If today feels more like January 71st than January 31st, no judgment. The seemingly longest month of the year comes to a close today, so many of you are undoubtedly taking a moment to reflect on your New Year’s resolutions – eating cleaner, exercising more, et al – and applauding yourselves for just how faithfully you stuck by them. And then there are the editors at Savoir Flair.
Yes, we still attempted to dine on healthy options whenever possible. And yes, we still made it to the gym on occasion. But we also frequented virtually every new eatery in town – all in the name of research, of course. Here, we share our verdicts.
With a name like Kizmet, you’re practically destined for a good time and great food. Still somewhat of a hidden gem – few expect to encounter an achingly hip, homegrown eatery at the doorstep of Dubai Opera – it has something for everyone. Literally. We love the fact that its multicultural team inspired the truly international menu, which plays host to an array of global favorites, but with a twist. Think: arancini with pistachio aioli, hummus served with tofu churros, pizza topped with squash blossom, and aguachile with coconut sorbet.
We journeyed to Asia by way of North Africa and the Mediterranean, ordering the sea bass with green mango and sticky rice, duck-leg tagine with harissa and almonds, and grilled octopus with potato foam and beetroot purée – and enjoyed them all equally. The “sweet tooth department” here is just as inventive. Old-fashioned apple pie is taken up a notch with chai ice cream, while surprisingly sophisticated cookies are served alongside vanilla milk. The ‘Dulce Tropic’ came highly recommended, and for good reason. In true Kizmet style, this was no ordinary dulce de leche cheesecake. You wouldn’t expect chocolate ganache, lime gel, and passionfruit-banana sorbet to make cheesecake so interesting, but it does. It really, really does.
Han Shi Fu
If you don’t make it to Deira nearly enough, that’s about to change, especially if you’re a regular at Din Tai Fung. There’s now an Asian fusion gastropub in Aloft City Centre Deira by the name of Han Shi Fu, which happens to be operated by the same group as the beloved Taiwanese restaurant – only it’s a touch more bold and trendy. Here, dim lighting, hanging Chinese scrolls, vivid red seating, and a mural comprised of ceramic plates and pretty florals set the tone for what’s about to follow: a menu that feels overwhelming, but in a good way.
For a sampler of the dim sum section, the ‘6 Colors Soup Dumplings’ is ideal, but the ‘Truffle Mushroom Soup Dumplings’ gets our vote. Of the appetizers, we recommend the ‘Radish Cake’ and ‘Magic Bricks’ for their novelty factor, and the ‘Shrimp Brioche’ for its soft and buttery appeal. As for something to put a smile on your face? The adorable ‘Porcupine Char Siu Bao’. We skipped the soups and salads in favor of the mains, struggling to pick between the likes of ‘Peking Duck With Lotus Buns’ and ‘Spicy Beef Sirloin In Hot Pot’. Eventually, what opted for the ‘Black and Yellow Special’ (blackened hammour on a bed of lemon-infused risotto) and ‘Chili Hill Chicken’ (wok-seared chicken in a spicy soy sauce). You’ll need to cool off your palate with a dessert by this point, but don’t even bother looking at the menu – the ‘Green Velvet Cake’ is a clear winner.
The Opa experience begins before you’ve even stepped foot inside. First, there’s the private elevator that whisks you up, setting the scene with its stone-floor entryway, Grecian blue doors, and a wall mural depicting coastal scenes. Then the doors open, and you’re hit with the scent of jasmine and the sight of bougainvillea. Once through the garden, you’re in the actual restaurant that – in true Greek style – is all white walls with accents of rich, vivid blue. It’s hard to believe this is the same space that Catch used to occupy.
But it’s not just the dreamy decor that had us hooked, it was the food. We’re still dreaming about the ‘Opa Baklava Sundae’ – it might just be the best dessert in the city. The menu has everything you could possibly want from a traditional Greek eatery: melt-in-the-mouth halloumi with fig and grape dressing, creamy tzatziki with cucumber and dill, freshly baked flatbreads, crispy fried calamari, and feta-topped salads. Confession: We may have enjoyed the starters and small plates so much that we skipped the mains, but we lived vicariously through the platters of fresh fish passing our table. Oh, and the waiters (all Greek, naturally) delight diners with traditional plate-smashing and Zorba dancing, which you can get up and join – provided you’re not stuffed, that is. Santorini, eat your heart out.
