Food for Thought: 20 Great New Restaurants to Try in 2020

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Photo: Courtesy of Amazónico

We’re past the halfway mark of January, which means now is when you break your New Year’s resolutions to cut down on dairy, swear off sugar, and part ways with all things carbs. The editors at Savoir Flair got a jumpstart on all that, dining across Dubai in search of the 20 best new restaurants worth visiting in 2020. We’re full, you’re welcome.

1

Alice

We love Japanese food, we love Italian food – and found both done playfully and theatrically under the same roof at Alice in Sheraton Grand Hotel. Dotted throughout this restaurant-lounge are subtle nods to Alice in Wonderland, which only adds to its appeal. There are whimsical décor elements at the entrance, a giant piano that doubles as a DJ booth and is set against the backdrop of a life-size book, unexpected live entertainment on weekends, and even a must-order dessert named ‘Mad Hatter’.

We were especially impressed by how vast its vegetarian offerings are, and must take a second to recommend the light and crispy – and absolutely divine – ‘D’Magic of Mushrooms’ pizza. The vast selection of sushi, sashimi, and nigiri is another win for Alice, but it’s the rolls that are particularly interesting. Opt for the ‘Salmon’ that features charcoal crispy rice and a slight zing and the ‘Riceless’ for its clever use of daikon.

Photo: Courtesy of Alice
2

Amazónico

Meet a new restaurant that the city is already obsessed with – as are we. An outpost of a celebrity haunt in Madrid, the rainforest-inspired Amazónico in DIFC draws inspiration from Latin American culture, subtly blending it with culinary influences from Asia. As a result, the signature ‘Ensalada Amazónica’ accents avocado and mango with a citrus fruit from the Philippines, the Indian-inspired ‘Rollitos de Samosa’ is stuffed with chicken and a mint-yogurt sauce, the ‘Kofta de Cordero’ pairs marinated lamb with tamarind.

The pièce de résistance at Amazónico, however, has to be the charcoal-grilled meats that are completed to perfection – with the Brazilian-style ‘Picanha’ (complete with farofa) winning rave reviews every time. Or is it its downright striking décor? We paused to appreciate everything from the beautifully fringed lampshades and chic animalesque serveware to the floral print seating, hanging foliage, and more shades of green than you can count – if only every jungle was this sleek.

Photo: Courtesy of Amazónico
3

Argentina Grill

Argentina is a staggering 14,155km away, but Argentina Grill at La Mer is bringing its flavors to Dubai. One of the South American country’s main exports is beef, so we sent our resident steak connoisseur to do the proverbial heavy lifting. And the verdict? Argentina Grill has the best T-Bone steak you will find anywhere in Dubai bar none.

This massive cut is split down the middle by a T-bone (pro tip: bone-in cuts are always more flavorful) and divided into a fatty side and a lean side. It’s cooked asado-style over a charcoal grill and prepared to the chef-recommended temperature. Beyond the grill’s died-and-gone-to-heaven steaks, there are other options to tempt and delight. We loved the ‘Ensalada en Focaccia’, the spicy lamb with mashed white beans, and the ‘Colas de Camarones’ as well. A word to the wise: order all the sauces available – the BBQ sauce, tomato salsa, and spicy chimichurri sauce – so you can tailor each bite to whatever flavor profile you want.

Argentina Grill DXB
Photo: Courtesy of @argentinagrill_dubai
4

Aya

In Dubai, the name Izu Ani is synonymous with culinary genius, so spending a Thursday night at his new restaurant Aya (Japanese for ‘beautiful’) in City Walk was a no-brainer. In fact, we still think about the ‘Smoked Lobster’ that personifies decadence. The Asian-centric menu is a bit massive, and one thing tastes better than the last, so pace yourself between sections. We started with the ‘KFC’ – that’s Korean friend chicken, of course – with a sweet and spicy glaze, moved onto the delicious ‘Prawn Gyoza’, and paused at the ‘Wagyu Katsu Sando 9+’ to stop and rave about it.

