When have your weekend plans not revolved around food? Never. With this in mind, the editors at Savoir Flair have made it their mission to frequent virtually every new eatery in town, dining on everything from ajvar and grandma’s apple pie to pizza, prime cuts of steak, and crepes Suzette – all in the name of research, of course. Here, we share our verdicts.
The Fish House
All things seafood has a new address in town – one that’s light, bright, airy, and packed to the ‘gills’ with freshly sourced ingredients and ingeniously presented dishes. A (first) word of advice: the staff here are both passionate and knowledgeable about the menu, so trust their suggestions if you find yourself unsure of what to order. Confession: We initially resisted the ‘Charcoal Grilled Octopus’, only to admit fault immediately. Served with carrot hummus, marcona almonds, and chilli, this one’s a must-try.
With a plethora of mains, seafood towers, and cooking styles to choose from, the choices can feel overwhelming, but in the best way possible. Bypass the classics and opt for ‘The Fish House Special’ to really get a feel of what this eatery does best. It entails locally sourced seabass that is baked in rock salt, carved tableside, and served with delicious extras like harissa potato salad and tahini remoulade. The culinary theatrics continue into dessert. While the warm and comforting ‘Grandma’s Apple Pie’ comes highly recommended, we can’t rave enough about ‘The Mix Up’. Uniquely prepared and gorgeously plated – before your very eyes, no less – it personifies why fruit and chocolate remains the ultimate pairing.
InterContinental Dubai Festival City
(+971) 4 701 1127
If the words “urban Balkan bistro” aren’t enough to intrigue you, then unfamiliar menu listings such as ‘Ajvar’, ‘Urnebes’, and ‘Princess Doughnut’ will. The first impression at 21 Grams is a great one – think: maps of Dubai and the Balkans adorning the walls, shelves rife with Mediterranean cookbooks, and rosy-red pomegranates adding an unexpected décor element. There’s a sense of simplicity that only adds to its overall appeal. While breakfast here is an elaborate affair (especially considering the brilliant coffee and homemade bread), it’s also a great spot for lunch or dinner, particularly if you’re dining with a group of friends.
The range of mezze is wide and authentic, so pick at least three or four and try a bit of everything. Our favorite? The ‘Bouyourdie’, or baked feta cheese with tomato, pepper, olive oil, and oregano. Over on the mains menu, wholesome options such as slow-cooked lamb, sour cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef, and crispy skin chicken thighs served on a bed of green-pea purée make ordering a breeze. The bistro and its patrons both endorse the ‘Chocolate Hazelnut Baklava’ that comes with a scoop of ice cream on the side – and we’d have to agree.
Jumeirah Street, Umm Suqeim 3
(+971) 4 349 0744
Pizza is always a good idea, but pizza coupled with Japanese food, arcade games, neon lighting, and loud music is even better. Meet Akiba Dori, a “foodhall-style indoor alleyway” inspired by the always lively Akihabara district in Tokyo. The pizza here is claimed to be one of a kind – and it is. Engineers flown in from Japan built the onsite wood-fired oven that is set at a whopping 500°C. As for what makes the pizza unique? The dough is made daily using Japanese flour and salt, topped with premium ingredients such as 24-month aged Reggiano Parmesan cheese from Italy, and then baked for under 60 seconds. Of the several varieties residing on the menu, the ‘Luigi-San’ wins our vote.
Flip the menu over, forgive yourself for skipping the salads section, and make a beeline for street-food favorites like tempura, rock shrimp, and calamari. Meatatarians will relish the fact that the sliders, gyoza, and katsu sando all feature Wagyu beef. Regardless of what your preferences are, ordering the ‘Akiba’ maki is non-negotiable. It’s these rolls – along with the Nutella-stuffed ‘Taiyaki’ – that will have us returning time and time again.
Building 8, Dubai Design District
(+971) 4 770 7949
Levee Café & Lounge
La Mer continues to build on its impressive portfolio of eateries with Levee, a sleek café-meets-lounge that serves what it refers to as “heartfelt home cooking”. Here, a seasonal menu of French-Mediterranean favorites such as risotto, spinach-ricotta ravioli, and skin-fried sea bass are served alongside laid-back fare like sliders, fish and chips, and falafel wraps. The combination may come across as confusing at first, but translates to a menu that caters to virtually every palate, making it ideal for dining in a big group. Adding to its appeal is the beach-chic al fresco terrace, where you’ll want to linger with one of Levee’s specialty mocktails for hours on end. And on that subject: the ‘Maracuya Picante’ packs a punch – but in a good way.
Where the restaurant truly shines, however, is the sweet stuff. We’ve yet to meet anyone who’d turn down an açaí bowl, waffles with poached pear and maple syrup, crepes Suzette with vanilla ice cream, or French toast with berry compote on the weekend – each of which seems especially enticing past noon somehow. Luckily, breakfast is served all day at Levee, complemented by the dizzying array of tarts, cookies, cakes, and pastries that are baked on-site each morning. You’ll relish the struggle of picking just one.