We had no idea how dire the need for an Asian food hall in Dubai was – and now that there’s one in JLT, we’re wondering how we ever managed without it. Meet Streetery, a genius of a dining concept that plays host to Zen (the absolute best of Thai and Chinese stir-fries), Fat Aunt (authentic dim sum, cart noodles, and Malaysian curries), and Hing Kee (Asian barbecue and charcoal-grilled options galore). So where should you start? With a bit of everything, of course.
We started by sampling (and loving) the fiery ‘Szechwan Veg Dumplings’ and crispy ‘Scallion Pancake’, the latter of which has an unexpected touch of sweet thanks to a light glaze of honey. Of the mains, the handmade Hong Kong-style noodles pair perfectly with the ‘Thai BBQ Chicken’ and ‘Prawn Satay’, but the ‘Pad Kee Mao’ is by far the noodle dish to beat. If you prefer Thai food of the more familiar variety, fear not. The likes of green curry and pad thai are all on the Zen menu. Another delicious combination awaits, this time on the Fat Aunt menu: the soft, flaky ‘Malay Roti’ with ‘Sambal Prawns’, a classic made with shrimp paste and roasted chili. By now, you’ve probably wondering if Streetery – already a cult favorite, mind you – is the definitive spot for killer East Asian food in Dubai. It is.
If the stunning sea views, prime location on Palm Jumeirah, and countless entertainment options weren’t reasons enough to visit The Pointe – a new lifestyle destination catering to children and adults alike – then we’ve found another. Enter: Fitzroy, a European-inspired bistro and waterfront lounge that has fast become our favorite for delicious French and British cuisine in a relaxed yet chic, open-plan setting. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sun go down over the Atlantis, The Palm and beyond.
Forget ridiculously small portions or pretentious touches as Fitzroy is all about perfecting the classics that we all know and love. Starters include the classic steak tartare, salt-cod croquettes, and creamy pumpkin risotto with stilton, saffron, and pumpkin seeds. Main courses embrace traditional European ingredients, so there’s comfort food such as fish and chips and homemade veal schnitzel alongside more upscale options such as grilled lobster with tarragon butter. As for the definitive side on this menu? The roasted potatoes with rosemary and sea salt – they’ll put your mom’s to shame. You may find yourself debating between the chocolate fondant with caramelized hazelnuts and caramel-apple tarte tatin with burnt toffee ice cream, so take our word for it: order both.
If you’re after the new cool spot in town, this is it. Already a hit stateside, All’Onda has now opened its doors in the new Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai and is the place for Venetian cuisine with both Japanese and Indian influences. Here, you can tuck into everything from veal Milanese prepared tonkatsu-style to Wagyu steak served with soft burrata, braised lamb shank with saffron risotto, and sushi-rice arancini with spicy salmon and squid ink. There’s also a sensational ‘Crudo Bar’ offering an assortment of raw fish and fresh seafood if you’re after something a little lighter. So, despite the very Italian-looking menu, you definitely won’t be restricted to run-of-the-mill Italian cuisine.
Be sure to enjoy a pre-meal tipple on the huge balcony that wraps around the restaurant. Not only does it offer breathtaking views of the skyline – from Dubai Marina to the Burj Khalifa and everything in between – but it’s also a destination in itself. Lounge seating, giant flowerpots exploding with greenery, flickering candles, funky music, and a soft green tinge from the lights of the hotel roof make for a seriously cool setting. Once inside, it’s all NYC-meets-Tokyo vibes: a palette of blacks, browns, and creams provides the backdrop to juxtaposing textures of dark woods, matte accents, and reflective surfaces. It’s trendy and chic without even trying – exactly what Dubai’s cool kids are after.
The next best thing to taking a trip to a tropical rainforest? Booking in at Mama Zonia. Dubai Marina’s newest and most exotic eatery is urban jungle personified, packed to the brim with vibrant greenery, vivid prints, and sumptuous textures. But before you think of it as just another Rainforest Café type spot, think again – although Mama Zonia is bright, wild, and colorful, it keeps things classy. We dare you not to say “wow” as soon as you walk inside, sink into a plush velvet chair or Bali-esque wicker seat, and gaze up at the plant-covered ceiling, drop-down chandeliers, and dazzling jewel tones.