Even the healthier fare here feels somehow exotic; the ‘Baby Gem Salad’ combines herb-dressed crab with sundried tomatoes and a balsamic dressing to prove that not all salads are boring. Only the finest ingredients are used to Aya, so be sure to dip into the Raw and Rice section for some of the best sashimi and nigiri in the city, hands down. As for the ‘beautiful’ desserts? The ‘Brown Butter Ice Cream’ with an olive oil sponge and hazelnut crumble makes most other desserts in Dubai pale in comparison.

Photo: Courtesy of Aya
5

3BK

If we had to list all the reasons you need to book a table at swanky spot 3BK, we’d be here a while, so here are three things we love about it instead. One: that view. Not only is its home on the third floor of the Burj Khalifa (hence the name), but it also looks out across the glistening skyline and dancing The Dubai Fountain, which you can spot from the huge terrace or through one of the expansive floor-to-ceiling windows. Two: the setting. Spread across an impressive 23,500 square meters, it’s modern and minimalist, with neutral tones accented with touches of metallic gold that make it fancy but understated.

Three: the food, which takes inspiration from all corners of the globe. We’re talking Latin American-inspired ceviche and carpaccio, miso-marinated black cod that melts in the mouth, chocolate-fed Wagyu beef with extraordinary amounts of marbling, vegetarian options that look to the Mediterranean, and some of the best sushi and maki rolls outside of Japan. We’re dubbing this one a great choice to take (and impress) out-of-towners.

Photo: Courtesy of 3BK
6

Chingón

Elevated Mexican cuisine, thy name is Chingón. This recently opened restaurant at Grand Millennium Business Bay is a contemporary celebration of all things Mexico, down to its name. The Mexican word ‘chingón’ translates to both, wicked cool and a skilled person. Put the two together and you have a culinary team serving creative dishes like burrata with truffle polenta and coriander chimichurri, black tortillas pressed with 24k gold leaf, and Wagyu beef tartare with roasted hazelnuts and quinoa crisps.

The food here is served in larger portions, so we suggest giving it a try with a group of friends in tow as guests are encouraged to dine family-style. Over in the drinks menu, each beverage borrows from a story originating in the ancient empires of Mesoamerica and South America, focusing on agave, cane sugar, and Mexican spices. But it doesn’t end there. Latin jazz and décor accents like rope installations, gold skulls, dancing flames, and pockets of foliage merge for a hotspot in the making.

Photo: Courtesy of Chingón
7

Fika

Chef Izu Ani’s reputation alone was enough to get us revved up for this one, too, and we recognized his classic touches almost instantly: bright décor, the omnipresent table lemons, and his flare for brilliant flavor combinations and fresh seafood. We ordered the tuna tartare upon our server’s insistence and then scarfed it down with gusto – mixed with avocado and fresh citrus notes from the yuzu sauce, it’s a can’t-miss dish. The ‘Blueberry and Feta Salad’ is also a popular crowdpleaser, as is the baked feta topped with kalamata olives and served with an utterly sublime bread selection.

While everyone has a good truffle dish, Fika has a great one. We recommend the ‘Rigatoni Truffle’ not only because of the truffle but also because of the housemade pasta, which was incredible all on its own. Don’t forget dessert because the tiramisu is out of this world. Goopy, warm, and comforting, its soft texture is balanced by a crunchy peanut tuile. It’s the reason we’re already planning our next visit.

Fixa DXB blueberry feta salad
Photo: Courtesy of @fikadxb
8

Indochine

Indochine’s reputation precedes it. The NYC establishment has been a favorite haunt of celebrities for the past 35 years – with a wall of glamorous photos to prove it – and is attracting the exact same high-wattage clientele at its only other location: DIFC. The decor and famous French-Vietnamese fusion dishes might be exactly the same as the original, but there are some tweaks on the menu that accommodate the Middle Eastern palate.

