Best Middle Eastern restaurants in Dubai
Time Out Dubai is the definitive voice on Dubai's best restaurants, including Middle Eastern restaurants. Here's a guide to where to get the best MENA food.
Middle East and North African food has so much to salivate over: Lebanese mezze, Persian kebabs, and Moroccan meatballs are some of the must-have items of a MENA feast. Time Out has visited each and every restaurant to try regional specialties kibbeh, labneh and more, assessing factors including quality of food, ambience and service. Popular or relatively unknown, we’ve gone undercover to find out what you’re getting for your money at each venue.
The restaurant offers pretty much everything you can think of from Middle Eastern cuisine, from Lebanese to Persian and dishes from the Gulf to Egypt and Morocco. It’s all served in a place like no other in Dubai, a traditional souk-type venue in the bowels of Wafi, but also open air. It’s an incredibly evocative place to eat. We love the Persian sajeit shrimps, which burst with garlic, onion, coriander and chilli. The breads are routinely excellent and are a great way to mop up the juices from the grills and stews. The Moroccan tagine berbere should also not be missed. You could eat here every week and never get bored or tired of the setting.
Named after the symbol for the Ottoman Empire – the tulip – Lalezar offers an authentic example of Turkish and Ottoman cuisine. The kitchen prides itself – so its menu tells us – on the use of natural and seasonal ingredients in the creation of dishes, and everything we’ve tried is a fine example. The Lalezar Experience sharing set menu offers the perfect way to get a taste for the variety of flavours coming from the kitchen. The mezze course comprises four hot and four cold small plates of which the antep ezme dip stood out due its mix of flavours. Staff are well versed on the menu and confident to provide well thought out recommendations, based on their assessment of your preferences following a conversation. We’re utterly impressed by the iskender kebab and sea bass main – perhaps the freshest, most flavoursome dish on the menu – and by the prices and service within these luxe, gilded and ornate surrounds. Lalezar has an air of romance to it, especially during the cooler months, when the terrace comes into its own. Dining at night with the water fountain and the hotel’s grounds as the backdrop is an experience we unreservedly recommend.
There is a lot to love about Qbara. The stunning interior oozes style and originality, from the squares of carpet that decorate the walls to the sophisticated warm brown tones with flecks of gold and red that feature throughout the decor. The space is vast and yet it still feels personal and inviting, helped by the live saxophonist who provides a subtle and soothing backing track to ease you into your meal and that heightens the restaurant’s relaxed, laid-back vibe. You could end up staying for hours. If you want to show off the culinary prowess of Dubai and an inventive take on the region’s cuisine, this is the restaurant that will do it. Classic Middle Eastern dishes are given a delicious contemporary twist and combined with ingredients you wouldn’t necessarily expect, such as creamy, soft burrata, which is seasoned with fresh zaatar and spring onions, and the chargrilled chicken and leek skewers seasoned with Yemeni saffron honey and Aleppo chilli salt – a country-hopping combination of sheer brilliance. But there are fantastic classics on the menu, too. The sayadieh – backed fish, caramalised onion and rice dish made with black cod – is a sweet, gooey mix of deliciousness; we’d visit again for this alone. The slow-cooked shoulder of lamb is delicate and soft, falling apart with a prod. Overall, Qbara is simply superb. We think everyone needs to experience it at least once.