We give the nod to some unexpected but worthy recipients of alternative accolades
Each year Time OutDubaipaysdues to the emirate’s diverse restaurant scene, recognizing places that work hard for your dirhams and satisfied smiles at the end of a meal. In and amongst our research, we couldn’t help but notice a few gems that deserve celebrating for something odd, unexpected or extreme that they can do better than anyone else. From Dubai’s best toilets, to its most dangerous dishes, here’s our alternative list.
Kopi luwak at ICONS Coffee Couture
This new coffee spot specialises in using the low-calorie sweetener, stevia. It also serves the world's most expensive coffee '“ kopi luwak. The drink is an Indonesian delicacy where the coffee beans are collected from the droppings of discerning civet cats (they only eat the cherries at their optimum ripeness). As well as being pricey, it is also increasingly unethical '“ civet cats are force-fed and kept in cages, resulting in black market trading.
Tavuk gà¶ÄŸsà¼ at Turkish Village
Many recipes rely on tried and tested combinations of flavours, and this Turkish dish is no different, but it may not be quite what you anticipate in a dessert. Made with a savoury (yet unsavoury- sounding) combination of chicken and milk, the dish is considered a delicacy in Turkey and dates back to the sultans of the Ottoman empire.
Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire
Traditionally in French cooking, an amuse bouche (literally meaning to please the mouth) is an elegant, little canapé-sized titbit, designed to get your palate going before the main meal. Not so at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire, where you'll certainly be served something small and delicate, but a huge selection of them that will flood the table with a flourish. And the best bit '“ this mammoth portion amuse bouche is still complimentary!
At this new Arabic and African fusion restaurant, the interactive tables do all the talking and provide the entertainment. Using touch screens embedded into the surface of the dining tables, you can order your food, watch it being prepared, or even check your email and watch a cartoon while you wait.
We're not talking overactive air-conditioning here. Head to this ice bar, and you can sit in sub zero temperatures (minus 6Â°C to be precise) and tuck into a selection of food that includes sushi, sandwiches and ice-cream, but also some warming hot soups. Aside from charges for food consumption, there is a Dhs60 per person entrance fee, which includes protective warm clothing and a welcome mocktail served in a glass made out of ice.
Fugu at Umai
In case you haven't seen The Simpsons episode where Homer tries fugu, aka puffer fish, it is a delicacy in Japan, and can be decidedly more deadly than delicious. This species of fish contains poison in its liver, and if incorrectly prepared can kill the diner. Umai is one of only two eateries in Dubai that is fully licensed to safely prepare the dish, and has a section of the menu devoted to it.
If you've dined at Prime 68 '“ the steak house on the 68th floor of the JW Marriott Marquis, you'll know that the views are an impressive draw, but they don't stop in the restaurant '“ you get a loo with a view thrown in for good measure, too. The white and silver mosaics frame the scene right over Sheikh Zayed Road, which you can take in as your wash your hands.
Usually, the idea of a Portacabin is a temporary and moveable structure. Not so at Bu Qtair. This little beachside, south-Indian style fish shack has set up shop and seemingly bedded down for good in temporary housing for at least the past 15 years.
At this Southern-inspired crab shack and bar, getting stuck into your crab and hacking, cracking and smacking your way through the shells is the name of the game. In addition to a selection of aggressive looking crab-eating tools (that look like they would not be out of place at the dentist), staff will also provide attractive- looking plastic bibs and a whole lot of hand wipes... Definitely an option as a first date destination.
As part of the daily thali lunch served at this fine dining Indian restaurant, you can try a dish that Michelin-star chef Vineet Bhatia dubs, ‘our very own Burj Khalifa'. It is a glass tower, with three compartments, each containing a different dish as part of the thali meal.
Harajuku cool hits Dubai with aplomb at this Japanese eatery in Jumeirah. In accordance with cult Japanese fashion trends, waitress are dressed like school girls with knee-high socks and sailor jackets.
Studio du Chef
There is a hint in the name, but at this modern French restaurant, all eyes are on the action in the kitchen. Chefs cook in a circular open kitchen space that is like their theatre. Diners can sit around the counter, or just view the action on screens placed around the restaurant.
It is rare to feel personally affronted by a restaurant menu, but Smiling BKK has been doing an admirable effort since opening. Each dish has earned an amusing name, and amid the cultural references (Beatles to Bond), or titter-inducing innuendo, you might even be told to ‘put a sock in it' by a green papaya salad. That's a first, no?
The multi-level, multi-dirham design at Qbara is stunningly creative and dazzlingly attractive. But it can also leave you dazed and confused... Stare at the intricately carved wooden wall that is a focal point for the venue, and it may appear to be moving rapidly, thanks to an optical illusion created with the use of a light projection.
Most business models involve making food, or selling food products, or cooking food. Not satisfied with such simplicity, Eataly is a mega multiplex of a mall eatery, with nearly every Italian food concept under its belt. Buy some important Italian goods (anything from water to salt), or stay and dine in on food cooked on the premises, but Eataly also makes its own fresh cheeses, gelato, fresh pasta and more, all on site!
Gnocchi at El Sur
Gnocchi, an Italian recipe for potato dumplings, is a simple, classic dish, right? Put it in the hands of a chef who has worked with Catalunya's culinary titans and suddenly its simplicity is merely deceptive. At El Sur, red snapper is teamed with pumpkin gnocchi that are made using the chemical reaction of the ‘spherification' technique, and then finally warmed in the whey from fresh cheese before service.
Most restaurants are happy with a reservation table at the entrance, maybe there is even a bar beyond that. But Tong Thai understands masterful heightening of anticipation, as you embark on a ‘journey' towards the dining room, through a myriad of corridors, private dining rooms and a fountain, all spectacularly designed. The walk will help you work up an appetite.
Why settle for a straight-laced table and chairs, when this quirkily designed Asian restaurant can seat you in a rickshaw? If you've suddenly developed a taste for dining in such a thing, you can also eat a Punjabi meal in rickshaw-dining tables at Pind da Dhaba restaurant in Karama.
Not just an award-worthy superlative in Dubai; at the last count, this high-end steakhouse had record-breaking appeal. Since this steakhouse sits towards the top of the world's tallest building, on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, dinner here not only means popping ears in the elevator on the way up, but dining in the world's highest restaurant, too.