With Taste of Dubai taking place next week, we give you a palate-whetting preview of what’s cooking at the festival this year.
Foodies mourning the end of the Dubai Food Festival will be pleased to know that it’s just a matter of days before the city’s next big celebration of eating arrives. Taste of Dubai takes place from Thursday March 12 to Saturday 14. The three-day outdoor festival will showcase culinary talents, including Emirati baker Bader Al Awadhi, cooking up a staggering 180 dishes between them. The event will welcome cooks from across the world, including Michelin-starred chefs Jean-Christophe Novelli and Atul Kochhar, and previous MasterChef (UK) winners Tim Anderson and Dhruv Baker, as well as celebrity chef Andy Bates of Food Network UK and chef José Pizarro, a regular on UK cooking TV shows. We take you through some of the highlights that this year’s event has to offer. Bon appétit!
Where to eat
1. Perry & Blackwelder’s Original Smokehouse
This newly opened, American-style smokehouse based at Madinat Jumeirah will be serving signatures such as chicken wings ‘tossed five ways’, and ‘smoky sliders’, filled with either brisket, turkey or Texas hot links.
2. The Scene by Simon Rimmer
A popular new British restaurant launched in Dubai Marina and headed up by chef Simon Rimmer, a popular face on UK TV cooking shows. Check out its menu of British pub grub with a modern twist at this stand.
3. The Gramercy
The New York-inspired gastro bar located in DIFC will be serving up some very on-trend dishes, with mac and cheese, wagyu beef sliders and more available at its stand.
4. The Act Dubai
A club-cabaret-restaurant, The Act Dubai is preparing a menu full of Peruvian flavours featuring national dishes such as beef antichuchos, arroz con pato (confit duck leg with coriander rice) and ceviche with aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow peppers).
5. Katsuya by Starck
Expect a stylish menu from this California export. The Japanese restaurant concept is a collaboration between LA-based Japanese chef Katsuya Uechi and famed French interior designer Philippe Starck.
This Argentinian steakhouse housed in DIFC will be offering some signature Latin flair on its Taste of Dubai menu, with exciting creations to try such as salmon and mango ceviche, cheese and onion empanadas and dulce de leche cheesecake for dessert.
7. Burj Al Hamam
This popular chain of Levantine eateries will be serving a classic Arabic menu at the festival, featuring favourites such as an appetiser platter of mouhmara, hummus and moutabal, mini chicken shawarmas, chicken shish taouk and more.
This Souk Al Bahar Indian restaurant with a fine dining edge to its menu will be serving some crowd-pleasing dishes from the subcontinent, including paneer tikka kebabs, butter chicken and rose petal halwa.
Dubai’s only fine dining Korean experience set in Deira will be at this year’s Taste of Dubai festival serving a classic menu that will include galbi beef short rib, gochujang-marinated dakkochi grilled chicken skewers, beef and vegetable bibimbap, vegetable and egg gimbap rice rolls (think Korean sushi), and finally black sesame ice cream for dessert.
10 .Shang Palace
This Chinese restaurant at the Shangri-La Dubai is well known for its dim sum service. Unsurprisingly then, at the festival, the restaurant will be serving a dim sum selection that includes scallop siew mai, prawn, crab roe and celery dumplings, barbecue chicken puffs and more besides.
11. Royal Orchid
If you are looking for a Thai food fix at this year’s event, head to Royal Orchid. The Dubai Marina restaurant’s stand will offer famous recipes such as pad Thai noodles and Thai green curry. If you’re thirsty, you can apparently wash this all down with a beverage called ‘hot lips’. Intriguing…
It wouldn’t be a Dubai food festival without a taste of Emirati food, right? So, where better to try out the nation’s cooking than at this actually-yet-to-open Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek restaurant. Aseelah is currently scheduled to open towards the end of the year, so this is a great opportunity to get an early preview of dishes such as camel burger with halloumi, date and lime jam and bezar-spiced bun, and chobab pancakes filled with date, coconut and saffron cream.
13. The China Club
Also from Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, this longstanding dim sum dynamo will be serving some classic dumplings, as well as Peking-
style duck pancake rolls and crispy fish fillet in black bean sauce.
This new venture specialises in Indian food with plenty of foreign fusion flair. Located at the Radisson Royal on Sheikh Zayed Road, you’ll be able to taste some of its signatures dishes at this year’s event.
The Dubai Mall’s huge multiplex-meets-shrine-to-all-things-Italian-and-edible will be exhibiting regional favourites. Expect caprese salad, pizza recipes such as diavola with goose salami and pasta dishes such as ricotta and spinach ravioli with sage butter.
