On the face of it, dim sum really is quite simple. Little steaming dumplings packed full of meat or seafood or vegetables served by the six.
Yet Din Tai Fung’s no-frills take on this classic Chinese cuisine has achieved cult-like status among the city’s foodies, with the flagship branch in Mall of the Emirates regularly building up queues 45 minutes long – and staff handing out buzzers telling hungry customers when to return.
But once you’re in and biting into one of the signature xiao long bao – with the hot, flavourful broth hitting your taste buds – you’ll understand the fuss.
The dumplings are beautifully fresh – so fresh, in fact, that you can watch a small army of chefs at the back of the restaurant sculpting them at a rate of hundreds per hour. And the buns, offered with fillings ranging from mushroom and vegetable to red bean, are plump.
Although everyone is here for the dim sum, there are also plenty of other staples on the surrounding menu including meaty soups and mountainous plates of noodles.
The dumplings are presented in baskets of six, you’ll definitely over-order no matter how hard you try – especially considering that it’s just Dhs30 per serving.
So grab a buzzer and get queuing – it’s more than worth the wait.
Royal China is steeped in luxury, from the huge red tasselled chandeliers down to the dark polished wood floors – and the garden is something else completely. It’s candlelit, romantic and ambient, and the tranquility feels a million miles away from the bustle of DIFC.
Not sure what to choose from the menu? Order prawn crackers and pickles to nibble while you peruse the options – though you should know that the prawn dim sum is unbelievably juicy and fresh. The calamari, meanwhile, is unlikely to remain unfinished for long, delicately flavoured in an encased in a beautifully light, crisp batter. (You may not wish to share with your dining companion – but Time Out accepts no responsibility if your table manners fall so far short.).
Elsewhere on the list, crispy shredded beef has a perfect balance of crunchy exterior and tender meat, and arrives garnished in fiery red chillies that deliver a seriously moreish kick. Also try the sweet and sour chicken dish, which is laden with crunchy onions and fresh peppers that balance out the rich sauce perfectly.
An oasis in the city’s busy business district, prepare to enjoy the serenity, the grandeur, and the completely splendid food. It is one of our Highly Commended in the Best Chinese Restaurants category, after all.
The bottom line:
Top-notch Chinese cuisine in a fancy location
Fancy dinner you can take a private abra trip to? Zheng He’s, the Chinese restaurant at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, offers just that option.
Board an abra by moonlight and cruise along the smooth waters to your dining destination, taking in the beautifully lit Burj Al Arab Jumeirah and sea breeze as you go.
Zheng He’s itself is as impressive as the voyage, with stunning silk kimonos on display in glass cabinets, opulent soft furnishings, elegant birdcage light fixings and, rather delightfully, a huge gong, which is ceremoniously walloped to announce guests’ arrival to the dining room.
Service is friendly and efficient and the food is superb. The char siew honey-glazed beef brisket is excellent quality and the sweet and sour crispy chicken is packed full of tangy flavour.
The restaurant has an outdoor terrace overlooking the water for the cooler months, with gorgeous views of the Burj and the Madinat itself, both lending themselves as perfect backdrops to a romantic evening or a special get-together with friends.
As you might expect, all of this finery will set you back a few dirhams, but it’s money well spent for the impressive food and the overall experience.
And, after all, how many meals outside of a movie start involve a journey to them by boat?
The bottom line:
A must-try experience for fans of Chinese food
Stylish Chinese lattice, low mood lighting and sleek wooden furniture set the scene on arrival at Hakkasan, in the iconic Emirates Towers.
The restaurant is candlelit, the gleaming bar is vast and impressive and the feel is cosy and authentic. Hakkasan offers fine dining at its fanciest, and the contemporary Cantonese menu is top notch. The three-time Best Chinese Time Out winner is still a benchmark against which most of its city counterparts can be judged.
Prepare to be bowled over by the roast chicken in satay sauce, which is served in a crispy skin swimming in a thick and flavoursome peanut curry. The stir-fried duck breast with dried chilli and Szechuan peppercorn is bursting with tantalising flavour and the crispy duck rolls are dangerously moreish.
We also recommend trying the dim sum, which is as fresh and juicy as we’ve known it in the entire city and will leave you clamouring for more.
Service, as you might expect, is also flawless, and waiters are efficient and professional.
All of the aforementioned niceties, however, do come at a price, and although you’ll leave thoroughly impressed, your wallets will be considerably lighter. Nevertheless, Hakkasan is stunning overall, and well worth visiting for a truly special occasion.
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