We’re feeling particularly festive at Savoir Flair. Mercury is no longer in retrograde, the holiday season is in full swing, and a new year (ergo a fresh start) is on the horizon. We’re celebrating it all with food – really, really good food – at the host of brilliant new restaurants in Dubai. Here, we share more details on our current favorites.
Occupying a prime spot in d3, Mohalla is one of those eateries where you’ll arrive because of the food, but linger because of its ambience. The name of this homegrown eatery translates into ‘neighborhood’, hence its cozy seating (traditional woven beds and all), friendly staff, and emphasis on street food. We started on a light and crunchy note with the ‘Dal & Singhada Koshimbir’, a lentil-based salad made refreshing with the addition of mango and a lemon-ginger dressing. What followed is a blur of struggling to order because everything on the menu sounded so, so good.
The selection of entrées is rife with unconventional pairings, childhood favorites, and the greatest hits of Indian street food. A conversation with the head chef later, we ended up ordering the ‘Calcutta Kathi Roll’, ‘Cottage Cheese and Mushroom Momos’ that speak of the Nepali presence in India, ‘Cheese and Vegetable Maggi’ noodles that are sure to remind you of your college days, and ‘1965 Buhari’ chicken inspired by the famous Chicken 65 of Chennai. The ‘Thepla Tacos’ are not only delicious, but also novel as jackfruit makes an appearance in this trio. Also noteworthy? Nothing on the menu is overpriced nor excessively oily. Translation: there will be money and room left for dessert, so try the ‘Jigar Ka Thanda’.
Nara Pan Asian
It’s never easy choosing between Thai, Japanese, and Chinese cuisine, so why do it? Tucked away in Cluster A of JLT is Nara Pan Asian, a casual resto-bar that makes a great first impression through its eclectic décor – read: spray-painted graffiti by a locally based artist and oil-paper umbrellas contrasted by a scattering of cherry blossom trees. It’s already very popular for its brunch and ladies’ night deals, but it’s the food at Nara that lands it on our list. We love it when the likes of Mongolian beef, California rolls, and Thai green curry coexist on one menu.
Of the appetizers, the ‘Chicken Balls’ and ‘Dynamite Shrimps’ are popular, but we switched things up and ordered the ‘Togarashi Mushrooms’ and ‘Spicy Prawns’ instead – and loved both. And then there’s the dim sum. Here’s where it gets really tricky to choose because how do you go wrong with dim sum? We’re voting for the following varieties: ‘Edamame & Truffle’ as the vegetarian pick and the soupy ‘Chicken Xiao Long Bao’ for something truly traditional.
L'Artisan du Burger
Burger joints are ubiquitous in the city, but it’s not every day that we’re treated to one that’s a Michelin Guide-listed concept. Enter: L’Artisan du Burger. Located in The Dubai Mall, this Parisian import is easily a notch or two above the usual burger suspects in the vicinity – Shake Shack, Five Guys et al. Here, the emphasis is on creating hand-crafted burgers using ingredients of the highest quality. We dined on a range of burgers that featured the likes of Reblochon cheese, Norwegian salmon, Angus beef, arugula leaves, and even a squid ink bun. And what only adds to the appeal of such ingredients is the array of unexpected sauces, with the ‘Espelette Chilli Ketchup’ and ‘Oak Smoked Sauce’ ranking as our favorites.
Those with a more experimental palate will keep coming back for more as a result of ‘La Collection Éphémère’, which features a collection of four exclusively designed burgers that rotate every three months for a seasonal touch. Past editions have seen pairings like seared tuna with tzatziki and grilled duck with foie gras – a fancy affair all round. The desserts are just as decadently done (Madagascan vanilla in used for the panna cotta, a rich dark chocolate for the mousse), so maybe skip the salads at this one?
They say when one door closes, another opens, and that couldn’t be more true in Hakkasan Dubai’s case. We were devastated when we heard the award-winning Cantonese restaurant was closing its doors in Jumeirah Emirates Towers, but luckily, our sadness was short-lived as it’s now back with a bang at its new Atlantis, The Palm location. It might not technically be a new restaurant, but it’s a whole new feel for Hakkasan – and one that we can’t get enough of. Once inside the huge ornate doors, you’re instantly transported to a whole new world that’s all dark, dim lighting, funky upbeat music, rich dark woods, and flashes of neon-blue hues. Cool is an understatement.
Smaller and cozier than before, Hakkasan has successfully managed to create both intimacy and buzzy vibes that many felt its previous space was lacking. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the caliber of mouth-watering cuisine on offer. Signature dishes include grilled Chilean sea bass cooked in honey, stir-fried black pepper rib-eye beef, and Peking duck with Royal Beluga caviar. There are also some new dishes that happen to be exclusive to the city, as well as excellent options for both vegans and vegetarians – the ‘Tofu, Aubergine, and Shiitake Mushroom Claypot’ is cooked with chilli black bean sauce and will sway even the most devoted meat eaters. The move marks a new chapter for Hakkasan in Dubai, and we have no doubt it will make for one very successful story.
LA hotspot Urth Caffé is the go-to place for the likes of Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and Jessica Alba to get their organic tea and coffee fix. Boasting a seriously impressive array of hot beverages (all chemical-free, sustainable, and fair to farmers), it’s where you can sip on an organic green tea ‘boba’, a Thai red tea latte, or an organic matcha milkshake as you make your way through a slice of vegan chocolate cake, a stack of gluten-free corn pancakes, or a piping-hot pizza straight out of its wood-fired pizza oven.
