Restaurant awards budget

Sri Lankan +971 56 253 5455 04 452 1007 Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT)

PERMANENTLY CLOSED

One of the first things you’ll notice about Ayubowan is the amazing smell – scents of curry and fresh spices greet you as soon as you walk through the large wooden doors.

The restaurant is small, with only a handful of tables, of which all are empty when we arrive. However, this means our service is excellent.

Our waiter greets us like we’re old friends and talks us through the menu, advising us on which local Sri Lankan dishes he recommends. With curries starting from as little as Dhs20 you might think taste is compromised, but not in this restaurant.

The (admittedly slightly alarmingly neon yellow) potato mustard curry is a highlight for us. It’s spicy, yet sweet thanks to the coconut sauce, with a kick of mustard at the end. Order it with a portion of rice and you’ll be one happy diner. For meat lovers we recommend the string hoppers (circular noodle patties) with beef curry.

A whopping 15 hoppers arrive with a side of steaming spicy beef curry. We insist you add coconut paste to this dish, as although it’s brilliant without, it’s even better thanks to this addition.

Portions are on the large side, so arrive hungry and sit back for an excellent, traditional Sri Lankan meal.

Indian 04 331 2567 Al Karama

If you’re planning on heading to this quirky, unlicensed grill house in Karama (and we recommend you do), make a reservation.

The dining room is tiny and it gets very busy with groups of friends and families. As the name would suggest, it’s not ideal for vegetarians, but there are a few bites that are suitable (onion rings, corn on the cob, and vegetable “naanza” – pizza-style naan breads).

The menu is frankly all over the place, but it’s the Indian dishes that dominate – and they’re the ones we recommend most.

We try the Mexican-style corn, but while we like the lime and chilly coating, we aren’t overly impressed with the corn itself, which could do with more charring so the kernels pop a little more.

The Atomic Prawns also fail to wow, they’re not as spicy as the name suggests, though the portion is good for Dhs36.

Chicken tikka is a hit, though, cooked perfectly in the tandoor, spicy and with a cooling yoghurt and mint dip. Another Indian stalwart, dhal makhani, hits home, too. You can tell it’s slow-cooked and is a velvety, rich warm cuddle of a dish.

The assortment of breads we order are all excellent, too. We look on in envy at the next table’s mixed grill and wished we’d stuck to the venue’s modus operandi.

Quite why some of the more out there dishes on the menu are there remains to be seen, but stick to the grilled meat and Indian dishes and there’s lots to like here.

International +971 55 705 2130 Jumeirah 3

For casual beachside fare, you can’t get much better than Dubai institution Bu Qtair. Set along Jumeirah Beach Road, it’s not fine dining but we neither expect nor want it to be. You’ll find plastic seating outside and you can’t reserve a table at this fuss-free seafood spot. There’s no menu, either. What you’ll get is the catch of the day, or prawns, in a curry sauce. Simple, fresh and delicious. Service is friendly and fast too. There are no fancy touches but the food is so tasty you won’t notice.

Indian 04 388 3355 Al Quoz

There’s often a wait for seats at this tiny little café which is decorated in an eclectic variety of egg-themed, humorous signs, actual eggs painted with funny faces and hipster touches like black and white photos of Mumbai and vintage tea tins. As you’d guess, it serves eggs done every which way and flavoured with all sorts of Indian spices and ingredients from garlic, ginger, masala and chili to coconut. There are plenty of curries like paneer tikka masala and Patiala chicken on the menu, too – usually with eggs thrown in – but it’s the breakfast dishes that you really want to visit for. It’s cheap as chips so you can order several different dishes to try and the bill still won’t set you back more than Dhs100 (with multiple rounds of some of the best strong, sweet masala chai we’ve had, too). Everything on the menu is worth trying, though the scrambled egg dishes and egg sandwiches served on extra soft bread buns are particularly standout. Order them with a few flaky, butter parathas on the side and you’re in for a real treat.

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