But this Amazon-themed restaurant is not just a feast for the eyes, it’s a feast for the senses. Lively jungle beats provide the soundtrack to a menu so diverse and colorful that you won’t know where to start. To help you out, we recommend the chunky guacamole with plantain chips, the scallop and passionfruit sushi, the sea bass ceviche with roasted sweet potato, and the tiger prawn skewers with salsa vinaigrette. Mains cover everything from wok-fried seafood to jungle curries and even an entire ‘In the Log Fire’ section, which features the likes of beef cheek rendang and short ribs that have been cooked for 14 hours to ensure maximum tenderness. To finish things off, the ‘Wild Amazon Chocolate Pot’ or a slice of the ‘Caramel Milk Cheesecake’ is just the ticket. This is one jungle we’ll definitely revisit. Very soon.
Bab Al Mansour
Bab Al Mansour – named for and thoughtfully designed after the famous ancient gate in Meknes, Morocco – is one of Dubai’s most stunning new dining establishments, located across from The Dubai Mall. Lavishly reimagined in pristine white, with gilded decor and intricate pattern work on every surface, the interior of the restaurant is a feast for the eyes. Speaking of feasts, the menu here is painstakingly dedicated to traditional Moroccan cuisine – and we mean traditional.
Awaiting here are grilled meats, fragrantly spiced mains, and rich desserts, so come hungry. Every element of the menu is imported from Morocco so as to preserve the country’s unique flavors. We recommend dishes that appeal to newbies and veterans of Moroccan food alike: ‘Harira Soup’ to start, the ‘Fennel Salad’ marinated with orange sauce and argan oil to warm up, and the ‘Mix Briouate’ to sample a few variations of this filo-pastry favorite. Naturally, a trip to Bab Al Mansour would be considered incomplete without sampling some pillowy couscous and a filling tagine. Pair the vegetable couscous with the exotic ‘Lamb Tagine with Dry Fig’ (complete with stuffed figs, cinnamon, and honey), but leave room for dessert. Not to be missed? The ‘Pastilla With Milk’, a typically Moroccan dessert accented with mestika and topped with roasted almonds.
What do 50 Cent and HH Sheikh Hamdan have in common? Not much, except for the fact that both have given Gaia their seal of approval. And why wouldn’t they? It’s only the hottest hotspot in town. Led by the renowned Chef Izu Ani, this upscale taverna in the always lively DIFC aims to showcase “the true essence of Greek-Mediterranean cuisine” – and it delivers. There’s a clean, contemporary simplicity to both the pared-down decor and unfussy menu that revolves around the finest ingredients.
Take your time with the starters, arguably its most diverse section. The ‘Cheese Pie’ is more decadent than mundane, courtesy of black truffle and a blend of three different cheeses. Crowd-pleasers come in the form of ‘Grilled Octopus’ and ‘Prawns Saganaki’, while the ‘Truffle Potatoes’ pair beautifully with the star of the show at Gaia: the fresh seafood that sits proudly on display in the main dining room. Trust the recommendations of the “Fishelier” with regards to both your pick and the best cooking technique amongst raw, baked with spiced tomato, charcoal grilled with lemon oil, and steamed in a salt crust. Heartier fare, meanwhile, can be found in the mains – think: lamb cutlets, grilled tomahawk, and black-leg chicken. Admittedly, it all comes with a rather hefty price tag, so save this one for a special occasion. And definitely save room for dessert.
The London Project
If you don’t consider yourself a traditionalist, have little regard for classicism, and prefer most things with an unusual twist, The London Project is for you. Here, the burrata is served with a scoop of sorbet, the beetroot salad is made with harissa, and the freshly chucked oysters come with a ponzu sauce that is made in-house.
This is a menu that pays homage to London’s culinary scene, but not in the way you would expect. There are no fish and chips to be found – or any other type of traditional British fare for that matter. Instead, the food is a hodgepodge of different influences, just like the city that inspired it. Spread over two floors, the interiors have been designed to resemble an urban garden. Plants creep up the walls of the industrial space, while gorgeous florals are displayed everywhere you look. Book the restaurant’s terrace – which was rightfully full on the night we visited – for sweeping views of Dubai Marina’s twinkling lights.