Dubai is one of the world’s most exciting dining destinations, a sprawling city with unparalleled multicultural cuisine. Catering to extravagant tastes, Dubai imports a number of Michelin-starred chefs from all over the world, but know where to look, and you’ll find hidden expat eateries like tiny Szechwan diners and Pakistani canteens. From Ravi’s rustic canteen curries to fine dining at Qbara, here’s a foodie’s guide to Dubai’s best dishes…
Mutton achar handi, Dhs22 at Ravi Restaurant
A perfect example of Dubai’s wholehearted embrace of expat culture, so don’t expect a watered down takeaway curry from this hole-in-the-wall canteen. Ravi’s mutton achar handi is a full-blooded Pakistani plate. The combination of spices and fresh green chilli will leave you both catching your breath and heading back for a second serve.
Al Dhiyafa Road, Satwa
+971 4 331 5353
Pan-seared scallops, Dhs95, Traiteur at Park Hyatt Dubai
Daintily presented in pink blushed clam shells, Traiteur’s classically trained French chefs have nailed the perfect scallop – caramelised and slightly crisp on the outside, plump and juicy on the inside. Those in the know will book in for Traiteur’s fine dining Friday brunch which sees a free flow of these beauties brought to your table as quickly as you can gobble them up.
Sheikh Rashid Rd
+971 4 317 2221
Milk and honey, price on request, at Qbara
Those lucky enough to score a reservation at the contemporary Lebanese restaurant can bookend their meal with the signature Milk & Honey dessert. On paper it’s a simplistic arrangement – Greek yoghurt and sumac panna cotta with a side of honey and saffron pashmak – but once plated, it becomes a towering treat, the panna cotta both tart and creamy, with a headdress of dense Turkish pashmak adorning the dessert glass.
Oud Metha Road, Wafi City
+971 4 709 2500
Rice cheong fun, Dhs28 at Homey
Away from the flash of the neighbouring Marina, this teeny Szechwan eatery still manages to draw crowds for its authentic Chinese menu. One of the major reasons this inconspicuous joint has persevered against the Americanised Chinese food that dots Dubai’s hotspots? The cheong fun, tightly wrapped rolls made with rice flour and coloured a bright red. This addictive appetiser makes for a crisp bite, with the plump and flavourful prawns tucked inside.
Goldcrest View 1, Cluster V, Jumeirah Lakes Towers
+971 4 431 7106
Pink diamond oysters, Dhs34 each, BiCE
Our waiter tells us that diners often wrap the cleaned-out shells of BiCE’s oyster entree to take home as a memento of the meal. No wonder – with their pink tinge, the beautiful shells are exclusive to the restaurant. They’re not just a pretty face, either, with each shell holding the plumpest oysters this side of the Gulf.
Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort, Dubai Marina
Ryoog yerana, Dhs37, Klayya
For a sweet and savoury start to your morning, opt for this unique Emirati breakfast speciality. A fluffy omelette is folded over a shallow dish of chopped local dates, and served with bread to spread the resulting gooey combination on. Sweet, salty and more-ish. Best washed down with a mug of haleed kastar (Dhs7), a rich and eggy custard dessert drink dotted with red seeds.
Al Barsha Mall, Barsha 2
+971 4 325 5335
Koshari, Dhs12, Al Ammor
Comfort food at its most rib-sticking, justice is done to Egyptian favourite at Al Ammor. The vegetarian version of the baked noodle, chickpea and lentil dish comes with a tray of condiments to customise to your liking – a dab of chilli, a drizzle of nostril-twitching vinegar and a handful of deep-fried crispy onions hits the spot. For carb-overload, scoop spoonfuls into freshly stretched and baked cheese-layered fatayer bread and eat!
Zabeel Road, Al Karama
+971 4 370 7060
Shaksouka, Dhs59, Omnia Gourmet
Sure, there’s a lot to like about celebrity chef Silvena Rowe’s latest project, like the prime ocean-front location, and the cake counter stacked with rows of raw and vegan desserts, but it’s Rowe’s egg shaksouka that keeps the foodie crowd coming back. Sweet tomatoes and peppers, perfectly poached eggs, with a kick of chilli and creamy feta mingle in a terracotta pot for a dish that’s just begging to be tackled with slices of oven-warm sourdough.
Jumeirah Fishing harbour, Jumeirah 1
+917 4 3437181
Carrot cake, Dhs30, Lime Tree Café
The battle for the best carrot cake in Dubai may rage on, but for us, the winner is clear. The perfect accompaniment to the best (and one of the only) flat whites in town, Lime Tree’s hefty wedges of homestyle, double-layered carrot cake are big enough to share (not that you’d want to) and loaded with carrot shaving and walnuts, and bowing beneath a solid slathering of cream cheese frosting.
Beach Road, Jumeirah 1
+971 4 349 8498
Smoked peppered mackerel spread, Dhs40, Fume
Pot-set in a kitschy hinged jar that was last spotted in your grandma’s kitchen, this smooth spread is the perfect precursor to the inevitable onslaught of Britannia-meets-Spain tapas. Equal parts smoky, sea-salty and fishy – in a good way. Apply generously to a side of sour dough bread with smoked butter and a sprinkling of lava salt.
Pier 7, Dubai Marina
+971 4 421 5669