What to watch
16. Chefs’ Theatre
One of the highlights of Taste of Dubai will be seeing the international celebrity chefs visiting the event in action. Head to the Chefs’ Theatre, where there will be an ongoing programme of 30-minute long, live cooking demonstrations taking place throughout the weekend.
17. Chefs’ Secrets
A new edition to the festival’s line-up this year is the ‘Chefs’ Secrets’ zone. Open to up to 40 participants at a time, you can join in with interactive cooking classes here, lead by high-profile chefs as well as by local cooking schools.
18. Cookery School
This area will also be hosting masterclasses demonstrated by international celebrity chefs, as well as chefs from Dubai restaurants. Here, you can learn expert tips and tricks, as well as be taken through step-by-step processes to brush up your cooking skills.
19. Entertainment Stage
Throughout the three-day event, the entertainment stage will welcome live acts including bands, DJ sets and other musicians. Acts confirmed so far include alternative soul singer Adam Baluch and Jon Bon Jovi tribute act Bon Jovie.
20. VIP Lounge
Open to Taste of Dubai VIP pass holders, this is where visitors can kick back and relax with a beverage in between dining and exploring.
21. Kids Zone
This area is where the little ones will be kept entertained. It offers a fun and interactive, as well as educational, selection of activities ranging from kids cooking classes to fairground rides.
• Get mad skills like Michelin star-winning chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, who will be leading a free class every day as part of the jam-packed schedule. Chefs and restaurants will be teaching throughout the weekend.
• Scoff a selection of homemade mozzarella from Eataly, plus the restaurant’s indulgent Nutella crêpe.
• All getting a bit hectic for you? The bar area here is a secluded place to enjoy a drink and a sit-down while you gather your thoughts.
• Enter the competition! You could win a Dhs500 gift voucher for one of the participating restaurants or a grand prize of Dhs10,000 in restaurant vouchers. Park your posterior on a bench by the stage for the announcement of the winner.
• Check out a Bon Jovi tribute band here on opening night, plus local musician Adam Baluch during the festival.
• Keep your eyes peeled for freebies! Promoters hand out everything from baseball caps to packets of crisps and gum.
• Last year, Nicole Scherzinger was spotted visiting the VIP Lounge. Who might you spot this year? Drake and Michael Bublé will both be in town…
• Get to Taste early to enjoy a more leisurely stroll around the main row of food stalls. Things can get a bit manic when the crowds start pouring in.
• Sample and learn all about drinks from around the world. You’ll be all set to lecture dinner party guests on proper pairings for years to come.
• Learn nifty kitchen tips from the likes of chefs Tim Anderson and Atul Kochar – for free!
Where to shop
Of the 60 plus retail exhibitors taking part, here’s our top ten not to be missed
If you need a caffeine fix to keep you going at the festival, try this local coffee company, which roasts its beans in Dubai.
If you like rice pudding, you’re in for a treat here. This eatery serves just rice pudding, but in flavours as diverse as kunafa and tiramisu.
This rather bijou concept is an éclair boutique, specialising in miniatures of the dessert in a myriad of flavours and colours. That means you can have more than one.
The Urban Yogi
If you like to emulate a little ashram-chic in your home, you can let The Urban Yogi do the hard work of sourcing for you with a selection of ethically selected items to decorate your home.
Run and owned by young Emirati chef Sid, this bakery-meets-boutique can provide a sugar and shopping fix for you in one go.
London’s famous cupcake concept has settled in Dubai, and will be plying its red velvet cakes and more at Taste of Dubai.
Organic foods and café
This month, the organic eating concept celebrates its tenth anniversary. Enjoy organic dining and retail options at this stand.
This new and home-grown dessert company specialises in inventive hybrids, such as ‘cupookies’ (cookie cupcakes), and potato chip cake.
If all this chef action and gourmet tasting gets you inspired to cook, pay a visit to International Centre of Culinary Arts Dubai and find out about joining a course.
This New York-born bakery is supposedly a favourite spot of US President Barack Obama (when he succumbs to a craving for doughnut-croissant hybrids, we assume). It is now open in Dubai at The Village Mall, Jumeirah Beach Road, and will be exhibiting its indulgent offers at Taste of Dubai.
Taste of Dubai 2015: Essential info
Join in this annual three-day celebration of fantastic food, featuring Dubai’s favourite restaurants as well as visits from international chefs.
Tickets are on sale now. Dhs75 (general admission), Dhs240 (VIP admission). March 12-14, noon. Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, Dubai Media City. For more information visit www.tasteofdubaifestival.com.