complemented by the spicy kick of the hot pepper dip, mohammara, while the bite-sized lamb makanek sausages are a diminutive delight. With just enough room left for main courses, we dig into the lamb chops and the mixed grill, an assortment of tender and tasty treats including strips of beef and chicken. It is the finest exponent of the traditional platter that we have had the pleasure to devour. Al Nafoorah doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to Lebanese food, but it does it better than anyone else.
Café Belge is both classical and stylish as well as being contemporary and laid-back. Eye-catching from the moment you walk in, its regal trimmings, art deco flooring and excitable buzz of a packed house all toe-tapping beneath the table, transport you to the Gallic jazz cafés of yesteryear. While seafood is most certainly the speciality of the compact menu – the travelling oyster caddy roaming between tables highlights that fact particularly – there is a great deal to attract even the most sea-sceptic diners; pick of the bunch is the gooey beef carbonnade, a Flemish-style stew that is utterly gratifying without being too heavy, even when mopping up every last drop with any one of the selection of breads on offer. From the sea, though, the seared turbot takes the crown thanks to the thick, sweet butternut squash relish on which it is served. Diving into the moules is also highly recommended, with seven styles of sauce to choose from. At Dhs160 you might anticipate if not a bucket, a significantly oversized bowl, and youwon't be disappointed – it’s the perfect metaphor for the restaurant – hearty yet refined.
When it comes to executing an original and well-thought-out menu, The Exchange Grill does so with some finesse. Opinions might be polarised by the décor (which has shifted from a smart lobby feel to a more New York underground vibe with Pop Art-style creations adorning the walls) but we should all surely be united in our praise for the high-quality food. The majority of the steak menu is made up of PGA or wagyu options, but if you’re feeling a little flush, try the 340g Kobe rib-eye. This is certainly one of the best cuts you can find in the city, but what makes it extra-special is the chef’s secret spice rub that accentuates the flavour of this brilliant beef. If you’re not in the mood for steak (sometimes that does happen, apparently), you should really try the assorted seafood platter – a trio of lobster, John Dory and octopus, which is a real delight. The sides are another feature The Exchange Grill just nails, with the saffron risotto spot on and the artichoke tempura a revelation. The staff here know their stuff, too, and are clearly proud of a top-notch product.
When a slice of London’s Mayfair dining scene lands in Dubai, it’s going to attract attention, and Novikov does for all the right reasons. Words such as plush, slick and sophisticated only touch on how impressive Novikov is. It’s set out in two sections, catering for smokers by the bar with low tables and casual couch-style seats, and there’s a non-smoking section towards the back of the sprawling space, set up like a classic dining room. The dim lighting, warm orange and oak tones accentuated by red cushions and purple backlit walls make a classy statement. And these first impressions get better as the food is served. The menu is a sprawling list of Asian-fusion dishes, such as lobster tacos – which are bursting with flavour – and Chilean sea bass with chilli garlic sauce. There’s also sushi, sashimi, tempura, dim sum, wok-fried dishes and more, all that we tried being full of flavour, perfectly executed and wonderfully presented, not least the black cod with yuzu miso sauce on the side. It’s stunning – the fish perfectly falling apart with a prod, the sauce delicately balanced with just the right amount of sweetness and zest. Staff are attentive and leave you to ultimately enjoy a great meal with minimal fuss. For a flawless dining experience look no further. Novikov is firmly on our radar and should be on yours, too.
PLAY, crowned Best Asian and Restaurant of the Year at this year’s Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards, exudes luxury. From the slick, dark interiors and stunning 36th floor views that leave a lasting impression, to the decadent smell of truffle in the air, the experience is a super-high-end one. It leaves its mark on all your senses.
The cuisine is “Mediterrasian”, a blend of light, fresh Mediterranean flavours with the bold, powerful tastes of Asia, and the kitchen does this tremendously. But the theme goes beyond the food – PLAY has that easy-going, unhurried Mediterranean charm that allows for lingering long after you’ve finished your meal. It’s a concept of pure brilliance.
Its kitchen is helmed by former Zuma chef Reif Othman, whose genius we loved at Zuma and whose playful creativity we adore here.
When the dishes arrive, you’ll realise just how distinguished this restaurant is. The pita surprise starter and black cod main are the biggest hits of our evening. One bite of the former and we’re mesmerised, and the beautifully prepared, rich, silky fish, drenched in a zesty citrus miso, is a flawless dish of sheer excellence and like no other we’ve tried.
And there’s a lot more on the menu to fall in love with besides – sushi, steaks and pastas, all delicately prepared and presented with poise.
The food served here is as close to perfection as you’ll get in Dubai. Othman has nailed it.
Both the restaurant and bar get very busy for very good reason – reservations really are a must – and you’ll enjoy every minute of your time here. We defy you to visit and not be blown away by the experience.
Dining here is a culinary journey with some epic surprises on the way. It’s exciting and utterly original. Go PLAY, we say. The Bill (for two) 1x seafood gyoza Dhs72 1x pita surprise Dhs58 1x crispy duck Dhs82 1x black cod Dhs215 1x John Stone fillet Dhs215 1x Evian large Dhs32 Total (excluding service) Dhs674
The Bottom Line A venue that simply must be tried. Book your table now.