Best dim sum
Dim sum, dumplings, yum cha, whatever you want to call it, we’ve searched out the city’s tastiest pint-sized parcels
Dim sum refers to a plethora of dishes – steamed and fried little treats and dough-encased dumplings, traditional to the Canton regions of China. But it also refers to the Cantonese art of turning dumplings into a meal time and occasion; the Chinese answer to afternoon tea. In Dubai, dim sum varies from authentic yum cha served from trolleys, to highfalutin foie gras stuffed concoctions. We ate our way through bamboo steamer after bamboo steamer with dim sum deals and à la carte options galore (with even a Himalayan option thrown in for good measure) to find out where Dubai gives Hong Kong a run for its money when it comes to dim sum.
Given its location in the quiet Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate, making a trip to Shanghai Chic seems out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s so unusual that our waiter is gobsmacked when we tell him no we’re not guests at the hotel, yes it is our first time, yes we do live in Dubai and yes, we have made the trip all the way out here specifically to eat here.
Which leaves us bemused, considering it’s next to one of the city’s biggest malls and a ten-minute cab from JLT and the Marina.
Perhaps it’s what lurks in the kitchen, or perhaps it’s the hideous prices that awaits us that make Shanghai Chic so undesirable? However, we can say with resounding confidence: it’s neither. The food is fantastic and, if you go for one of the daily brunch-style packages, it’s even better value, too.
The restaurant is tucked away in a corner at the far end of the hotel with next to no signage – in fact it’s completely dark when we arrive. Perhaps this is the big turn off? Inside, it’s all dark furniture, red fixtures and fittings, cosy booths and even a small patio area spilling out into the hotel’s courtyard. The lights, which staff eventually turn up. And then turn down. And then turn up. And then back down, are annoying as is the irritating elevator-style music on repeat.
However, our smiling waiter is charming and he knows the menu inside out. Starters and mains could quickly add up on the bill, so punt for the brunch for real value – you can order smaller versions of everything on the menu, as much as you want.
Dim sum, lamb pancakes, wasabi prawns on a watermelon circle, spicy silk tofu soup, Peking duck pancakes, black pepper tenderloin steak, Asian-style greens are delicious, there really is nothing you’ll go wrong with. Best of all? The egg fried rice. We'll be coming back just for that.
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
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.
This sleek, Asian eatery’s focus is street food, though you may not guess this when you step inside the recently revamped Madinat Jumeirah outlet, with its cool, plush interiors.
But it’s good value for all kinds of diners – families, couples, individuals and groups of friends are all present on our visit.
Staff are super-friendly and keen to ensure you have the best experience. We’re given a good rundown of the menu and its new “umami” offer, and some passionate recommendations, too. Go for what staff suggest, they know their stuff.
To start we order the soft-shell crab bao and wasabi prawns. The former are delight, with a tame wasabi mayo and refreshing mango relish livening up every bite. And the bao, stuffed with crispy crab, coriander and raw bean sprouts, all elevated by a punchy sriracha sauce is yum.
We then head straight to that “umami” section to explore the wonders of the “fifth taste” and to see if we can recognise it for ourselves. We pick the orange glazed beef short rib. The meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and full of a salty-sweet flavour, which “umami” seems to straddle. Ultimately, it’s delicious.
Portions are huge and dishes cost from Dhs35-Dhs80. For impressively bold flavours and quality food that won’t ruin you financially, book a table here.
The bottom line
Cool setting and great quality at a low price.
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