2020 may have been a dismal year for the restaurant business, but that doesn’t mean that it obliterated the industry. In fact, here in Dubai, there has actually been a resurgence of new restaurants that are just so good not even a pandemic can wipe them out. The editors at Savoir Flair got a jumpstart, dining across Dubai in search of the best new restaurants worth visiting in 2020. We’re full, you’re welcome.
When you are craving authentic Lebanese flavors, then Al Beiruti, Dubai’s latest foodie haven that opened on October 1st, has perfected the marriage of old and new Beirut in their brand new restau-cafe that serves up traditional cuisine in a contemporary setting. We went in the morning for a brunch, and left with full bellies and happy hearts.
We started with a tasting of hot and cold mezze, like sinfully delicious hummus, various flavors of labneh, cheeses, creamy fateh, and something we could only describe as ‘Heaven’ – turns out it was a simple dip made from only carob and tahini. All of this was served up with fresh-from-the-oven, thick and warm pita bread. And if that wasn’t enough, when we moved on to a za’atar oven-bake with a helping of shakshuka that was cooked to perfection: warm, yolk slightly runny, fragrant tomatoes, and all the yummy spices, our taste buds were given an Arabic party.
From our table, we could see the state-of-the-art open show kitchen a buzz as the Chef busily prepared the meals for the various guests. For dessert we sampled ghazal al beiruti, a pistachio-flavored ice cream topped with an Arabic twist on cotton candy. But the pièce de résistance had to be the Umm Ali. Al Beiruti has taken this feel-good dessert your grandmother used to make, and has turned it into a culinary masterpiece. Eating at Al Beiruti was like taking a trip to Beirut and getting the full Lebanese hospitality experience, while tasting food that is the stuff our dreams are made of.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From the decor, to the music, to the waitstaff, to the food, once you’ve walked through the doors of Lana Lusa, it is like being transported back to Portugal, or at least given a chance to matar a saudade – or “kill the nostalgia and yearning” for the homeland.
We ordered up a feast fit for a Portuguese Queen and tucked in to several favorite dishes prepared with proficiency, skill, and a mastery of my Avó. Like the octopus salad, both flavorful and unforgettable, or the giant shrimp which tasted as if it had been caught straight from the Algarve that morning, or the pastéis de bacalhau – “codfish croquettes” – which were so perfectly moist and delicious, we’ve decided we will no longer settle for anything less. Even the street food style prego sandwiches had us wanting more, and the tempura-fried green beans – admittedly not very Portuguese – were so good, we couldn’t stop popping them like french fries. And those were just the starters.
For mains we shared family portions of the exotic tamboril, which played Fado on our tongues as we relished the Portuguese flavors and spices from home, the grilled chicken with a spicy, homemade peri-peri sauce, and yes, more bacalhau: grated, made with cheese, and baked to perfection like it was heaven on earth. Or at least Lisbon in Dubai. There wasn’t much room left for dessert, but we couldn’t resist when they showed us their famous Pastéis de Nata –which are the trademark of any Portuguese restaurant worth their salt. In one bite of that rich, custard tart, whose sweetness melted onto our taste buds like silk and transported us back to that port in Belèm, we thanked our lucky stars that those explorers set out from their homeland and somehow made their way to Dubai to bring us the food we never knew we were missing. Hands down, this is one of the best, and most authentic Portuguese restaurants in Dubai. Obrigada.
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.
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’?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!