We stuck to the signatures: the famous ‘Beef and Green Papaya Salad’, elegant ‘Scallop Crudo’, flavor-bursting ‘Vietnamese Ravioli’, and earthy escargots to start, followed by ‘Caramel Black Cod’, ‘Wok Tossed Rice Noodles’ (best dish of the night), and the most incredible, crunchy-fried eggplant ever. Every bite is better than the next at Indochine, leaving you gasping towards the finish line. The finesse of the food here is enhanced by the electric atmosphere, impeccable service, and well-informed staff. It’s one of those dining experiences so rare and so perfect that you don’t want to leave.

Indochine Interiors
Photo: Courtesy of Indochine
9

Motorino

We dropped practically all our plans and headed to JBR when “‘the best pizza in New York” arrived on our shores. Located in JA Ocean View Hotel, Motorino has mastered the art of Neapolitan pizza, plain and simple – it comes down to how meticulously the dough is handled over a course of two days to produce a bubbly yet crispy crust. And then there’s the toppings that, naturally, make all the difference. Fresh buffalo mozzarella is imported from Italy, dates on the ‘Scamorza’ make it perfect for the nonconformist, and the ‘Soppressata Piccante’ is incredibly popular amongst those who can handle a hint of spice.

Take a pause from the pizza party to give some of the starters a try as the signature ‘Motorino Meatballs’ and ‘Octopus Con Patate’ are equally appealing. We suggest you skip the pasta dishes to save room for dessert. We sampled a little of everything in this section and vowed we’d return for more – especially the ‘Budino Espresso’ that pairs a rich, creamy espresso custard with salted caramel.

Photo: Courtesy of Motorino
10

Nassau

This newcomer is a bit of a hidden gem – unless you live in Jumeirah Golf Estates, that is. We love it for its soothing hues, peaceful ambience, botanicals aplenty, and a bread basket that overwhelms in the best way possible. Nassau is the brainchild of the talented chef Silvena Rowe, and her European-Arabian heritage plays beautifully into the Mediterranean dishes on the menu.

The ‘Smoked Aubergine & Cherry Tomatoes’ is (unexpectedly) accented with a Japanese sesame shiso dressing, while the ‘Black Truffle Labneh’ is topped with all manner of seasonal baby vegetables as fresh produce reigns supreme. Over in the mains, the baby chicken roasted with za’atar is great, but it’s the tiger prawns with green harissa that feel like a feast all on their own. Rowe is adept at creating sugar- and gluten-free dishes that don’t sacrifice on flavor, so even the desserts section has plenty of guilt-free options, but if it’s cheat day, promise us you’ll try the ‘Nutella Tiramisu’?

Photo: Courtesy of Nassau
11

Nido

Virtually everyone agrees on the appeal of Spanish tapas, so speakeasy-inspired Nido is obviously onto something in a city as cosmopolitan as Dubai. This intimate little eatery hidden away in Sheraton Grand Hotel (thankfully) has a casual dress code and relaxed atmosphere (there’s even a pool table), making it a great place for a catch-up with friends – but it truly is the tapas that you return for.

After dining on Spain’s most celebrated dishes, we have to start by vouching for the ‘Beetroot Carpaccio’ with pistachios, feta, and a strawberry dressing. We still can’t believe Nido has managed to make beetroot exciting. It’s no surprise, then, that we wiped clean our plates of ‘Patatas Bravas’, ‘Baby Squid’, and the ‘Montadito’ bread topped with warm burrata, caramelized tomato, and balsamic caviar – and you will, too.

Photo: Courtesy of Nido
12

Phoenicia

One of JBR’s hidden gems is new Lebanese restaurant Phoenicia, a concept by famous Australian chef Greg Malouf. Not only is it a great place to relax (read: serene, beachy décor and a casual atmosphere), but it also serves incredible food. In fact, there’s a dish we can’t stop thinking about: the ‘Spinach B’Stilla’. It’s essentially a spinach pie baked inside a flaky dough crust, but what is surprising is that the exterior has been dusted with sugar. That means every bite is balanced between earthiness from the spinach, nuttiness from almonds, saltiness from cheese, and sweetness and crunch from the crust – all adding up to the perfect bite.

