Between quitting Instagram following a yoga retreat in Ibiza, having to hitchhike in the outskirts of Bangkok, researching the scorching backroads of Sharjah, miraculously escaping both crowds and civilization an hour outside of Manila, and staying amongst King Mohammed VI’s guests at a palatial hotel in Marrakech, the editors at Savoir Flair have had an eventful summer – to say the least.
And yet we’ve managed to find the time to dine across Dubai so that you can start the new season (read: 39°C instead of 44°C) armed with a new dining bucket list. Our recommendations include a travel-themed restaurant, a Singaporean foodie favorite, a new outpost of a steakhouse we love, a quirky little rotisserie, and many more. Read on for all our verdicts in no particular order.
As You Fish
Y’know those restaurants where you embarrass yourself by audibly enjoying your food? As You Fish is one such restaurant. Everything – and we mean everything – here is a culinary delight, particularly if seafood is your weakness. You’ll be greeted by a sensory overload of brightly colored murals, all-white outdoor seating, and multiple tanks of live fish and shellfish before you lay eyes on the menu – and the fun begins.
It’s centered around the best of the best from across the globe, so you’ll see plenty of options with universal appeal: prawn tacos, fritto misto, lobster mac and cheese, and seafood risotto to name a few. Alternatively, you could pick your seafood of choice from the tanks, customizing how it’s marinated and cooked along with accompanying sides and sauces. If you’re dining with someone who doesn’t like seafood, they’ll also be appeased, courtesy of comfort food like trash can nachos and buttermilk-soaked chicken alongside healthier fare, such as kale Caesar salad.
While there’s no shortage of signature dishes, there are two that we have to rave about: the ‘Chilli Prawn Slider’ (tempura prawns accented with chilli mayonnaise and gherkins on brioche buns) and ‘Yuzu Lobster Roll’ (taken up a notch with a refreshing apple and dill salad). Over on the mains, our pick would be the ‘Chimichurri Grilled Octopus’. Having said that, what we absolutely love-love-loved most was the ‘Fisherman’s Combo’. It’s still our favorite (albeit spicy) fish curry in town – with the ‘Matchamisu’ and ‘Saffron Milk Cake’ making for sweet relief.
There are two things you’ll love equally about STK Downtown: how it caters to even the snobbiest of steak snobs and how the menu’s diversity indulges everyone else. You’ll be served brioche bread with blue-cheese butter and chive oil right off the bat, but resist the urge to devour it and save room for what’s to follow. Of the starters, the ‘Prawn Cocktail’ is ordered frequently by patrons, but trying the ‘Lil’ Brgs’ – STK’s signature sliders – is obligatory.
Salad-wise, the ‘Compressed Watermelon’ with feta cheese, picked cucumber, and black-olive crumb is the one to beat considering the temperature is still hovering around 40°C. And it’s for that reason we picked the ‘Steamed Seabass’ as our main. Exuding tropical vibes, it’s complemented perfectly by a bed of coconut-garlic rice, avocado, and pickled fennel. But naturally, it’s the steak that plays the leading role here. Opt for the ‘USDA Prime Flank’ or ‘USDA Prime Fillet’ if you prefer your steak on the leaner side, the ‘Canadian Heritage Striploin’ for medium marbling, and the ‘USDA Prime Ribeye’ if you like plenty of flavor through fat.
With that said, the staff at STK Downtown will happily make recommendations based on your taste, down to the extensive selection of sauces, toppings, and sides. We’d go back for the thick-cut ‘Parmesan Chips’ alone. The same goes for dessert, although just about anything will turn out to be beautifully plated bliss – we voted a tie between the ‘Vanilla Crème Brûlée’ with assorted berries and ‘New York Cheesecake’ with mango salsa.
A boarding pass to get you in, a vintage-inspired compass to take home, coffee table books that prompt all kinds of wanderlust, GPS coordinates of faraway locales, and stunning visuals of sweeping landscapes – it’s all part of the dining experience at Somewhere. To start with, this travel-themed restaurant feels more like an escape from day-to-day life in Dubai, which is ironic considering it’s located in The Dubai Mall. And yet, it’s discreetly tucked away in a quiet corner of the recently opened Fashion Avenue extension. Heck, even its official website is shrouded in secrecy.
