Kisaku: It may not be as flashy as Dubai’s trendy, business suit-populated Japanese joints, but the food at Kisaku is more than a match for such self-conscious, be-there-and-be-seen affairs. Walk into the restaurant and you’re immediately reassured that you made a good choice: it’s constantly buzzing with Japanese expats. The menu is as long as it is confusing (for the uninitiated, at least), but take comfort from the fact that no matter what you order, it’s likely to be astounding. Especially worthy of waxing poetic is the grilled coral fish – it beats the fins off all the expensive black miso cod that the high-end places are so fond of. Service can be scrappy, but don’t let that put you off. The decor’s quirky, with TV screens looping cooking shows and Michael Jackson hits. Still, the ambience is lively, and you’ll feel entertained while waiting for your food. Highly recommended.
Al Khaleej Palace Hotel, Al Maktoum Road, Deira (04 223 1000). Open daily noon-2.30pm, 7pm-11pm. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal with a glass of house wine each: Dhs350-400.
Shakespeare & Co: Chintzy and cheerful, Shakespeare & Co is perfectly adequate for a quick cup of tea and a slice of cake. The cosy ambience, play area and kid-friendly vibe – as well as a reasonable kids’ menu – make it a huge hit with the mummy brigade. A Dubai institution, the couches are comfy enough to kick back and peruse the extensive menu while the service limbers up (be warned, this may take some time) and while the food is far from top-class dining, you won’t go wrong if you stick to the basics. We recommend the hearty breakfasts and a varied egg selection, including delicious poached egg and salmon muffins. The pancakes go down a treat (although chocolate and hazelnut ganache is a rather fancy term for Nutella), but steer clear of the tepid, stodgy mains.
Safa Centre, near Park ’n’ Shop (04 394 1121). Open daily 7am-midnight. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with soft drinks: Dhs150-200. Other locations: The Village (04 344 6228); The Dubai Mall (04 434 0195); Hayya Club (04 367 4958); Emirates Hills (04 360 8886); Souk Al Bahar (04 425 7971); Al Attar Business Tower (04 331 1757).
Rhodes Mezzanine: The glory, it is said, is in the detail: a phrase that could have been coined specifically for Rhodes Mezzanine, the brainchild of Michelin-starred British chef Gary Rhodes. For while the stars of the menu – tender scallops to start, finely executed halibut and pork belly for mains, a truly impressive twist on bread and butter pudding to close – are justly celebrated, it’s the details that make a meal in this restaurant so memorable. Amuse bouches include the celebrated white tomato soup – a delicate, yet intensely concentrated foam that despite the deceptive colour positively screams ‘tomato’ with every sip. Throughout it all, service is efficient and discreet. This is grown-up food in a stylishly intimate setting.
Grosvenor House, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888). Open Mon-Sat 7.30pm-11.30pm. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with a glass of house wine each: Dhs1,000-1,250.
Al Hallab: A perennial lunchtime favourite with Garhoud nine-to-fivers, this Lebanese standby serves some of the best Arabic food in town. Granted, the atmosphere leaves a bit to be desired – the space is essentially a large cafeteria – but every item on the menu is made with an extra level of care. Fattoush is given spark with the use of fresh herbs, and sesame-inflected balls of falafel find the perfect balance between a crisp exterior and a soft centre. The bread, dusted with hints of cinnamon, is freshly baked, and a far cry from the limp, packaged pittas that are served in many of the city’s other established eateries. It’s exceedingly reasonable to boot – if you order wisely, it’s quite possible for a large group to fill up for just Dhs30 each.
Garhoud (04 282 3388). Taxi: next to the Eppco petrol station. Open daily 8am-1am. All major credit cards accepted. Average price of a meal for two with soft drinks: Dhs100-200. Other location: Mall of the Emirates (04 341 1880).