La Mer, Jumeirah 1
(+971) 4 380 2000
Asia de Cuba
Any foodie worth their salt was delighted to hear about the opening of Asia de Cuba in Dubai – for one, it no longer meant driving down to the capital in search of a decent Chino-Latino feast. Already a London and NYC favorite, it serves wonderful fusion dishes that seem to taste even better when paired with the restaurant’s tropical décor, festive ambience, and upbeat music performed live by a Cuban band four times a week. We recommend arriving hungry, keeping an open mind, and ordering several dishes from the opening sections of the menu. Start on a citrus-y note; the tuna ceviche is served with Asian pear, orange, and seared foie gras – and packed with flavor.
You may be tempted to dismiss the sushi selection, but don’t. We found it hard to pick between the ‘Crab Roll’ and ‘Chopped Tuna Picante Roll’, and ended up enjoying both equally. Another menu highlight – and one highly recommended by the chef – is the ‘Beetpica Tartare’, in which currants led an unexpected touch of sweetness. Octopus seems to be springing up on menus across Dubai and, served with lychee and kale tabbouleh, the version at Asia de Cuba was refreshingly different. Selecting an entrée is where it gets tricky due to the sheer number of options on offer. The two we can vouch for? ‘Short Rib Vaca Frita’ featuring 48-hour braised beef adobo and the must-order ‘Chilli-Rubbed King Scallops’ served on a bed of black rice.
The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
(+971) 4 511 7333
After successfully running his upscale steakhouse in Hong Kong, Monte Carlo, Mexico City, and Budapest, restaurateur Riccardo Giraudi continues his quest for world domination by bringing an outpost of Beefbar to the well-heeled types of DIFC. It claims to cater to “discerning carnivores”, and that’s putting it mildly – even the street-food range of sliders, shawarma, crispy tacos, and quesadillas feature certified Kobe beef. Yes, the menu lists the likes of sea bass ceviche and a signature kale salad, but you’ll want to head straight for what Beefbar does best: prime cuts.
The choices – while accompanied by a hefty price tag – are certainly impressive and include ‘Black Market’ Angus beef and ‘Wagyu WX’ by Rangers Valley, F1 Wagyu Cross, and certified Kobe ranking at A5 from the Tajima province of Japan. Along those lines, there’s also milk-fed veal tenderloin from Holland and grass-fed lamb from Spain, and a whopping 11 different types of mashed potatoes to round off your main. Admittedly, the interiors feel as ‘macho’ as the menu (read: leather seating, black marble, and an indoor smoking section), but you may just welcome the change in pace as none of it feels gimmicky. Arguably, the restaurant’s most memorable feature is as graphic and gory as it is downright Instagrammable: a larger-than-life display of raw meat that greets diners upon arrival.
Al Fattan Currency House, DIFC
(+971) 4 352 2223
If a buzzing atmosphere, loud music, and dynamite shrimp are what you’re after, Kohantei is not the place for you. This fine-dining restaurant is small, quiet, and minimal to the point of bland – but that’s what makes it so wonderful. It also offers as close to an authentic Nipponese experience as you’ll ever have in Dubai. The waitresses, chef, and 90 percent of the ingredients have come straight from Japan (as the owner will proudly explain) – and so has the amusing automatic toilet that you’ll find in the bathroom. In fact, once you’ve walked through the doors, taken off your shoes, and sat down at one of the low tables, you’ll quickly forget that you’re in Downtown Dubai.
The restaurant offers an à la carte option and multiple kaiseki set menus to choose from. Because all of the ingredients are seasonal and sourced from Japan, there’s no telling exactly what you’ll get on any given day, but the formulas include sashimi, noodle or rice, soup, and red-meat courses. The star of the show is, without a doubt, the restaurant’s A5 Japanese Wagyu beef, and saying that it’s not to be missed or melt-in-your-mouth good would both be terrible understatements. In fact, Kohantei – besides Beefbar – is the only restaurant in town to serve such high-grade beef. The Japanese’s reverence for quality ingredients and their dedication to their craft are clear to see in every little detail here.
Dubai Opera Plaza, Downtown Dubai
(+971) 4 243 4951
Since its opening at the end of 2017, the Renaissance Downtown Hotel has contributed a number of winning concepts to the city’s F&B scene, and its latest offering, Morimoto, is no different. Located on the top two floors of the hotel, this contemporary Japanese restaurant is the brainchild of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Accessible only through a private entrance on the side of the hotel, the space itself is huge. There’s a bar, a lounge, a main restaurant area, a sushi bar, four outdoor terraces, a number of teppanyaki stations, three private dining rooms, and even an “Instagram” room designed to draw likes on the social media platform.