Regardless, you’re guaranteed a great meal as Somewhere is the brainchild of the team behind beloved culinary institutions Salt, Switch, and Parker’s. So what did we try? Well, a bit of everything, if we’re being honest. And there wasn’t anything we’d didn’t love, if we’re being completely honest. Highlights include the ‘Zaatar & Cheese Cones’ (baklava phyllo pastry allows for the fillings to take center-stage), ‘Hummus Black Angus Beef’ (a heartier version of a Levantine staple), and ‘Somewhere Fatteh’ (a signature take, courtesy of shoestring fries).
Our absolute favorite, however, was a toss-up between the creative ‘Chicken Shawarma Bao’ – that bao-bun twist makes all the difference – and the more traditional ‘Fish Sayadieh’, the sea bream of which was spiced to perfection. Just about everything on the menu here is designed for sharing so, to do it justice, show up hungry and with several friends in tow.
Dining on chicken these days entails asking a seemingly endless amount of questions. Is it free-range? Has it been locally sourced? Is it devoid of both hormones and antibiotics? Luckily, a cozy little rotisserie by the name of The Roost takes the guesswork out of the equation as the answer to all of the above here is “yes”. The homegrown eatery is located at the somewhat obscure API 1000 complex on Al Wasl Road, so it still feels like a hidden gem.
You’ll start your meal with a complimentary shot of homemade broth, and you’ll instantly know you’re in for chicken that is as succulent as it is flavorful. Resist the temptation to ambitiously order ‘The Full Monty’ or ‘The Flock’, and opt for ‘The Quarter’ chicken instead – that’s because the salads and sides are wonderful, too. We recommend the zingy ‘Chilli & Lime Chicken’ salad and ‘Wood-Fired Corn on the Cobb’ respectively. Picking the sauces to complement the perfectly roasted chicken is a whole other ball game – there’s a whopping ten to choose from. Be sure to try the sugar-free ‘Banana Ketchup’ and, if you’re lucky, the waitstaff will tell you the story behind it.
And then there’s dessert. Of course. And it feels strangely deserved considering the wholesome meal that’s just preceded it. Cooked in a style similar to the rotisserie chicken, the ‘Kurtos Kalcs’ is inspired by spit cake in Hungary and available in four different flavors. The ‘Dulce De Leche’ is most popular for obvious reasons, but we’re partial to ‘Jammy Dodger’ for its better sweet/tart balance ourselves.
There are places where you dine briskly, and places where you linger – and then linger some more. Belong falls beautifully in the latter category. For one, this restaurant and lounge is a treat for the eyes. Clashing patterns, pop art, and colorful sofas reside alongside lines of poetry and a larger-than-life tribute to Umm Kulthum. Live music also makes an appearance from Wednesday to Friday, with singer-songwriter Jay Abo having performed on several occasions. But none of that compares to the menu, which is designed for sharing and reflects Mediterranean classics that have been reinvented for the modern palate.
Case in point? Lamb chops served with za’atar chimichurri, grilled hammour topped with mustard tahini – both must-orders from the mains section. Another meaty must-have? The popular ‘Pulled Lamb Sliders’, a grown-up take on the humble shawarma. On the vegetarian side, it’s impossible to pick between the chargrilled ‘Aubergine Tarator’ and more indulgent ‘Ricotart’, so just try both – and add the perfectly seasoned ‘Sautéed Mushrooms’ to your order while you’re at it. Interestingly enough, the ‘Osmallieh Crème Brûlée’ is the only dessert without a description on the menu, and we’ll follow suit. But we will say this: leave room for this one.
Kim’s Singapore Seafood
Foodies familiar with the culinary scene of Singapore were delighted at the news of Kim’s Place Seafood arriving on our shores as Kim’s Singapore Seafood and, after sampling some of its greatest hits, we see why. The Dubai outpost is more upscale and cushioned amongst a sea of Egyptian, Emirati, Kuwaiti, Lebanese, and Syrian restaurants in Al Seef, making it a breath of fresh air if you’re in the mood for something new.
We warmed up with the moreish ‘Crispy Cereal Prawns’ flavored with curry leaves, hawker-favorite ‘Fried Clams with Sambal’, and pan-fried ‘Hot-Plate Oyster Omelette’. It was then time for the two dishes that came highly recommended, starting with the ‘Black Pepper Crab Hot Pot’. Unfazed by the array of contraptions provided, we discovered the crab is cooked to perfection in the restaurant’s signature black-pepper sauce, so basic utensils or even your hands will suffice. Be sure to order a portion of golden-brown ‘Mantou’ (or fried buns) to mop up every last trace of the rich, dark gravy left behind – it’s that good. In fact, we’re dubbing this combination the crown jewel on this menu.