Traditional Lebanese dishes like hummus, falafel, and fattoush are all done well here, but the mains hold some unexpected delights. ‘Malouf’s Battenjan’ is a melting cheese, orzo, and aubergine mix cooked inside a bag, and is a humble peasant dish that has been elevated to top-notch comfort food at Phoenicia. For dessert, it’s a toss-up between the ‘Baklava Ice Cream Sandwich’ and ‘Kunafa’ because we refuse to choose just one.

Phoenicia DXB 3
Photo: Courtesy of @phoeniciadxb
13

Reif

Chef Reif Othman is a genius – that’s our truth after a meal at homegrown culinary gem Reif, where the “unconventional Japanese street food” makes you want to return to Dar Wasl Mall over and over and over again. Admittedly, it’s impossible to order one of everything from the menu, so skip a couple of meals and make room for the following dishes that are done rather ingeniously: ‘Puglia Burrata’ with shiso pesto and compressed strawberries, ‘Chicken Gyoza’ with yuzu jelly, and ‘Sanchoku Wagyu Sando’ that is understandably a “star dish”.

We never expected to take such a liking to skewered meats on bamboo sticks, but just about every option in the kushi section is a winner. We ordered the ‘Chicken Wings + Shichimi’ and ‘Angus Beef with Truffle Mayo’, paired it with the ‘Mushrooms Clay Pot Rice’, and have sworn off most other Japanese restaurants ever since. True story.

Photo: Courtesy of Reif
14

Shanghai ME

DIFC hotspot Shanghai ME is “inspired by the glamour of 1930s Shanghai”, and glamorous it is – vibrant red seating, Art Deco detailing, a spacious terrace that’s perpetually buzzing, and even oversized pop art set the tone for what’s to come: Asian dishes done right. Start with signatures ‘Sesame Prawn on Toast’ and ‘Yellowtail Carpaccio’ before making your way through the selection of springs rolls and dumplings. The ‘Xiao Long Bao’, with its hidden savory broth, is flavorful enough to make its accompanying sauces obsolete and easily our favorite.

The ‘Crispy Duck Salad’ is a favorite amongst patrons for its combination of cress and pine nuts, while comforting old favorites like ‘Szechuan Prawns’ and ‘Wok Chicken in Sweet & Sour Sauce’ are done to perfection. But truthfully, you could pair just about any main with the absurdly delicious ‘Mushroom and Truffle Rice Claypot’ and not go wrong. As for dessert? We ordered the aptly named ‘Giant Fortune Cookie’ and simultaneously satiated our sugar cravings and got a glimpse into our future. Win-win.

Photo: Courtesy of Shanghai ME
15

Soul Street

Weight gain has a new address in Dubai, and we’ve bookmarked this one for anytime a craving for street food of any sort arises. Soul Street at FIVE Jumeirah Village traverses the globe to serve crowdpleasers from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, India, and Latin America – except that just about every dish boasts an unexpected twist and is plated rather ingeniously. You may feel baffled by the sheer amount of options on the menu, so we’re here to help.

Order the ‘Mumbai Pani Puri’ and ‘Kathi Roll’ if you love spicy food, the ‘Rubyan Meshwi’ if something homey and hearty is what you’re after, the ‘Flautas’ for a delicious change of pace from tacos and burritos, and the ‘Burmese Khao Soi’ if you’ve yet to try this creamy, super-comforting coconut noodle soup. Add to that the incredibly laidback, highly Instagrammable décor, and tongue-in-cheek murals at Soul Street – what’s not to love?

Photo: Courtesy of Soul Street
16

TBK

If you regularly have the sliders and southern fried chicken from The Boutique Kitchen delivered to your home, this one’s for you – the company has recently opened TBK at Galleria Jumeirah. This is where you arrive if you’re in the mood for killer comfort food like cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, chicken wings, and – of course – the aforementioned fried chicken that is served with coleslaw and hot sauce and beloved across the city.

Pair it with the ‘Truffle’ fries and you’re set. But don’t be dismayed if you’re currently on a health kick. We tried and loved the ‘House’ salad (in which cranberries and almonds add an unexpected twist) and can vouch for the lemony ‘Orzo’ with prawns for a healthy but hearty main. TBK still is, however, our definitive choice when cheat day rolls around.