Morimoto, who was the Executive Chef at the original Nobu and owns a Michelin-starred establishment in his native country, has worked across the world and opened restaurants everywhere from Mexico and New York to Mumbai. All of these experiences and influences are reflected in Morimoto Dubai’s menu, which includes fusion dishes like spicy tuna tacos, tuna pizza, and zucchini pad thai. For the less adventurous diners, we recommend sitting at the sushi bar to sample the nigiri and sashimi, which are some of the best you’ll have in town.
Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Business Bay
(+971) 4 512 5577
As you can probably tell, the name says it all – this is the place to go for all things crab. And lobster. And oysters. And scallops. And shrimp. You get the gist. DIFC’s swanky new spot features a menu developed by renowned chef Vladimir Mukhin of Chef’s Table fame and serves up some of the freshest seafood dishes in town (think: Kamchatka crab legs with warm butter, steamed langoustine with garlic-chilli sauce, and spaghetti alle vongole with parsley and fish roe).
Not only can you pick your crab, fish, or lobster from the ice market and live tanks, but you can also choose how it’s cooked, what sauce you want, and the sides that will accompany it (the mashed potatoes with truffle are not to be missed). There’s none of that apron-and-hammer-bashing malarkey either, as this is fine dining at its best – the pristinely presented dishes that look (almost) too good to eat are accented by breathtaking views of Burj Khalifa and interiors with subtle nautical references – this really is pure pescatarian paradise.
Emirates Financial Towers, DIFC
(+971) 4 564 55 25
Pierre’s Bistro & Bar
If you’re in need of a fabulous night out, look no further than Pierre’s Bistro & Bar. This trendy new hotspot exudes cool with its explosion of tastes, sounds, and contemporary décor, all of which ensure your senses are treated to a feast as delicious as the one being cooked up in the kitchen. There’s an in-house DJ spinning beats all night long and, everywhere you look, your eyes are treated to an array of visual delights: plant-covered walls, flamingo statues, flower motifs, and bathroom cubicles made completely of pink-hued mirrors. But the star of the show has to be the food, which is hardly surprising seeing as the man behind the new eatery is none other than Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire.
The menu is as diverse as the setting itself, bursting with everything from pasta and fish dishes to vegan delights and Wagyu steaks. Naturally, we just had to try something from every section – it would be rude not to, right? And we can safely say that none of it disappointed. From the freshly shucked oysters and seaweed tartare to the crispy rice tuna tataki, creamy spaghetti with black truffle, fragrant artichoke salad with mint-infused olive oil, and crispy langoustine tempura, everything was cooked and presented to perfection. Our top tip? Be sure to order the apple tart as soon as you arrive.
InterContinental Dubai Festival City
(+971) 4 701 1127
When we heard that Scalini was opening its doors here in Dubai, we were a little excited, to say the least. Just about everyone who’s anyone has stepped through the doors of its original London location since it opened in 1988, including Kate Moss and Johnny Depp. But this time, it was Savoir Flair’s turn to try out the famed Italian institution. After riding the old-school elevator, complete with sea-blue walls and gold detailing, our Mediterranean experience really began. There’s a small, intimate courtyard offering al fresco dining, which leads the way into the open and bright dining room that instantly transports you to a chic Italian trattoria.
That being said, there are no pizzas on offer here. Instead, you’ll be served up classic dishes that one would find in the kitchen of an Italian family. You can dine on bowls of creamy burrata and deep-fried mozzarella with sweet tomatoes, veal escalope in lemon sauce, oven-baked aubergine parmigiana, porcini mushroom risotto, and pasta aplenty – the only problem you’ll face is deciding what to pick. This dilemma continues into the dessert course, considering homemade tiramisu, pistachio panna cotta, and a dreamy Nutella gelati are all on the menu. This just means you’ll have to come back to try them all, but take our word for it: that won’t be a problem.
Restaurant Village, Four Seasons Jumeirah
(+971) 4 349 0068
There are few places in Dubai that can get us excited about a tuna sandwich or a meat-free burger, but that’s precisely why Myocum has landed on this list. The former arrived brimming with flavor, courtesy of red chilli, red-pepper pesto, preserved lemon aioli, cheddar cheese, and brie stuffed into sourdough bread. The latter? A hearty combination of halloumi, cashew pesto, avocado, chunky beetroot relish, and homemade hash browns residing in a fluffy brioche bun. Our interest in this new Australian spot was piqued after discovering that it was launched by the team behind the Yumtingz food truck (and you’ll be glad to know that ‘Yumtingz Fries’ are also on the menu at Myocum).
Between the rustic furniture, potted cacti, coffee table books, and laid-back community feel, everything here will encourage you to linger long after your plate has been wiped clean. For one, co-founders Khalid bin Hadher and Pascal Moser take coffee (very) seriously, so slowly sipping a caffeinated beverage is practically a must. The options are vast and pair beautifully with the cakes and pastries on offer, but the one that wins our vote is the ‘Don Nutella’ affogato –
because how can you possibly go wrong with organic single-origin coffee poured over vanilla ice cream, homemade Nutella, and cacao nibs?
Dar Wasl Mall, Al Safa
(+971) 4 222 4131