A close runner-up would be ‘Kim’s Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee’, the recipe of which has been passed down from “hokkien mee master” Tan Kue Kim himself. But Kim’s isn’t just for seafoodies. We suggest the ‘Fried Beef with Ginger & Spring Onion’ if you have a preference for red meat, the ‘Fried Sambal Kang Kong’ if you’re a vegetarian, and the ‘Sweet & Spicy Beancurd with Mushroom in Hot-Plate’ if you’re a vegan.
A golf club might seem like an unlikely spot for a fine-dining restaurant, but Carine isn’t your typical fancy spot. The latest culinary venture from chef Izu Ani of La Serre fame, it incorporates French flair with Mediterranean influences, resulting in a simple but varied menu brimming with fresh, high-quality ingredients. There are comforting classics of ratatouille, tomato gnocchi, and seafood risotto with pistachio, as well as impeccably created mains such as grilled sea bass served on a hot skillet and melt-in-the-mouth lamb cutlets served on a jus-soaked flatbread.
The food really is sensational – and subtle touches of unusual seasonings and spices only add to its je ne sais quoi factor. And in true Chef Ani fashion, the desserts are worth the visit alone, especially when it comes to the classic ‘Tarte Tatin’ and molten-brownie marshmallow with crème anglaise. Our mouths are watering just thinking about them. It’s the small, homemade touches that really set Carine apart. The restaurant is named after Izu’s wife, Carine, who personally makes the plum, pear, and apple jams served here.
The olive oil on the tables is flown in from Chef Ani’s farm in Greece and, when paired with freshly squeezed lemon juice from specially sourced Sicilian lemons, makes for the most delicious dip you can imagine. Everything from the effortlessly elegant French bistro-style setting to the knowledgeable staff, intimate but not stuffy atmosphere, and top-notch food makes Carine one of our new favorite lunch places in town.
On the 11th floor of the recently opened Aloft Palm Jumeirah, boasting breathtaking 360-degree views of the Dubai skyline and beyond, is where you’ll find Luchador. A cool new cantina inspired by lucha libre – Mexico’s unique take on professional wrestling – this is the place for authentic Mexican street food with a contemporary touch. Expect to see the usual suspects on the menu, including all manner of tacos and taquitos, fresh fish ceviches, quesadillas, and chunky guacamole with crisp nachos – all made flavorsome and punchy with plenty of chilli, citrusy ponzu dressing, and more unusual ingredients such as matcha, truffle oil, and rosemary mayo.
Fans of churros will be particularly pleased as the crispy, cinnamon-sprinkled dough sticks here are second to none. That chocolate dipping sauce? We’d happily dunk our heads in a vat of it. But what makes Luchador isn’t just the fabulous food; it’s also the setting. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors are pulled back to create a large and breezy open space, tables stand on intricate Aztec-tiled floors, and walls are adorned with bold murals and a whole lot of lucha libre masks. Colorful is an understatement. There’s no better spot in which to sip on a superfruit mocktail, watching the sun set over Dubai, especially if a bowl of Luchador’s ‘Chilito Guacamole’ is at hand.
While there are plenty of new restaurants to choose from, we keep going back to Latin American eatery Hotel Cartagena, which has taken over the space that once housed Middle Eastern restaurant Morah. Not only does this vivid, tropical-themed hotspot offer ridiculous views from its vantage point atop the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, but it also has the coolest vibe. Everyone around you seems to be having a blast and that mood is infectious – before you know it, you’re having a blast too.
And while it’s all about the surroundings (the colorful, in-your-face décor is a complete departure from that of pastel-hued Morah), we can’t help but rave about the food also. It’s no wonder that Hotel Cartagena is completely booked on weekends – this is our subtle way of warning you to book at least a week in advance. The mouth-watering menu here is centered on fresh seafood. You’ll dine on fresh ceviche, deconstructed ahi-tuna poke bowls, coconut-infused calamari, and some of the best grilled octopus in Dubai alongside melt-off-the-bone short ribs and chicken chicharróns.
This is all while dancers in fully feathered costumes and thumping Latin-infused music (courtesy of a professional DJ) entertain guests. Bonus: this picturesque place wins our vote for most Instagrammable restaurant in Dubai – hands down. The elevator ride alone will convince you.