Photo: Courtesy of @tbkdubai
17

Toplum

The word toplum in Turkish means ‘society’, so it all added up when we discovered that Toplum is founded by Sheikha AlMheiri, who is also the brains behind Society Café & Lounge in Jumeirah. We’re already big fans of Society, and its new sister outpost in City Centre Mirdif certainly didn’t disappoint. First is its beautiful décor – a color palette of beige, stone, dusky pink, and rose gold accented with light features inspired by the sunset. Toplum serves Mediterranean dishes with a Turkish slant, some of them done practically to perfection.

Case in point: the ‘Charred Eggplant’ with honey molasses, pomegranate seeds, and a drizzle of tahini and the ‘Baked Cheese’ in crunchy phyllo with sesame seeds. A broad array of pasta dishes, sourdough pizzas, and chargrilled meats make up the mains, with the spicy çemen sauce – a  red pepper paste traditional to Turkey – making many of the dishes interesting. It’s also the perfect excuse to linger for the light and cooling ‘Bougatsa’ with vanilla custard.

Photo: Courtesy of Toplum
18

Tucano

A bold new Brazilian concept has just landed at The Pointe and, after reading, this you’re going to want to book it immediately. Tucano is serving some of most delicious proteins we’ve ever had, churrasco-style – that means waves of servers arrive tableside presenting sizzling lamb, juicy chicken thighs, melt-in-your mouth sirloin, and other savory options on huge metal skewers. In addition to a non-stop parade of meat that is expertly prepared, you’re also treated to Brazilian favorites like soursop juice, beef and chicken coxinhas (croquettes), fried cassava, and an incredible salad and sides buffet on the ground floor.

Upstairs is where the party happens, with entertainment that includes live bands and festively costumed samba dancers. If you’re not too full from Tucano’s ‘All You Can Meat’ feast, we also highly recommend its traditional brigadeiro desserts and crunchy churros to finish off the meal. And if all that doesn’t speak enough of the restaurant’s authenticity, the fact that Brazilians absolutely love this place does.

Tucano DXB
Photo: Courtesy of @tucanodxb
19

Tulum

Just when we thought we knew The Dubai Mall inside out, we stumbled upon this eatery, transporting us to Mexico from the get-go – even the traditional garb worn by the hostess at Tulum sets the tone for what’s to come. You’ll be greeted by a vast menu of the country’s greatest hits alongside some unexpected dishes, with authenticity guaranteed by the fact that everything from avocados to the mesquite grill comes straight from Mexico.

The ‘Maria Sabina Ceviche’ is a delight for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, pairing oyster mushrooms with coriander oil and a secret Mexican sauce, while the ‘Camarones Martin’ is a winner when no dietary or calorie restrictions apply. Hint: you’ll find yourself frantically scraping the last of the flame-torched melted cheese when you’re done. Dining in a big group? Start with the perfectly bite-sized ‘Chicken Sopes’ and move on to the signature shrimp tacos that are assembled tableside before making room for the ‘Zarandeado’ hammour that is baked with a “very special” type of salsa.

Photo: Courtesy of tulum_dubai
20

Verde

If you’re in need of a fancy French food fix, then Verde Dubai – the first outpost outside of France – is just the ticket. The latest restaurant to open at the Four Seasons Resort in Jumeirah, it’s all about trendy tropical interiors, mood lighting, and some major Art Nouveau vibes – and French cuisine, of course.

It has been given a modern, Mediterranean twist, so you’ll dine on delights such as stone-cooked salmon made at your table, lobster linguini “just like in Saint Tropez”, and succulent grilled chicken “as we like it Paris” while waiters delight and entertain with surprise performances throughout the night. The French know their French toast – it would be ironic if they didn’t – so we recommend wrapping up your meal this way. Verde has taken this breakfast staple and smothered in rich salted caramel sauce, making a good thing so, so much better. Bon appétit!

best new restaurants dubai verde
Photo: Courtesy of Verde
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