With summer in full swing, the search for ways to cool down and different cold foods to keep us refreshed seems like a never ending challenge. While looking for the cooler than cool of Dubai’s food scene, we have hit on the perfect anti-heat option – raw bars where you can find selections of raw, smoked and marinated fish and seafood dishes. Dubai’s raw bars offer a vast selection of these delicacies inspired by dishes from around the world, from countries such as Italy, Peru and Japan. The restaurant scene is also evidently on the same wavelength in the search for über-cool eating out options, with several introducing new raw menus or raw bar counters to their venues over summer. With the variety of raw bars in Dubai ever increasing, ever evolving and ever en vogue it appears that now is the perfect time to explore the raw options in Dubai.
Gaucho: This Argentinean-style steakhouse from London is already known for providing a side line in ceviches – a Peruvian delicacy made by marinating raw fish in citrus juice, onions, chilli and coriander. Now, to mark ten years worth of ceviches at Gaucho, the restaurant is launching a standalone ceviche bar in the lounge. Here, the chef will prepare the ceviches in front of guests when they order. Of the ceviche combinations available a few will be exclusive to the bar menu. These include fire and ice, which is a combination of baby scallops, coconut and ginger, and the Ecuadorian, a classic Ecuadorian-style prawn ceviche. Here the main difference is that the prawns are blanched for 30 seconds before serving.
From Dhs42. Open Mon-Sun 11.30am-11.30pm. Sheikh Zayed Road, DIFC (04 422 7898).
Lounge 44 at Embassy: The crudo bar at Embassy’s Lounge 44 has just launched its new summer menu. Crudo is a traditional Italian style dish of raw fish, and the crudo bar at Lounge 44 offers a classic Italian take on the raw bar trend. In addition to the selection of oysters, caviar and smoked fish, the new menu also offers some inventive Italian-inspired creations such as scallop carpaccio with pomegranate, cauliflower and seaweed salmoriglio, marinated sea bass with basil, grapefruit and radish and the spicy seared tuna with marinated peppers and salsa verde. If you are forced to drag a friend along that is a non-convertee to the raw bar cause, fear not, the crudo bar is also ready to pander to their tastes with a selection of Mediterranean-style cooked dishes. These include grilled aubergine and goat cheese fritters, red pepper coulis and pistou, salted cod croquettes with tomato marmalade and pizzetta with sautéed ceps and persillade.
From Dhs35. Open Mon-Wed 7pm-2am, Thu and Fri 7pm-3am. Grosvenor House, Tower Two, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
Roberto’s: The raw bar at Italian restaurant Roberto’s divides the menu (with classic Italian simplicity) just by the type of fish. The dishes are, however, anything but simple, combining Italian ideas with a modern frame of reference and ingredients from around the world to create exciting sounding dishes. Take your pick from the cuttlefish tagliatelle with nori seaweed pesto and puffed quinoa, pounded scampi with shallot jelly and pine nuts or the amberjack carpaccio with panzanella salad and sea asparagus. There’s more innovation involved at Roberto’s with the technology behind the raw bar. The bar is made from high quality transparent acrylic sheets, which are filled inside with transparent ‘ice-like’ cubes. In conjunction with the natural ice that is used to display the fish, this high-tech set-up gives the impression that the fish is being served from a gargantuan block of ice, the entire size of the bar. Clever back lighting also allows the ‘ice-block’ to be lit up with different coloured lights, dependent perhaps on whatever mood the chef might find himself in each day.
Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. DIFC, Sheikh Zayed Road, Gate Village (04 386 0066).
The Terrace: The raw bar at The Terrace is one of Dubai’s better known and more established affairs. Guests here can either choose their food from the raw bar or request a special preparation method. The selection includes oysters, shrimp, crab meat or lobster cocktails, Canadian lobster and a sharing platter that includes snails. We, however, are most excited by the distinctly Slavic tone to proceedings at The Terrace. You can opt for Imperial caviar, and those who purchase a 100g tin on weekday evenings will also get a glass of premium bubbly to wash it down with. Or try the Balik-style smoked salmon. This delicacy originates from Imperial Russia but became popular again in the 1970s thanks to the Balik Smokery in the Swiss Alps. The Terrace’s version uses a wood-smoked prime loin cut of Scottish salmon and is served with crème fraiche and blinis. Guests are also encouraged to pair their raw bar choices with a choice of Russian beverage. The selection available features varieties from around the world, and this beverage is quite a fitting match for seafood. The raw bar at The Terrace will be closing down over Ramadan, so this is a good time to get in there before it’s too hot or too late.
Open daily noon-2am. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).
Polynesian themed bar and restaurant Trader Vic’s is due to open a new branch at Dubai Festival City. In addition to the chain’s usual stylings, the new restaurant is introducing a Japanese style raw bar, which will be the first of its kind at a Trader Vic’s outlet. It is due to be a traditional style Japanese sushi counter, where chefs will prepare fresh sushi and sashimi to order. The launch date for the new venue is currently unconfirmed.
What’s the beef?
While we’ve focused on fish and seafood, which tend to be the most common (and least intimidating) option for raw specialities, here are some raw beef dishes in Dubai not to be missed.
Nowadays, you can try a vast variety of fish and seafood versions of carpaccio, but the original, classic Italian carpaccio is made with raw beef. Just a brief word to the wise, don’t let restaurants fob you off with bresaola. Delicious as it is, this air-dried beef delicacy is not raw, and does not a carpaccio make.
Carpaccio originates from Venice and is largely attributed to the chef at Harry’s Bar. The story goes that a Contessa, who regularly frequented Harry’s Bar had been advised by her doctor to eat only raw meat and this now famous dish was concocted especially for her. Further theories expound that the dish was named after Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, because the year the dish is thought to have been created, 1950, coincided with a major art exhibition of Carpaccio’s work in Venice. To try a classic Italian-style beef carpaccio, head to BiCE, a classic Italian restaurant in Dubai. Here the carpaccio di manzo alla veneziana ‘BiCE Style’ is made with thinly sliced raw beef, dressed with a Venetian style sauce made from light mayonnaise and mustard seeds. On a non-beefy side note, another stand-out carpaccio from this venue is the less classic but more creative carpaccio di salmone marinato alle barbabietole con insalatina di finocchi arance e crema di mascarpone (beetroot marinated salmon carpaccio with fennel, orange and sour mascarpone).
Dhs90 (beef carpaccio ‘BiCE style’). Open daily noon-2.45pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, www.hilton.com (04 399 1111).
Time Out’s very own favourite raw dish comes courtesy of Koreana restaurant. It is also one of the more unexpected options available. Here, at this Korean restaurant in Barsha, you can choose the yuki hoe from the menu. This dish of raw, marinated beef is like the Korean equivalent of steak tartare. It uses strips of succulent beef, marinated with sesame oil and soy sauce and mixed like a salad with strips of cucumber, pear and raw egg to create an elegant and summery dish, full of intense and crisp flavours. Having said that, diners may want to watch out for the large (and not very date-friendly) amounts of raw garlic in this dish.
Dhs60 (yuki hoe). Open daily 11.30am-3.30pm, 6pm-11pm. Sheikh Zayed Road, near Ibis Al Barsha, behind Hacker Kitchens, Barsha (04 392 9918).