The good news is that, now, you don’t have to go halfway around the world to try it out yourself as Urth Caffé recently set up shop in City Walk. Here, you can expect all the tasty treats that are on offer Stateside, from eggs and avo toast to kale salads and bagels – all served with a hefty side of laid-back vibes. So Los Angeles. Don’t be surprised if you come for a morning coffee and find that you’re still there in the evening as the inviting and homely setting alone makes it hard to leave. Take a seat under one of two olive trees, bask in the sunshine of the al fresco terrace, or simply sink into a cozy corner chair and watch the world go by, organic cuppa in hand.
As a global hub for cultures to intertwine, Dubai has become known for offering residents and visitors alike a taste of distant lands, but West African cuisine has been hard to pin down – until now. Catfish – our new favorite for delivery – offers all that and then some. Located within the Kitchen Nation incubator space in Business Bay, this new eatery is paving the way for more sustainable dining options. Between the authenticity of serving dishes true to its roots and a progressive mindset centered around clean eating – without sacrificing on flavor – it brings something very rare to Dubai.
Organic where possible, completely gluten-free, plant-forward, made with eco-friendly packaging, and absolutely delicious, this is undoubtedly food for the soul. The menu is also filled with nods to the owner’s motherland of Nigeria through the methodic use of spices that are genuine to the region. Catfish utilizes the flavors of West Africa in the jollof rice paired with jerk chicken – or jerk mushrooms for vegans – in its ‘Balanced Bowls’ and, of this selection, the ‘Wrestler’s Choice’ bowl is a crowd favorite. The ‘Plantain Chips’ and twice-baked ‘Jerk Cauliflower Bites’, meanwhile, are sides not to be missed. For those with a sweet tooth, we recommend the coconut-lime energy balls; they’re sweet and moreish, yet free of refined sugar. Win-win.
Dubai Design District is a hotspot for creatives and business types to interact, and now there’s a new contender that fuses dining and socializing in a delightfully relaxed way. Yes, El Noctámbulo identifies as a taqueria, but don’t be fooled – it’s so much more than that. With its industrial feel and infectiously lively ambiance, it’s just the quirky haven that the area was lacking. There are scrumptious classics like nachos, fajitas, and churros to be had – El Noctámbulo is Mexican to the core – but each is executed with a touch of modern culinary genius. The tropical guacamole with hints of mango is a testament to that. So what else is on the menu?
Tacos! The restaurant’s signature offering, of course. Going from the unexpected (octopus and chorizo) to mushroom and the more conventional beef barbacoa, there’s something for everyone. Not in the mood for tacos? The fish flautas are a divine substitute, as are the hearty empanadas that pack a taste of Central America. Did we mention that El Noctámbulo is also accommodating to vegans and vegetarians? At this taqueria, everyone’s invited.
‘Mama knows best’ is the mantra of sorts at this teeny tiny Thai restaurant in JVC – that’s Jumeirah Village Circle for those of you looking puzzled right about now. A hidden gem in every sense of the word, Sticky Rice screams authenticity. For starters, it’s co-owned by a mother-son duo from Thailand. He runs the show while she rules the kitchen, whipping up the type of dishes that have led to our obsession with Thai food – pad thai and red curry included – alongside some of her son’s childhood favorites. We were recommended to try the ‘Kai Yang Khao Neow’, which is chicken marinated in coconut milk, then grilled and served with a side of sticky rice (of course). And it did not disappoint.
But don’t go straight to the mains. The ‘Kanom Cheep’ chicken dumplings – whether you order them steamed or fried – are absolutely delicious. Another must-try and menu highlight is the ‘Khoa Mun Kai’ that started it all. This Hainanese-style chicken and garlic rice dish is garnished with coriander and served with hearty chicken broth on the side. It’s also the dish that mama chef would sell out of her house back in the day to the make a living, a success story that we love. Did we also mention there’s a dedicated menu that caters to vegans? Saving room for dessert after all these options will be tough, but if you do, the ‘Bua Loy’ is the one to beat.
Greek food is having a moment in Dubai, and we got our fill at the recently opened Ammos in Rixos Premium Dubai, JBR. The setting couldn’t be more ideal for this weather, courtesy of its spacious terrace, a blue and white color palette, dim lighting, and killer views of Ain Dubai. Ammos is all about authentic Greek food made with “soul, creativity, and love” – and it shows in the starters menu alone. The selection is vast and you’ll want to sample a bit of everything, so we suggest taking a group of friends in tow. The two in particular that we’ll be returning for? ‘Melitzanosalata’ (a smoked-eggplant spread with crispy shallots, pine nuts, and parsley) and ‘Feta Tyropita’ (feta cheese wrapped in filo pastry and unexpectedly served atop watermelon and with a drizzle of honey).
If you’re the adventurous type, order the ‘Octopus Carpaccio’ or go straight to the mains. This is where it gets good. For one, the display of fresh seafood includes king prawns, wild sea bream, and Alaskan king crab. The lobster pasta is a very popular signature dish at Ammos, as is the ‘Stuffed Calamari’ with orzo pasta in a tomato saganaki sauce. The ‘Orzo Seafood’, meanwhile, is an interesting take on seafood risotto. And, if seafood isn’t your thing, then the impeccably prepared ‘Baby Chicken’ makes for a great back-up. Naturally, you’ll want something sweet to round off your meal, and there are great options like chocolate mousse and lemon custard to choose from. But take our word for it: order the panna cotta topped with tomato jelly. It sounds so, so wrong – but it’s so, so right.